Writing Through Change – A Corona Crisis Journal by Linda Chisari 10

IN THIS FIRST guest contribution to the Writing Through Change series, Linda Chisari shares reflections from her Corona Crisis Journal.

Please leave a comment and, perhaps, share a reflection from your own Corona Crisis journal.


Shelter in Place—A Lesson in Resilience


It’s the direction we’re receiving today: Stay at home; avoid crowded gatherings; don’t attend meetings in person, unless the attendees can be at least 6’ apart. Theatre events, sporting events, political rallies…all seem trivial when viewed through the lens of putting the lives of thousands of vulnerable people at risk of being infected by the Covid-19 virus.

It seems safe to venture out on a morning walk along Crest Road in the fresh air, both to satisfy the ‘request’ of my golden retriever to get some exercise and check his ‘pee-mail’ and, also, to clear my mind from the breathtaking, alarming news on the face of my electronic devices and the front pages of the newspapers. The street is quiet, almost devoid of traffic; it seems as if no one is going anywhere either by car or on foot. But there are lessons in resilience along the road!

Thousands of freesias are blooming in abundance, filling the foggy air with their beautiful fruity-sweet fragrance. Their bulbs have waited patiently in the ground since last March, going about what dormant bulbs do during hibernation…hoarding food, staying away from the threat of extreme dryness.

And then there are snails! I counted 89 along the short path through Crest Rim Park. Slithering slowly along in ecstasy, laying a slimy trail that protects their tender bellies from the gritty ground, their criss-crossing trails make a beautiful lacy pattern that could have been created by an artist’s hand. Where have they been since last year this time? They’ve lived in the thin cracks between the boulders, under the rocks, sealed tightly behind their self-made epiphragms, waiting to venture out at the first sign of moisture to try out newly-restored plumpness and assuage their hunger and thirst.

So, as we shelter in place, with all the conveniences of our homes, surely we can be as resilient as these freesias and snails and, at the same time, protect our human family from a virulent infection.

March 20, 2020

What day is tomorrow? Oh, tomorrow is Saturday? There are no hints, no markers for individual days. One day runs into the next, a swirling anxiety, coupled with ennui, both caused by ‘round the clock news, all terrible, an endless blob of uncertainty. Grocery day has come and gone, lost somewhere in the week; online ordering took its place. Meetings were canceled; unwelcome as they were, they marked the days, the weeks. Housekeeper is on paid leave for now and her chores were done by us, over three days. OH! Tomorrow is Saturday and our gardener, Juan, will be here as he has been every Saturday for the past 30 years. Now that’s an event! A friendly face and a place for the week to hit ‘restart’!

March 24, 2020

Turns out there are occasions when being an introvert is advantageous! Being quarantined during the corona crisis is one of them, even on a birthday…especially when one has a loving husband. I’ve cultivated many hobbies over my 78 years, most of them activities at home. These activities can, at most, be shared with one other person: playing the piano, cooking, sewing, writing, gardening, walking a dog—all can be enjoyed in solitude. To borrow the words from Rodgers and Hammerstein, “These are a few of my favorite things.” No parties (yay!) or other gatherings where I have to make small talk with folks I’ve never met before or those I see only at other large gatherings. No problems caused by hearing loss. No pain and exclusion in a setting where there is a cacophony of sound. Peaceful one-to-one conversation. Count me in! No need to play any role other than who I am at heart. Still able to reach out—by phone, electronically—and answer others, but on my own schedule, under my control. And, as always, written correspondence offers a chance to reflect and revisit one’s thoughts and ideas.

Today, we non-techies, tried our best to join our voices in singing via Zoom. We were totally out of sync and did almost more laughing than singing but what joy to see those friendly faces with their voices all reaching out to each for companionship. We will persist and, hopefully, get better but it definitely was a heart-warming experience to have 16 friends trying to connect!

“Linda, thank you for such a positive event! Lots of smiles, some frustration, learning new skills and most of all the great diversion of sharing music.” “I’m so glad you did this and my voice and heart reached out but did not quite make it.” “That was such fun and so good to see all the smiling faces of friends :).”

April 1

The quiet on Crest Road—is it “eerie” or is it “blissful”? I read both terms used to describe the unusual quiet in the paper this morning. For me, with significant hearing loss, “blissful” is the appropriate term, The missing hum of autos, leaf blowers and other mechanical paraphernalia, allows me to enjoy, instead, the cheerful song of the house wren, who has returned to her same (bird) house on the side of our garage and is busily clearing my vegetable garden of the aphids that cover my nasturtiums; the quiet allows me to actually hear the wind chimes and the droplets of water falling from the shed roof. I hear the voices of young families passing on the street, the soprano children’s voices mingled with the alto, tenor and bass voices of their parents. I hear the squeak of a bicycle chain that’s in need of oil. This mingling of sounds is a bit reminiscent of evenings of my youth spent on the front porch in New Jersey with my parents and grandparents. All that’s missing is the voice of the Yankee’s announcer, Mel Allen, as he delivered the game, play by play.


Corona Choreography

April 21

Dozens of pedestrians are out on Crest Road, navigating the auto-free street while mentally measuring a 6’ distance from other walkers. Someone approaches on the same side of the road; politely cross to the other side. Another couple approaches, time to cross back.

Seize the opportunity to take a detour through flower-filled Crest Rim Park. If someone stands enjoying the view of far off snow-clad mountains, cross carefully back out to the road and reenter a little further along the way.

No handshakes, hugs, or even do-si-dos allowed, just a nod and hint of smiling eyes above a mask or a gloved hand raised in “hello” before going past and crossing back behind the other.

The thoughtful walking reminds me of those braided lanyards we made as kids, carefully weaving strands across and tucking behind, then across again and back around in front; just continue repeating the pattern and don’t pull the strands too tight!

May 4

Even through my mask, my nose is able to assemble a huge bouquet of scents as I enjoy my morning walk with Beau: The Zephyrine Drouhin rose that overhangs my back gate greets me as I venture out to the street; then, along the path through Crest Rim, White Sage with its resinous scent and Verbena “de la Mina,” sweetness personified; freshly mown grass along Crest, a rarity in dry Del Mar but so reminiscent of my dad and his perfectly groomed lawn; honeysuckle trailing through ivy, reminds me of childhood walks with Cynthia, so many years ago; Star Jasmine, a relative newcomer to my olfactory array, spills over a bank; a pungent whiff of not-so-pleasant red tide (or so I’m told) wafting up Amphitheatre Drive from the beach below, deceptive in it’s ability to acridly camouflage the gorgeous luminescence in the waves after dark—maybe Mother Nature’s way of keeping people off the beach until it’s safer; the wonderful, spicy scent of Italian Jasmine, its tendrils weaving happily among the succulent branches of ice plant; someone’s bacon sizzling too far away to hear but plenty close to offer its scent; back in my garden the tightly clasped flowers of Reine Victoire rose in their first flush of bloom, greets me as I open the back gate to the vegetable garden where the scent of 7’ tall sweet peas overpowers everything else within 20 feet. Well, I may not have a nose so powerful as Beau’s, but at least I don’t seem to be suffering from one of the hallmark symptoms of Covid-19!


About Linda Chisari

Linda grew up on the East Coast, attended Mount Holyoke College and graduated with a BS and RN from Columbia University. She and her husband relocated to Del Mar in 1973. Linda gave piano lessons for 10 years while returning to college to study Ornamental Horticulture and Landscape Design. In 1981, she began a 35-year career as a Landscape Designer. She designed more than 800 residential and commercial landscapes in San Diego County, before retiring in 2017. Linda has been a member of the Del Mar Garden Club and the City’s Parks and Recreation Committee for many years. Find out more at lindachisari.com.


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10 thoughts on “Writing Through Change – A Corona Crisis Journal by Linda Chisari

  • Sara Etgen-Baker

    Thanks for sharing Linda’s COVID journal. I, too, kept a journal from March until June 1 when things began re-opening here in Texas. I’m glad I kept a journal. I captured my uncensored thoughts and fears and the direction I struggled to find throughout the early days of the pandemic. My journal serves as a great reflective tool.

    • Lnda Chisari

      Thank you, Sara. I’ve never kept a journal before but, shortly after the pandemic hit, I explained to my grandchildren (teens) that they were part of history and that someday their children would be able to look back on what we experienced, if we all wrote about it. I find journaling to be reflective and connecting, too.

  • Kathy

    I loved these stories of how the “sheltering in place” became a great adventure of exploring the various floral scenes and scents. I could almost see the vision of her walks with her beloved Beau. The depth of her impressions of this time to reflect on memories and to find solitude exciting made me realize we have time to delve into our creative outlets and to take time to smell the roses and other ornamental plants. I feel she gave a wonderful portrait of how to live with dignity and even joy despite our constraints.

  • Marie E. LaConte

    Reading your journal reassures me of the shared experience amongst those of us who celebrate “a certain age.” I smile, as I remember scenes from my own past, when growing up included a good dose of stay-at-home opportunities to appreciate nature, develop relationships with music we made ourselves, and embrace days of the week that had forgotten names.

  • Linda Chisari

    Thank you, All. I’ve never kept a journal before but, shortly after the pandemic hit, I explained to my grandchildren (teens) that they were part of history and that someday their children would be able to look back on what we experienced, if we all wrote about it. I find journaling to be reflective and connecting, too. You have probably figured out that I am a synesthete and this sheltering in place experience has allowed all of my senses to be ‘heard’!

    • Bette

      Dear Linda, I so enjoyed reading your journal. You write beautifully. I was wondering how old your grandchildren must be the other day and you answered my question. Teenagers already! Wow. My nephew and his friend enjoyed their radio flyer scooters years ago… my nephew is 13. I really hope we can meet again this year. Best, Bette Kim