Diane Covington-Carter: Sheltering in place, 7,000 miles from home
Each year my husband and I travel to New Zealand in January, trading Northern Hemisphere winter for Southern Hemisphere summer.
It started when we got together 10 years ago and he was living in New Zealand full time — he’d emigrated and held both Kiwi and American passports. Our compromise was to live on my, (now our) little farm in Nevada City for nine months and spend three months at his, (now our) home in New Zealand.
When I’d fly back to Nevada County after the three months, I’d leave behind fall and head back to spring, my favorite season. I’d jump into weeding, planting and reveling in the beauty all around me, as the earth woke up from her winter slumber. I’d also feel myself become grounded again, on my home soil, pet my sweet cats, who’d been in the care of a house-sitter and cherish the comfort of being back in my familiar home. I was also in the same state as my children and grandchildren, not across the planet from them.
This year, as the coronavirus spread across the planet and we watched the world become unrecognizable day by day, the distance yawned between New Zealand and Nevada County. We were due to fly back on April 7, but by mid-March, began weighing the dangers of international travel. We realized that traveling back not only meant risking our own lives, but the possibility of carrying the virus back home with us.
Then our carrier canceled our flights to San Francisco and New Zealand declared a state of emergency, with everyone directed to stay home, to shelter in place, for four weeks.
We are relatively safe here. We live in a tiny village and drive 30 minutes to a nearby town for groceries. We have access to a deserted beach along the Tasman sea. Our nearest neighbors are sheep and dairy cows.
I have nothing to complain about. And yet, in this time of crisis and world-wide trauma, I miss my home. I am a California native and yes, I am a world traveler. But as Dorothy, in “The Wizard of Oz” put it so well, there is no place like home.
Home is where I know where each pot and pan lives in my kitchen, where the cats sleep on the crocheted blanket on the back of the couch or crawl into my lap as I read in the evening. This year, I won’t be there to see my apple trees blossom or to witness the miracle of the bulbs I planted last fall push their way up, their colorful faces swaying in the fresh spring breeze.
I won’t be getting muddy in my garden weeding, then planting the tomatoes, squash, carrots and beans, zinnias, cosmos and sweet peas. The comforting routine of my life has been altered beyond recognition.
At this moment, I don’t know when we will be able to come back. But this experience has given me a new appreciation for what the terms “home” and “hometown” mean, as I watch from 7,000 miles away.
Stay safe, Nevada County. My heart is there with you and I’ll be watching from afar.
Diane Covington-Carter is an award-winning writer and long-time resident of Nevada City.
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