Smile Politely

Dispatches from isolation: March 30th

We’re starting a new column featuring dispatches from isolation. How are you spending yours? It’s a glimpse into how we’re spending ours, and we plan to bring you more from different people for as long as we’re all doing this. Have questions, or want to suggest a person for this series? Email us at [email protected].


I’ve been isolating, in earnest, since March 13th, so this is the start of my third week of limiting my outings and grocery visits. One thing I was worried about was how little my life would actually change, since I work from home normally. In some ways, very few things have changed, and in others, everything has changed. It’s hard to feel cut off from friends and family (mine is across the country), and the existential dread is, at times, crushing. Each day I’m identifying a list of four things to complete (not inclusive of showering or cooking food). These things can be as simple as “email so and so” or as complicated as “write an article”. Time slips by strangely, and I’ve mostly stopped keeping track of it in the afternoons and evenings.

I’m isolating with my husband and my dog. As of publishing, we are healthy.

8 a.m.

Forgot to set my alarm last night so I woke up a little late. Seems like a big deal for about 30 seconds, then I remember that I have nowhere to go and time is meaningless.

10 a.m.

Clark Park tennis court and view of playground. In the foreground, a blue tennis court with white and orange pickleball lines are visible. The net is just off center to the right. The playground and green space is in the backgroudn beyond the tennis court. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Husband and I play tennis, and since we’re isolating together, we’ve been playing on the very few nice days we’ve had. (I think people forget that you have to touch the same ball, so even though you’re standing far away from each other, you’re still sharing germs.) We head to Clark Park to play. The two courts are stacked on top of each other and not next to each other, limiting any closeness between us and players on other courts (yes, they are out there). It’s brisk and windy — definitely not ideal tennis conditions. It’s not really all that fun, but it’s exercise and sunshine on our faces. We see some people we know and yell-chat across the street and the park.

Champaign Park District has put up some signs around the playground saying that it’s closed. No one used the playground while we were there.

Clark Park playground. A sign on the edge of the mulched playground area says

Photo by Jessica Hammie.


Return home from tennis, have lunch of leftover saag I made for dinner the previous night. I respond to emails and write a SPlog.

12:45 p.m.

Shower and get dressed.

1-something p.m.

Head into my office to do some more work. Respond to emails, write another SPlog, Address some other non-SP related work items. At some point, I snack on some popcorn.

My husband is an artist, and he’s set up a studio space in our partially finished basement. He realizes he needs some new supplies to be able to do his work (he can’t make big paintings like he usually does), so he places an order with Art Coop. They deliver!

3 p.m.?

A fluffy black dog lays on hardwood floors in a hallway. It looks at the camera with wide eyes. It's head is resting on its front paws. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Doggo gives me a pathetic look, so I take him on a walk. He’s just about fifteen and arthritic. Is this just an attempt to share photos of my dog so that you can look at a furry creature with big eyes? Yes. I hope it brightens your day a little.

On this walk, he’s very distracted by all the smells and the other people out and about. Some dogs bark at him. He and a collie share an extended, longing stare, as if to say, “Hey, gorgeous! We could be friends, if these humans would let us!” I wave to the collie’s person, and we keep moving.

A fluffy black dog is outside, wearing a neon yellow-green harness and on a leash. It is sniffing the ground that is covered in pine needles. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Photo by Jessica Hammie.
A fluffy black dog is outside, wearing a neon yellow-green harness and on a leash. It is walking on grass. The person walking the dog is behind it. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Photo by Jessica Hammie.

3:30 p.m.?

We return home, and doggo is happy and tired. My house is now one of those with random rugs and mats and runners all over the place so the dog doesn’t slip on the wood floors.

A fluffly black dog with a gray maw lays on a gray carpet runner on hardwood floors. It looks into the camera with its mouth open. It looks like it is smiling. It's head is up and facing forward; front paws are outstretched. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Shortly after the dog and I return from our walk I hear my husband’s phone ring…his Art Coop order has arrived. Delivery was super fast, which is mostly just the dumb luck of when he ordered and when they do deliveries. Everything is bundled in a plastic bag; we break out the disinfectant wipes and give everything a once-over.

A large drawing pad, a package of drawing pencils, and a long and narrow paper bag with blue screen print are on a dark table. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Photo by Jessica Hammie.

4 p.m.?

Start making dinner. Tonight is butternut squash soup. If you want my recipe, email me.

A bird's eye view of a countertop with a large wood cutting board. On the cutting board are two medium to small butternut squashes, two apples, and two small onions. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Photo by Jessica Hammie.
A large red Dutch oven on a gas stovetop. Inside the pot are cubed pieces of butternut squash, onions, and apples. A wood spoon rests across the right side of the pot. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Photo by Jessica Hammie.
A rectangular plastic container without a lid on it sits on a gray table. Inside the container are slips of paper with words and numbers on them. Also on the table are the lid to the container, slips of paper, and a ball point pen. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Once that was going, decide to make a movie suggestion bucket: I cut up a whole bunch of slips of paper, each with some sort of prompt for a movie to watch. I make some for decades and for specific dates, genres, actors, topics, and random bits (Cars! Spies!). Hopefully the hubby and I will actually use it to find things to watch instead of endlessly scrolling through the streaming service menu.

6:30 p.m.

Pureed butternut squash soup in an oval, white ceramic bowl. The orange soup is topped with bacon crumbles and yogurt. Behind the bowl is another bowl with chips and breadsticks. The table is dark gray. There is a yellow napkin in the lower left corner of the photo. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Eat dinner, watch a vapid television program. Yes, I served my soup with Wavy Lays and some random breadsticks I found in the pantry. This is a pandemic, people!

7:30 p.m.

Two horizontal stacks of library books. There are seven books in the left pile, and nine books in the right pile. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Clean up the kitchen, check emails one last time, pick a library book to read. (Sorry if you’re waiting for any of these.)

8:30 p.m.

Get into bed, exhausted. Putz around on the internet and don’t read my book, but did remember to set my alarm.

10 p.m.

Let the dog out for the last time, go to “sleep,” which is really just trying to keep the anxiety at bay until I actually fall asleep.

Top image by Jessica Hammie.


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