March 20, 2020

I'm listening to the rain fall. The air in my apartment is cool and humid, and outside on Lamar the sparse traffic swishes through gathering puddles and running rivulets. The air is gray and light.

Today is, what, a week of working from home? How much time have I spent self-enforced isolation? It's hard to keep track of days by yourself.

I recall a similar experience, not knowing the day, week, month, or time of year, when I first moved from Albany to Austin. I got here in September, and it was 90 degrees every day until, what, November or so? I remember finding it strange, seeing the sun every day. I recall looking for clouds in the expansive blue sky and not finding them. I remember that "winter" meant that it fell to 60 degrees. I remember feeling a slowing in my body, a sort of hibernational inertia that told me to eat heavier foods and move around less, a sort of psychological and physiological preparation to be snowbound for months. Then I looked outside at the blazing sun, and back at the glass of eggnog in my hand, and thought, "Why am I doing this?" I remember the days before I had a calendar on my wall, when months seemed to melt away as literally as they did figuratively.

I did go to Zilker on Saturday, and I took a long walk along the river trail. I sat near the Congress St. Bridge and listened to the bats chirp in the eaves. I brought my camera and tried to capture our city from perspectives that were new to me. I did find some bluebonnets. As I was about to turn back and start walking back towards the city, I found a stone bench covered by an ornate wrought-iron trellis. I want to say it was called, "Opossum Temple", or something like that. Situated on the north bank of the river, it looked directly across to that viewpoint in Zilker Park -- I'm sure you know the one, at the bend in the trail where Barton Springs runs out to the river? where joggers and cyclists pause for a moment, and tourists for an hour? It took me back to when I first moved here, looking from that point out at Austin -- I'll close this letter with my journal entry, watching the crowd of people gather for an overcast sunset.

Now sitting here on the opposite bank of the river, looking out at the viewpoint in Zilker, the first place I went in Austin -- I probably needed Google Maps to get there. I remember standing out there at the end of that summer, having just bounced all over New York & then driven across our huge country, our continent, my seemingly-massive trip only halfway across, I remember taking a meaningful photo of the Hudson, realizing it would be my last trip down it for a while, but more grandly that I was for the first time in my life going to leave that valley, to leave the banks of that river & the silent brooding brownstones & the gloomy forests lining it behind me, I was leaving & I was terrified & I was sad. & when I came here, when I came upon that promontory, I saw a new river that would hold me in its arms, & beyond that I saw a new city, a modern city, a city that I did not yet understand & a mindset totally unfamiliar to me. But here I was, here the city was, thrust upon me as much as I was thrust upon it, I turned loose within it with nowhere else to go. I was twenty-two then, & when I took that photograph across the river that gave me my first sense of hope. In 2016 the skyline looked different, but now in 2020 I see a crowd gathering on the lookout, people sitting, hugging their knees & watching the same river flow by that I did, some of them surely, surely feeling a first glimmer of hope.