Bitsy pops up on the chair beside me and butts her furry head against my arm as if to say, “What’s going on here?”

It’s Wednesday, Day 3 of my working from home because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the dining room table has become my new office. It’s littered with papers, notebooks, double computer screens, keyboard and phone.

My portable police scanner, plugged into the outlet around the corner, squawks on and off.

Bitsy, our 13-year-old gray and black cat who looks like a small Maine coon, has known me long enough to figure anything is possible here, so she’s not too upset. But still, she looks questioningly.

This is our new normal.

Amy Calder is working from home for the first time in her more than 30-year career. Morning Sentinel photo by Amy Calder

It’s the first time in more than 30 years that I’ve worked from home, a mile away from my newspaper office in Waterville.

I’m not flying out the door every day and returning, hours later.

It is 9 a.m. and the aroma of beans baking in the oven all day wafts through my work space. In the next room, Perry Mason, the fictional attorney from decades ago, is arguing a court case on the television show of the same name. My husband keeps the volume low as he tries to accommodate my needs.

“It doesn’t bother me, really” I tell him. “I can barely hear it.”

I wonder how Phil is faring in this new world of ours. He has always said he wishes I’d retire, but I’m not ready for that.

“Be careful what you wish for,” I told him.

Two days into my working from home, he informed me that I’m too aggressive on the keyboard.

“You know, you hit those keys pretty hard. You’re going to break them. Every time you get an idea, it’s bang, bang — bang, bang, bang.”

I remind him I’ve always typed this way. It comes from having learned on an old Royal typewriter when I was 10.

I’ve decided there are silver linings in this new routine, though I do miss my colleagues and the din of their voices discussing stories in the newsroom.

I went for a walk yesterday and today, something I don’t do enough of in my normal life. I’ve decided to do it every day to relieve stress during these uncertain times. That’s what the experts say — fresh air is good for us and doesn’t carry the coronavirus.

Nary a car passed me on my half-hour walk yesterday. I could hear birds chirping loudly from a faraway tree. I might have imagined it, but the atmosphere smelled cleaner, with fewer vehicles on the roads and planes in the air. Today, several people were out walking.

“It’s nice to see a human being, even though we have to stand 20 feet apart,” I said to a woman pushing a stroller.

I passed the North Street Playground, where a small family was recreating. A Waterville schools van was parked there with its back door open, ready to hand out food to kids. I waved to the driver.

A neighborhood friend was outside her house. We chatted briefly. She wondered aloud how long this will go on.

“They’re saying it could be 18 months, until they have a vaccine,” she said.

These days, I am reminded of my childhood, when most of our entertainment was what we initiated ourselves — climbing trees, building cabins in the woods, swimming, skiing and reading books. Television was a relatively new thing and we only got a couple of channels, so we didn’t watch it much.

I can’t help but think that, as tough as this new normal is, it is an opportunity for us to go back to that simpler existence. To prove to ourselves that we are capable of functioning without running here and there, buying products we probably don’t need, always grasping for something.

It is a meditative time, as I see it — a chance to sit back, breathe and think about what’s really important.

Day 3 has already shown me that with time, the fear does lessen as we adjust to our new routines, heed precautions and carry on.

Nothing lasts forever, after all — and all we can do is do the best we can.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 32 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.


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