Coping with coronavirus, week 5

04/15/2020

With the coronavirus spreading and the public ordered to stay home, these are unusual times in West Marin. Now over a month into a shutdown of all nonessential activities, new routines are well-established. Alongside our coverage of the pandemic, the Light is offering windows into the lives of our readers. This week, we talked to a painter and a postmaster.

Art on hold

Anna Francis was preparing for a retrospective of her 40-year painting career when her show at Toby’s Gallery was postponed. It would have been quite the display, with her watercolors of flowers on one wall, oil portraits and still life on another, and a corner for her and her former students’ children’s books. She unearthed decades-old pieces, framed reproductions of sold work, created  a floorplan and curated written material to accompany the art. Family and friends scheduled flights to help her hang over 50 pieces, and she hired a van to help her transport it. It had been a full-time job for her since January, when Chris Giacomini visited her studio looking for an artist to fill the April slot. Normally, artists have more time to prepare for a show, so she felt rushed. “I’ve been working, working, working on it, and suddenly everything changed, and it all came to a screeching halt,” she said. She’s used the extra time to tweak her layout, but the show is no longer a priority. Anna is dealing with complications from eye surgery, and she can’t schedule an appointment with her ophthalmologist for a follow-up operation. So, she can’t paint. Instead, she’s spending time cleaning and organizing her house, walking her dog and caring for her two horses. Anna lives alone, so the isolation has been difficult at times. “I want to get close to someone, hug them, pat their shoulder,” she said. Her to-do list unraveled in the initial weeks of staying home, but since then she’s established a new schedule. The experience of preparing for a show that did not materialize has given her time to reflect on what she would like to do next. When she is able to paint again, she wants to recreate a self-portrait she painted in 1984.

The machine doesn't stop

Roosevelt Sargent, the postmaster in Bolinas, takes pride in the fact that while most people’s routines are disrupted, the United States Postal Service is still working. “When we sign up to do this, that is what we are representing: The machine doesn’t stop for anything,” he said. The workload has increased, but Roosevelt sees that as a good thing, because they are delivering essential goods. He said it’s like the holidays, with more packages and fewer advertisements. He is focused on getting the three “M’s” to customers: money, medication and merchandise. In Bolinas, two employees work at a time, one distributing mail in the back and the other helping customers. They have been able to keep their distance, and the post office now has a clear curtain over the front desk and markings on the floor. Employees are encouraged to wash their hands diligently, which is easy for Roosevelt because he learned from his time as a mail carrier to always carry sanitizer or wipes. He said he typically feels postal workers are overlooked as essential workers, but the pandemic has changed that. Customers have been appreciative, with some leaving notes of thanks. “Being able to go in everyday and knowing that I’m making a difference, that makes you feel good,” he said. “Coast to coast, we’re just happy that we can be front and center during this pandemic.”