Quarantine and ‘Omenclature’

Someone pounded on the front door.

I opened it to see a young uniformed peace officer scurry down the walk toward his patrol car. He pointed at an envelope and a brown paper bag he’d left on the front step.

“Does Mark have to open this in front of you?” I asked.

“Nah,” he called. “As long as I see you pick it up, I’m good.”

So I picked up the envelope and the bag.

“Thanks,” I said.

He nodded and got in his car and drove off.

And just like that, we were officially quarantined.


Well, James and I weren’t officially quarantined. But clearly we had been exposed to Mark, who had spent considerable time in close quarters—masked, mind you, and distancing and accessing hand sanitizer—with a colleague who’d developed COVID.

And since James and I share pretty close quarters with Mark, we thought it best that all of us stay close to home for ten days—to make sure we didn’t inadvertently share the virus with anyone else.


I felt like a heavy metal door had lifted enough, this summer, for us to see some warm rays of sun. We enjoyed a little flexing of the freedom muscles. We were still very cautious, and we realized the pandemic shutdown had insured we’ve changed some practices forever.

But we did allow ourselves careful, socially distanced visits, for instance, to the library and to our favorite bookstore.

I was going to the office, where our small staff and roomy quarters made distancing quite possible.

We allowed ourselves to mask up and hit the corner store if we ran out of milk.

Now that weighty door came crashing back down.

The letter told Mark that he was officially quarantined until Wednesday the 2nd at midnight. The brown paper bag held several masks, a jar of liquid soap, and some hand sanitizer.

Mark made a call to the Health Department.

“I am grounded,” he said when he ended the call, “but I can still go for walks in the neighborhood if I bring a mask and keep that six-foot barrier.”

And so our morning walks became the highlight of the days. It was nice that this quarantine corresponded with a shift in the weather. The mornings turned cool, and a couple of days we zipped up fleecy jackets before we strode off into the pale morning sun.


We talked desultorily on that first morning walk of quarantine. I mean, what was there, really to say?

“What are you going to do today?

“Hmm; thought I might stay home.”

But the air was fresh, and it felt good to walk. We didn’t see too many people; when we did, we masked up and walked in the street, greeting but not engaging. We waved at people driving by on their way to work or workouts.

Mark joked that he should get a T-shirt that said, “I’m allowed to take a walk!” because a couple of drivers double-took when they saw him out walking.

But we swung our arms and the breeze felt good and we strode along, mostly in companionable silence.

Where the sidewalk ends, we turned right into a pretty, established development, and we meandered.

“It’s so QUIET,” Mark said. There was no one about. The squirrels weren’t cavorting in the big grassy lawn as they often do. The birds were mostly silent.

We walked up and around, and we heard music. And there, sitting on a chair on a front lawn was a man in a hat playing a guitar. He nodded at us as he strummed; then he closed his eyes and nodded in a different way, nodded to the music he was sending out, and to the enhanced music I am sure he was hearing in his head.

Never in our many walks to that neighborhood had we encountered this troubadour, and we stood and listened for a moment.

And then we went up around the hill and heading home.

After a while, “That was something different,” Mark said, and I agreed that it sure was.


I looked up guitars when I got home, just for the heck of it. Weknowyourdreams.com told me this: “A guitar represents melody, contentment, happiness, peace, self-realization, attunement, spiritualistic attributes and positivity in life.”

Harmony, attunement, peace…I liked the sound of every one of those things.


We started noticing things on our walks.


One morning the street was full of deer. In the middle of the pack, there was a tall, calm buck. On either side were a mama deer and two skittery babies, their spots fading but still clearly there. As we came down the driveway and headed toward them, the deer stopped.

We stopped, too; when we encounter a buck that stares us down and stamps his hoof, we figure it’s worth a change in direction.

But all of these deer were relaxed, curious, unafraid. They stared at us for a little while, and then some silent signal was exchanged. The mamas gently nosed the young ones through our neighbor Jeanie’s backyard and down the ravine. The buck gave us one long last look, and ambled after them.

We walked through the space they’d inhabited, feeling a kind of vacuum.

We’ve seen deer before, of course, but never quite so many quite so close.


LJ Innes, in “The Meaning of a Deer Sighting,” writes this: “When you have a deer sighting, it’s as though the Universe wants you to stop what you’re doing and just be in the moment—quiet, contemplative, and thankful. The deer is first and foremost a reminder that you need to listen to your intuition.”

A quarantine is a perfect time for quiet, contemplation, and gratitude. As the days slipped by, and no one developed symptoms, that sense of gratitude intensified.


It was Saturday morning, sunny and cool, when Mark saw the eagle in the tree over the Helen Purcell home. It was perched, golden and regal, on the very top branch—a dead branch on which no leaves grew.

It scree-ed, over and over. When it turned its shaggy head, you could see the shadows of crags over its eyes—dark recesses from which you could feel the strong stare of its mighty eyes. The hair on my forearms stood up.


“Oh, that’s COOL,” said Jim, and the three of us stood outside and just ogled it. Finally, though, Jim and I had to visit the drive-through at the pharmacy. When we came back, the eagle was gone, and Mark had gone inside.

He came and opened the door for me.

“Didn’t that seem like a sign?” Mark, a man who rarely looks for portents, asked.


Eagles.org tells me this, “Both Bald and Golden Eagles (and their feathers) are highly revered and considered sacred within American Indian traditions, culture and religion. They are honored with great care and shown the deepest respect. They represent honesty, truth, majesty, strength, courage, wisdom, power and freedom. As they roam the sky, they are believed to have a special connection to God.”


One afternoon we decided, Mark and I, to take a walk over to Mission Oaks, the park that wends it way through the back of backyards, through gullies and over hills, right close by in the middle of town. It is an amazing place, but we seldom think to visit.

Mark was getting to the point where he needed to feel he had left the house, if only for a little while, so we masked up and walked the half mile to the park entrance. As we walked, we passed a spot where Jim had once encountered a small turtle edging perilously close to the street. He nudged it into a safer spot and came home to get us. But by the time we came back, the turtle was gone.

We had agonized then over where it went, rolling scenarios—some catastrophic—over in our minds.

Now, we pondered where it had come from. Where, in the neighborhood, would a wet, woodsy environment be that called to turtle friends?

Could they come all the way from the river?

We mulled that, tossing out probably improbable solutions until we came to the Mission Oaks entrance. There were just a couple of cars in the lot, so we knew we could really practice social distancing.

We chose to turn right, to go into the conifer gardens. In that part of the park, there’s a big pond with a splashing waterfall. There are broad sunny areas and pockets of deep shade. That afternoon was a hot one, and the shade and the pond sounded pretty good.

We made a wide circuit around the only couple we passed, and then we explored. We discovered a new rhododendron garden, and we marveled at an evergreen tree whose roots protrude from the ground like multitudinous knobby knees.

Then we went down to the pond. Giant lily pads floated and bobbed and stood tall and waved; we circled around to where the waterfall plashed over tumbled rocks into the pond proper, the humming of the pump a steady thrum under the rustling of leaves in the late afternoon sun.

There was a plump splash as a fat frog pummeled itself into the water, and then, “Hey!” Mark said, and he hurried over to a clump of lily pads on the other side of the pond. He pointed, and a small turtle turned and heaved itself into the water. It circled back under the pads; we could just see its odd, flat nose poking up in the greeny shade for air.

Sharing a lily pad in the sun

And then we realized that he was just the smallest of the turtles; the pond was rife with them. Two companions sunned themselves on a lily pad supported by a long, strong, stalk. Another big ‘un trolled the middle of the pond, floating, then lazily flapping just a bit.

They didn’t so much pick up their heads to look at us as they unfurled them. We stared into bold, old eyes.

Later we walked through the children’s garden with its archways laced through with morning glory and hung with bobbing dried gourds painted fancy. We admired the garden of smells and the butterfly garden, and we said we really needed to gather up some good kids’ books for the Little Free Library, which was almost empty.

But those turtles defined the visit for us.

“So,” said Mark as we headed home, “maybe THAT’S where our little buddy came from.”


Avia Venefica, on whatsyoursign.com, tells me that turtles represent “persistence, determination, endurance, and more.” Turtles are survivors, she points out (which gives me hope for the little guy who disappeared); they can protect themselves from attacks. They teach us about security and steadiness. They are totems, Venefica writes, for people who need protection, and they have an innocence about them because few hunters prey on turtles. Turtles have been on earth for millions of years; they are a symbol of long life and stamina.


“Careful,” said Mark as we set out for our walk the next morning. There, wedged into the carport entrance, on the middle support, was a big web. In the middle, a fat spider was trussing up a victim.

Mark watches the spider wrap her prey in sticky strands

“Tenacious, isn’t he?” Mark asked. He had swept to the web down two days running. The spider waited until we were gone and set patiently back to work.

We walked down the driveway; thick webs, with funnels in the middle, dotted the hedges like chapel veils. Mark went over and puffed air down a funnel; no one came running.

“Makes me think,” he said, jerking his head toward the carport and its web, with the spider busily wrapping up some night’s dinner, “of Frodo.”

I nodded. I remembered that part, too. And the dew had beaded on little sections of the expansive web, outlining an ‘o’ and a ‘d.’ I thought of Charlotte writing her praises of Wilbur.

Our spider just didn’t give me warm fuzzies, though. I shivered as we set off down Yale Avenue.


TheBigDeer.com tells me that spiders symbolize mystery, creativity, and patience. They have eight legs; mystics believe that eight is the number for infinity.Most ancient civilizations believed that spiders were the weavers of life and death because of this,” the Big Deer says.

If one dreams of spiders, the site suggests, success and fulfillment are ahead.


“The one thing we haven’t seen,” I mention to Mark as we set off the next morning, “is a rabbit friend.” Earlier in the summer, we had lots of bunny visitors, furry little guests who froze when they saw us, believing, we guessed, that we couldn’t see them if they didn’t move.

“I hope,” said Mark, “that’s not because of the neighborhood cats,” and then, of course, as we moved out of the carport, there was a rabbit, munching on clover. It froze and looked balefully at us from one big liquid eye.

“Carry on,” we told it. “We come in peace.”

But it waited until we were out of range before resuming its munching.

We haven’t seen another bunny since.


Rabbits, according to symbolicmeanings.com, are not icons of the weak or timid. Instead, they speak to us of important things—of “family, community, awareness, caution, and curiosity.”

All of those seem like just the right considerations to be pondering during a pandemic, and especially during the perilous times that have us clinging close to home.


On Wednesday night at midnight, Mark was officially released from quarantine. The next morning, we exhaled with true relief that none of us had developed symptoms. One of Mark’s young coworkers wasn’t so lucky, and two others await test results. The disease is random and capricious; we do the best we can to protect ourselves and others.

We are lucky that, to date, our house is not one that COVID has selected as a place to nest.

There was no fanfare to the end of quarantine; we took our walk and came home to breakfast. Then I went to work on my computer, and Mark went to a webinar on his. Jim went downstairs and logged into his math class via Zoom.

We stopped for lunch, and then finished up our separate projects.

And then we took a ride to Columbus where, masked and careful, we spent a quiet hour in a Half Price bookstore. We came home with books and DVD’s, feeling as though we’d had a grand adventure.


I don’t think that the eagle or the spider or any of our woodland buddies came to us specially during quarantine.

I don’t think that young guy with his guitar played his plaintive songs just for us.

But we couldn’t avoid slowing down. We couldn’t help but notice.

Here is the gift of a quarantine: the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the heart to ponder what nature has always been telling us.


Life will pick up in time; the pace will quicken. That heavy metal door will lift once again, and sun and fresh breezes will comes whispering through. I hope it will open all the way, and I hope that, once I am able to walk boldly through that doorway, I carry out into the world all the lessons I should have learned during a closed-in time.