Quarantine Zen Queen 9: Been There, Done That

Staying at home twenty-four seven is a breeze, isn’t it though? Not at all like Quarantine-with-a-Capital-Q !

After two weeks semi-self-isolating in Belfast, followed by two of all-inclusive non-Covid-Certified hospital[ity] courtesy of Saint Lucia government, I’m just effervescent with enthusiasm for staying home, back in my little pad-with-a-panorama where, as it also turns out, there’s so much to do!

Of course, at this time of year, my vista of glory cedar and flamboyants is a little frazzled under the hot sun of the kawenm, helping far-off neighbouring houses to pop even more colourfully off the hillside. There’s barely a vehicle to be heard clambering up or down the disgracefully bumpy road that passes at a forty-five degree angle outside my building. But that’s usual enough in my quiet corner of Saint Lucia.

Choc Bay is still glistening and changing colour every hour around Lilet Walcott-la. Day and night, clouds roll by – or don’t – in a constantly evolving skyscape. Flish-flashes from the Sir Richard Peterkin Lighthouse are still a mariners’ guide and reassuring landmark on my after-dark horizon.

The big avocado tree outside the balcony is throwing out little bud bouquets that will soon begin flowering to attract dozens of hummingbirds every day. By August, as with every year for the last fifty or so, she will bear dozens of head-sized, purple-skinned, butter-sweet zaboka. I’ll ask my landlord more about her history one of these days when he comes out of isolation.

In the pinky grey dawn, the same operatic birds wake me up as did before that crazy month separated me from this humble space. Is it just another stress-hormonal rush of affection for familiar surroundings and the squidgy cocoon of my own bed? Or maybe I’m really grateful for the haven of my home.

Perhaps the audible sigh of desperate relief is because, in another twist of The Universe, I’ve been in training for this Covid-19 pandemic for the past four years, living alone and working mainly from home. We were already growing club among my circle of friends in Saint Lucia and it was a great lifestyle for those of us who embraced the opportunity to set weird working hours against a fickle exercise schedule and demanding social life. Now literally half the world is doing it.

The first four days of my personal #StayHome #StaySafe campaign has been a liberty-fuelled, ergonomic-space-making, feng-shui-infused whirlwind of activity that would have made Martha Stewart’s maids turn chartreuse with envy, interspersed with big, snort-happy sleeps that don’t miss the background noise of that hotel TV. I have to say, so far so good in the chapter entitled ‘Cheer Up Sleepy Zen Homecoming Queen.’

It’s always dusty this close to the beach and after all, it’s been a whole month! Did I mention my wee nest is three minutes from the highway and three minutes from a beautiful little cove that’s almost always calm? Another reason I originally took the tiniest rental ever, when setting out at fifty-two to live alone for the first time.

About eighteen months ago, I literally went up in the world when a first floor flat was finally finished by my hard-working landlords. For a while I’d been sneaking past the building-supplies-barrier to maco it, smitten with the view as well as the opulent size, compared to the tiny-living I’d been practising downstairs. It was mine within the month and over the course of two days I single-handedly carried everything except the bed and desk upstairs .

Since then it’s become more of a sanctuary than I could ever anticipated. Restorative, productive and well-rooted with many friends and neighbours.

Except that all this week I’ve had a pervasive feeling it must all be written about in palatable chunks of quirky language, describing every detail of my escape from Q758 into 24/7 curfew, peppered with Looshish humour and ridiculous examples of human nature under extreme pressure. Something that sounds like me and around which even my wonderful boy can wrap his rare-reader’s attention span.

By Wednesday, my inner monologue was more annoying than an atrium full of animated Alexas, so I started to dismantle my ti kaye‘s two rooms and recreate the space with a plan that focused more on a permanent yoga space and less on the hot-pink blanketed bed-and-fourteen-pillows.

Inside my head, more #Quarantine #Team758 tips came tumbling to mind as the hours passed at the speed of a Whirling Dervish. Every good decorating idea was a paragraph in my ever-expanding-blogiverse. Every old photo invoked yet another welcome rush of memories and a family gallery wall was born.

Every new #MalletMeal [yep, my new favourite hashtag] was a source of proud amusement and re-purposing NEMO groceries was becoming a fine dining art. Every unearthed craft supply released a little shout of praise to Jah as another time-constructive, functional-art project was unleashed unto The Universe.

I realised the surreal newness and structure of being quarantined at a hotel had propelled a level of sharing unprecedented in my career. Trying to tell the story – as well as think things up to amuse myself – was part of the routine that sustained me for fourteen days, but now there was no reason to foist every domestic brainfart onto a corona-meme-exhausted public already at home for two weeks and more.

Taking steps to control any living-in-my-head-and-over-sharing tendencies, I put away the blog and threw everything behind the driving impetus to make a fresh start in this physical space. Suffice to say, since then there has been:

  • An absurd amount of Olympic-level cleaning and tidying for an apartment this size;
  • Rearranging of furniture and personal treasures to reflect mood in this new life episode, up to seven times between dawn and dusk;
  • An astounding level of creative cooking with cans, suddenly enhanced by the arrival of Big Chef multi-grain bread and fresh produce on Thursday afternoon;
  • Somewhat successful plant resuscitation strategies resulting in the Miracle of the Easter Bromeliads;
  • Demolition of the vertical cactus garden and reconfiguration as balcony allotment, starting from seed with spring onions, basil and sweet peas.

So now on Good Friday, April 10, 2020, it’s down to work, recalibrating my thoughts on life spent in isolation at home.

That’s easy.

For about the past year I’ve been working from here most of the time, bar visits to multi-million dollar real estate investments or stays in a five-star luxury resort or conferences packed with the Caribbean’s brightest corporate directors – when I have to actually put on ‘outside clothes’ and show up.

Living alone and working at home is my speciality, so I guess I’ve got a head start on folks for whom it will offer challenges. Writing about it is new to me though, so what is my first piece of real advice for weathering the Covid-19 quiet storm as you #StayHomeAlone?

Be grateful for every little thing, every single day.

They say home is where the heart is, and for now we have no choice but to [re]discover the joys of our own private bolt holes, whether tiny-living or in spacious style. Imagine how many souls have no safe home to sleep in tonight, or any other night of their disenfranchised lives? Or the key workers who have to go about their business, risking their lives to keep us safe. Or the Saint Lucians stranded in other parts of the world who would give anything to be right here, right now.

For our collective sake, I reiterate:

#StayHome #StaySafe #StayGrateful