Dear Readers,

You probably think I have dropped off the face of the earth if you think of me at all — it’s been a long time since I have written here. The last you heard I had pinkeye and had just released “The Border Song” on the WOS podcast and was writing my memoir. The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us all that life transforms itself in unexpected ways: shortly after I wrote my previous post in October 2019 I gathered up my cat, Fiona, and made an emergency move back to Kensington. Fiona and I took up residence in a former storage room and I spent the next four months packing and unpacking boxes, cramming my belongings into closets and rooms that already held the possessions of three other adults.

On the first day of 2020 Fiona disappeared. I spent a month looking for her and found no trace. A coyote had come into our yard for the first time and must have snatched my beloved cat.

At the end of February 2020 I went off to Taos, New Mexico for a retreat with Natalie Goldberg and numerous old friends. I made plans to meet a friend in D.C. that summer to travel to West Virginia to see a small town, attend a music festival and possibly look at houses. I returned to Kensington, visited Johnny, who was in the hospital, and returned to my former yard to dig up the blueberry, Robert the raspberry, and my fig tree. I trundled them home in a grocery cart and planted them in pots on the deck below my small room.

Then I returned to work, busking in downtown Berkeley for a week. That Sunday I went downtown to pay my phone bill and return a library book and everywhere I went people were coughing: on the bus, in the AT&T store, outside the library. We were starting to hear about the coronavirus, but no one knew much.

I got sick the next day and was sick for a good two months. Longer, until the end of May with fatigue, an extremely sore throat, swollen glands. And a week after I first got sick California went into lockdown.

I’ve been home ever since: musicians can’t play in public safely, especially those of us who sing. Bus travel is not recommended, so I spend most of my time around the house like many of you do now. I’ve adapted to singing on Facebook, doing monthly live-streams and occasional special projects. It is not the same as singing for an audience that you can see and hear, even an audience of commuters, because the commuters buy coffee, smile, wave, ask directions, sing along occasionally, make requests and comments, put money or snacks in your guitar case; when you live-stream you look at a tiny light on your computer. People can see and hear you, but you can’t see or hear them. I saw a photo of one guy who had lined up dolls and stuffed animals in rows on his desk so that he had someone to sing to.

Robert the raspberry adapted the best to his new environment. I had cut him back before I dug him up and in the spring he grew new canes and bore green leaves, flowers and fruit. The blueberry survived and looks healthy — it leafed and flowered but the birds got whatever fruit it produced. I tried netting both berry plants, but the leaves did not react well to the net, so the plants have to take their chances with the wildlife.

The fig tree had just started to produce its 2020 figs when I dug it up and transplanted it — not ideal, I know, but the best I could do, the best chance I could give it for life. It had been a healthy, happy tree in San Leandro in amended soil, growing near other plants, including the persimmon tree. After I transplanted it into a large ceramic pot it lost its fruit and then its leaves. This is called transplant shock: the tree is alive, but shocked into dormancy. I don’t know if it is grieving or sulking, or if it is just lonely. The only thing I can do is give it water and mulch and hope it decides to bloom and bear again someday. It does have the company of an English holly tree, but, because they are not in the ground together, the holly may not be able to whisper words of encouragement. Like me, the fig put its 2020 plans on hold and will see what 2021 brings.