We were in Vietnam when the country went into semi-lockdown. For three weeks in April, we hardly left the property. We were allowed to go out for food or medical emergencies, yet preferred to stay self-quarantined. Kind people delivered groceries and fresh fruit. We stayed fit by running up and down the stairs and doing more yoga.
I was quite anxious during this period, like (almost) everyone else in the world. I couldn’t concentrate on my novel and wrote several short texts instead. After sharing them on social media, I have now assembled them here.
- I study webs and the way spiders weave them.
- I turn over thumb-sized beetles when they, once again, land on their backs like a helpless Gregor Samsa.
- I record sounds and look up Vietnamese birds to learn what species is making what noise.
- I spy prospective fathers fly back and forth to their nests.
- I put my nose in all the different blooms and try to memorize the flowers by their smells.
- I keep my eyes on the pond to catch the fish when they flash the surface like drunken waves.
- I fall in love with dragonflies and the occasional toad.
- I see the moon grow with each passing night.
Cooking Is an Act of Love
I received a message from the chef who cooked our wedding meal in Tuscany in 2008. She sent the message to many of her clients over the years, so it wasn’t personal, but it touched me nonetheless.
She wrote: “Cooking is an act of love, thank you for having given me that opportunity. […] My wish is we keep feeding the joy in our heart and deeply nurture each other.”
I wrote her back and said how often we still think of her and her food, and how we recently paid a local chef what is for us the highest compliment: Your vegetables taste as delicious and healthy as they did on our wedding day.
A Deal Gone Well
My phone beeped mid-evening. I put on my mask, rushed down three flights of stairs, and crossed the deserted property.
A masked driver on a scooter waited for me at the locked front gate. It was dark. The motor was still running.
The driver and I couldn’t show our smiles to each other, because of the masks and the darkness, so we both nodded excessively to prove our goodwill. As I handed her the money, she delivered the goods. A deal gone well.
I am grateful for the local farmers of Hoi An who make home deliveries. Grateful for the spring and the fertile earth of Vietnam. Grateful for my avocados.
Must and Must
I must write a blog post. I must answer an email or two or seven. I must record a video for an online conference. I must write an article for the NYT about living in Vietnam during the pandemic. All right: I must write an article for whoever will publish it about living in Vietnam during the pandemic. I must reply to all my WhatsApp messages in length. I must write several flash fictions and nonfictions about everything I’ve experienced over the past three months. I must reply to the members of my writing group. I must write about my mother. I must sing the praises of our resident chef. I must write an ode to geckos. I must edit a short story that got workshopped last year. I must write book recommendations. I must submit my finished short prose to publications. I must write a piece for an editor who solicited my work. I must apply to artist residencies in the hope that they will still exist in the future.
But no—it’s too much. I must concentrate. I must eat well. I must stay kind. I must do yoga. I must work on my novel. I must send my love to the people I love. The end.
Flock of Cranes
Today I watched a flock of cranes circle over the pond. They flew above the palm tops once, twice, often enough for me to call Daniel out onto the balcony in time. Together, we gazed in awe of their elegance.
You get a hint of how much you’ve never seen when you witness something for the first time.