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Virus Without Borders: Chapter Fifty

The Vagaries of Life in a Plague Year


The vagaries of life,

Though painful

Teach us

Not to cling

To this floating world.





We were lost in that apartment; we couldn't entirely settle. It wasn't only that we had moved too quickly out of the city into a small town in a rural area with a very different culture, it was more than that: the wind off the ridge, the car covered in ice some mornings, charming at first, then the sale and resale of the building twice in three years, the town failing/or refusing to opt-in to the new state rent regulation law, and the rent rise each year upwards of 10%, then 16%, water out of the complex's two wells tasting of chlorine, the apple orchard owners across the road spraying and spraying and spraying, refusing to answer questions about what spray they are using. We knew we had to get out and had started looking before COVID, anticipating the end of our lease in December. Should we buy, should we rent? Prices were escalating after the pandemic hit, the entire swathe of Ulster County suddenly "gentrified." Of course, we were gentry, too, outsiders, newcomers, city transplants. Now we understood what exactly that meant for the "native" population: immediate escalating prices, nil rental vacancy, and rapacious landlords. Four families with children moved out of our complex within months of the last resale.


So, we had a long discussion: two writers with a small publishing business, trying to keep expenses down. Should we consider returning to the city where some buildings are reporting a 40% vacancy and de-escalating prices? Should we consider moving at all during COVID? What would it feel like to depart from these beautiful mountains, and our daughter just forty minutes instead of two hours away? Not good. We decided to stay. My husband promised he'd find us something, and he did.


COVID protocols were rigorous and we were exhausted just from packing up everything ourselves, no movers in the rooms while we were in the rooms, our daughter a double-masked interface between us and the movers, windows open, distance maintained. Moving day was December 29. I finished unpacking the books yesterday and promised myself a day of rest today—reading, writing, thinking, catching up with my students, writing this blog post. Then, last night, a magnificent snowfall decked the trees for a belated holiday celebration.





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