Love During the Time of Corona — -3.0 — -North Main Street, Darwin, California, USA

“I’d love to change the world/But I don’t know what to do/So I’ll leave it up to you…”

Other than a very short stop to say hello and bump elbows with my old friend Mini Mileto in Landers (near Joshua Tree) I have made a jet-drive (the Taco truck hitting 95 MPH on the downslope) directly to Darwin. This is far eastern California, the gateway to Death Valley. There have been no reported cases of the Covid-19 virus in all of Inyo County (10,227 square miles). Of course there are only 18,026 people in the county. About 37 of them live in Darwin. Thirty-six of them are not happy to see me.

I have been invited here by a new friend, the writer and Quigong practitioner T.F. Moon. It was a long-standing invitation and to her credit, given the present circumstances, she did not rescind it. I am a traveler and could be a carrier of the virus (though I am completely asymptomatic). It was something we both had to think about. It was something most of her neighbors did not have to think about. They are not particularly enamored toward strangers coming into town. And who can blame them? I could be Corona Mose for all they know.

So, if you want me to state the obvious I can: It is not the virus that will kill our free society. It is unchecked paranoia. Social upheaval. Economic disintegration. Selfish pandering by politicians. Mis-information. And lack of faith in each other. All of this is much more collectively deadly than the corona virus. Human nature, the deep tendency for self-preservation, is sometimes our biggest threat.

T.F. took a leap of faith to keep open her invitation. It is something I will always be grateful for. And something that her neighbors will hopefully forgive her for.

T.F. is in transition. She has been living in Darwin for about a year, and has just purchased a house here. It is a rambling, pieced together, carpenter’s nightmare with a large brick and stone fireplace and a million dollar view of Coso Peak and the Coso Range Wilderness Area. The woman who owned the house, a retired eccentric French socialite from Los Angeles, recently died. T.F. is negotiating the purchase with the woman’s son. The house is empty. She hasn’t moved in yet. The place needs a lot of work. (It is suffering from what we home inspectors once called “deferred maintenance”) It is both a major chore and an incredible opportunity.

Honestly I do not know my worth to family and friends and society at large as a writer. Probably nil. I do know that being an experienced builder/carpenter, a good designer and a very hard worker has certainly made me a more valuable human being.

T.F. is willing to let me self-isolate in one of the many extra rooms in her new house. It is funky. The roof leaks. The rooms are still crammed with many of the old woman’s possessions. I don’t think it is haunted, but so far I’ve only spent one night.

So here I am in personal lockdown. In a town that doesn’t get too much more remote that this.

The weather is cold in Darwin. Wintery. The elevation is 4,790 feet. Periodically we get a mixture of rain, snow, and small hail/sleet. Then the sun comes out.

The sun is a very big factor out here at the gateway to Death Valley. It lights the sky like a torch. The ultraviolet bleaches everything. Even the rocks get a brown furnace finish called “desert varnish.” The metal roofs of the houses bake and rust in this climate. Paint drys out and curls off the wood siding. The soil turns to fine dust and it relocated by the wind. The climate is dry, harsh, and invigorating.

Prsently it is springtime. The rain is just beginning to help the desert flowers bloom. The sun is still intense, but quite bearable. There are vistas of snow frosted mountains, striated rock canyons, blue sky, cumulous clouds and cloud shadows. Just east of town the hills and outcrops outline the profile of a reclining woman. Locally she is called the Sleeping Princess.

My new friend is pretty good at laughing. She loves it here and she offers me a temporary sanctuary.

In exchange I will help her to start rebuilding her new house. It could possibly be a win for everyone.

A match made in Darwin.



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