Michaeline: The World We Live In Today

Snowy road to the airport with cars waiting to pick up loved ones

On February 22, my daughter’s plane circled the airport for 30 minutes waiting for the plows to clear the runway. Here’s a shot of the blizzard from my car. The plane arrived safely, and we got home without getting stuck once. (E.M. Duskova)

Well, my dears, last week I was simply overwhelmed by mostly good things – my daughter was arriving from the Tokyo area where she goes to college, and it was my FIL’s birthday and I was determined to bake him a cake before picking up my daughter in the evening. Work had been busy, and we got a blizzard. I really meant to post a picture or something at least, but the time got away from me, as usual, and the blog was the ball I dropped.

What a difference a week makes! I am still overwhelmed, but my daughter took herself off to the TV upstairs to watch Detective Pikachu. Yes, she’s a college student. That’s just the way kids roll these days, with their American live action/CGI movies. I’m just grateful for two hours to blog in peace.

Homemade white cake with strawberry and whipped cream filling really nice crumb

SIDEBAR: Not only was my blog cancelled, my father-in-law’s birthday cake was delayed until the next day. We didn’t get home until long after dinner, and the cake was still in pieces. But, this silver cake is really good the next day — the crumb develops. Strawberry kanten and whipped cream. In times of trouble, there’s nothing like a soothing piece of cake. It probably does bad things to your immune system, but oh, the lovely chemicals it releases! (E.M. Duskova)

My dayjob has suddenly become not busy. I don’t know if you heard this tidbit in the avalanche of news, but Tuesday night (Feb. 26), the governor of Hokkaido requested that all schools in our prefecture close.  It was a request, but the kind of offer that you don’t really refuse. After going to school, we found out at noon on Feb. 27 that the schools in our city would be closed through March 4 (although the teachers would still come to work). The junior high school 3rd graders, many of whom would be taking tests and graduating soon, were supposed to come back on March 2.

The admin at the school was so cagey about the whole thing. One of my English teachers, who rarely entrusts me to a role in the classroom, told me I could have the leadership of the whole next class . . . I’m pretty sure he was sure that was a bet he didn’t think he’d have to see come to fruition. And so it was. I’d gotten half a “match the past tense clover leaves to the present tense” game cut out when they announced the news. We pretended life was going to go on as usual, until official word came.

All of the meeting rooms at the City Hall were booked up, so we were allowed to go to our schools instead of the germy old City Hall. We were to create teaching supplies and talk with our teachers and help with the disinfection efforts. I spent a pleasant half hour wiping down doors and windows on the first floor with a co-worker with alcohol and paper wipes. They provided the rubber gloves, and I had my own mask.

On Thursday night, several bits of news dropped. There was a 10-year-old boy who had been diagnosed with the coronavirus in our district (and any thinking person knows that a 10-year-old boy doesn’t just come down with the coronavirus out in the middle of nowhere – there’s got to be a few missing links who haven’t come down with symptoms or who have self-treated without going to the hospital in our area, too). (In Japanese; Tokachi area 10-year-old youth, boy, amongst 13 people. 2020/02/27 18:26)

The big hospital in the area closed to patients without appointments because about one-fifth of the nurses said they couldn’t find childcare (remember, the schools are closed? Yeah. Parents really had to scramble.).

And then, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo “thought about” requesting the schools nationwide to close until spring vacation begins. That’s about three weeks, or 21 days (the previous efforts at containment assumed the virus had an incubation period between one day and two weeks before people showed symptoms, but some reports said it took as long as 27 days to show symptoms.  Twenty-one days is better than a week, anyway).

Well, it’s hard to refuse even a thought about requesting from a prime minister. Many schools on the big island of Honshu have decided to close. In my district, the principals will decide Monday morning whether or not to close all of the schools – but I’m pretty sure it’s going to happen. Nobody wants to be the Municipality with the CoronaSurge Because They Wouldn’t Close the Schools.


Tokachi winter road. The day is sunny, and the trees are frosted completely over.

As you can see, my character, the frost godling Jack DeWinter, has been very busy with his creative pursuits this week. We live next to a creek (to the right, out of frame), and the cold wet winds often frost the trees overnight. My morning commute is often like driving through a Currier and Ives greeting card. (E.M. Duskova)

What does this mean to me as a writer? You think it’d mean lots of time to write! And maybe that’s true. But also, it’s a time to gather information for future stories – pay attention to the ways people react to this stress, the things they think are important (toilet paper hoarding, for example), the way they help each other and hurt each other. The unintended consequences are particularly interesting. I’m watching and reading and taking notes. (But maybe I should set up a schedule because this observation mode can’t be entirely healthy – two hours for writing in the morning, two hours for observing, and two hours for disinfecting and cleaning.)

Last evening in a news conference, the governor of Hokkaido, Suzuki Naomichi, declared a state of emergency for the island that will last until March 19th, and requested (there’s that word again) that people stay home, especially this weekend. 

What I can’t do, and shouldn’t do, is go into hibernation mode like my cat, Kana. I really want to, but just like her, I cast a suspicious eye on the world, wondering where things are going next.

What a leap day – it’ll be one to remember, that’s for sure.

Stay healthy, stay safe, my dears. Wash your hands, get your sleep, and drink an appropriate amount of lovely, lovely beverages.

My little black cat is completely curled up with her tail over her forehead. She's peeking at the camera with great suspicion and a little bit of malevolency.

Kana is a mood. (E.M. Duskova)

UPDATE: Our schools are cancelled until March 25, when spring vacation begins. Also, PM Abe Shinzo just had a press conference, and the request to close the schools nationwide is now confirmed.

9 thoughts on “Michaeline: The World We Live In Today

  1. Michaeline, I have spent the last 90 minutes exploring Eight Ladies, and especially posts by one of my most memorable students. I shall return for more.
    I am so pleased to see you enjoying and making good use of your considerable writing talent. You’ve traveled a long way (literally and otherwise) from your Concord days. — Davis–

    • Mr. Davis! You were such a huge influence; my sister told me that you had been in touch (email to follow). Concord was a Saturday morning radio program that Mr. Davis had arranged for his high school students to do at the local radio station. (-: Spending Saturday morning blogging suddenly reminds me a little bit of those days!

      Also, Mr. Davis was the one who introduced me to James Thurber! This post on the structure and conflict of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is one of my more popular posts (lol, probably looked up by students who are reading it in class, but hey, I’ll take it). https://eightladieswriting.com/2014/01/18/michaeline-structure-and-conflict-in-the-secret-life-of-walter-mitty/ I’ll never forget, though, the Thurber fairy tales — particularly the story of Little Red Riding Hood and her little friend, a small pistol. Moral of the story: It is not so easy to fool little girls nowadays as it used to be. We wound up doing it as a playlet, and the message is one I often think about.

      Hooray for English teachers! Mr. Davis, you were such an advocate for your students, and went above and beyond! Thank you! It means the world to me that you had fun here on Eight Ladies.

  2. What a mess! And what happens to your daughter? Does she go back to Tokyo? Or stay with you? Closing all the schools around the country seems extreme when there are so many other ways the virus could be spread, and finding child care will be tough for parents who, I presume, will continue to go to work.

    It’s too late for cautionary notes on handwashing for me. I already caught some nasty virus, although not, thank heavens, covid-19. Still, I wouldn’t wish this on anyone and therefore have not left the house for a week. If only I had the energy to put that time to good use!

    Good luck with everything, Michaeline.

    • Well, so far, the domestic airlines are still flying. She’s REALLY antsy and wants to go back to Tokyo before the planes stop flying, but I’m like, “Stay here where I can take care of you if you catch this crud!” I really hope she can go back in two weeks as planned; at that point, there will only be about 12 days before my work officially ends, and I can fly down if she gets sick and make chicken soup. (LOL, I sound like a nutty mother. But it’s only a 90 minute flight down there, and I can write there as well as I can write up in Hokkaido.)

      So sorry to hear about your cold! And it’s still dragging on! I hope you are feeling better soon; it’s really hard. On the very small plus side, staying in probably saves you from other nasties. Wish I could fly out there and chicken soup you, too.

    • Thanks!
      I just saw on the news this morning that Hokkaido Prefecture has *72* people with coronavirus (whatever that means — not sure if it’s diagnosed, hospitalized, suspected by doctors; of course it’s going to be more people). That’s so much more than the other prefectures, which are still in the single digits if I remember the map right. I don’t know why we have so many cases; it’s a big prefecture, but we also have more space than a lot of others. Maybe the Snow Festival’s tourists brought and spread the illness?

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  4. I was in the thick of the COVID-19 thing. I was the first patient tested in Maryland and my husband, my son, and I were all quarantined for a time. I made notes for use in future stories. and like you, Michaeline, I didn’t get any writing done during my quarantine – I was working from home.

    Stay safe and healthy.

    • That was really something. I hope you won’t catch it now that you are safe at home, or if you do, it’s mild and doesn’t cause a lot of problems. Are you doing fine, emotionally? Such a lot to process, and I hope the people around you (co-workers) are being supportive.

      There’s on author on Twitter that I follow by the name of Amber Sparks who is going to take a plane trip, and she mentioned something about washing hands rabidly. One wag in her comments said, “Rabid handwashing, i assume, is just extra foamy.” (Andrew Fleishman)

      It took a second (OK, three seconds) for that wonderfully absurd comment to drop. Now, when I’m alone, I’ve started growling and snarling for 20 seconds. I sound more like the Tasmanian devil than a rabid dog, but the soap IS extra foamy. I feel like you’ve got to get your laughs where you can, and I’m easily entertained. I’d love to see a Rabid Handwashing Challenge go viral, full of middle-aged women who like a bit of wordplay.

      Hope you and yours stay safe, too!

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