With the coronavirus spreading and the public ordered to stay home, these are unusual times in West Marin. Now two months into a shutdown of all nonessential activities, many people are trying to figure out new ways to reach one another. Alongside our coverage of the pandemic, the Light is offering windows into the lives of our readers. This week, we talked to a retired newspaper man, a community organizer and a florist.
Dave Mitchell, a former Light publisher, is getting restless as he shelters in his cabin in Point Reyes Station. “For me, the virus has dramatically changed my social life, and that leaves me feeling a bit at loose ends,” he said. Many of the ways Dave used to stay connected on a weekly basis are on hold: he no longer sits and talks with friends at Toby’s Coffee Bar in the mornings over the newspaper, or drives to Sausalito to listen to jazz on Friday nights. “Schedules define who we are: we get up knowing what we are going to do during that day,” Dave said. “With a lack of a schedule, we wake up and say, ‘Who will I be today?’” Over the past few months, there have only been a few times where he has left the cabin, including to help a homeless friend find shelter. Dave is hunkered in with wife, Lynn Axelrod. But Ms. Axelrod has had a very different experience of the pandemic, Dave said: as the coordinator of the Point Reyes Disaster Council, she is busier than ever. Meanwhile, Dave has picked up his work around the house, cleaning and working in the yard. He has also continued blogging on his website, and stays in touch with friends over email, often to share good jokes. He added, “It’s not that I’ve just changed my activities, I also think differently.” For example, he is spending a lot less time thinking about politics and “our infantile president” and more time thinking about practical affairs, such as rearranging the furniture, or the number of spiders in his cabin, or “whether there’s enough bird seed for the birds, all the things like that.” Continuing outreach
Jorge Martinez, a Point Reyes native who works as a full-time organizer for West Marin Community Services, has never felt so tired. “Two weeks in, I felt really tired. In fact, I thought I’d never felt that tired, even working three jobs. I was overwhelmed,” he said. “There is a lot of uncertainty.” Jorge stopped working nights at Osteria Stellina when it closed for sit-down meals, and he no longer does administrative work for Inverness Gardening Services, which was also stalled by the shelter order. His full-time focus is his job at the nonprofit, where he serves as a manager for Abriendo Caminos, a program that helps local Latinos navigate systems that affect labor rights, housing, education and immigration. With meetings and workshops on hold, his main work is to encourage participation in the census, which is made more difficult by the absence of door-to-door outreach and the fact that people can’t leave home, where they might not have internet. He is also newly helping find shelter for the homeless. Twelve people who were previously homeless in West Marin are now in temporary stays at hotels, either locally or over the hill, thanks to funding primarily from the Marin Community Foundation. Jorge—who lives alone and has been limiting visits to his family during the shelter order—said his coworkers have been essential to his ability to show up for those in need. It can be difficult to see people he knows in hard circumstances. “Being such a small town—I grew up out here—I know almost everyone who comes in,” he said. “We have guidelines about who we can help and who we can’t, and those are helpful. And if there’s a gray area, we on the staff look to each other. That’s important, to work as a team.”
Peggy Orr, who co-owns Point Reyes Flowers with her husband, Jim, said, “I’m a slave to the garden right now, but then again, it’s May.” Peggy wakes up with the sun and gets to work. Everything is blooming. Although it’s typical for this time of year to spend her days working outside on her property, Peggy said, she has never been at home around the clock before. In the past two months, she filled up her gas tank just once. But the garden keeps her engaged. “When you’re working in the garden, you are part of the whole universe, and so I don’t feel isolated,” she said. “The chickens are laying eggs, the sweet peas are coming up, I’m always harvesting food now for an evening meal—I’m connected.” She is preparing for the local farmers’ market, set to open on schedule next month, and for Mother’s Day. Peggy typically also teaches at Point Reyes Yoga, and though the studio has had success converting to online classes, Peggy found that her yogic skills were needed elsewhere. Every day at 4 p.m. she teaches a yoga class to her family: her daughter in Brooklyn, her son in San Francisco, her niece in Los Angeles, and their significant others. Generally, Peggy said she’s a teacher who needs sensory information—“volume, gravity, weight and depth,” as she puts it—but for this one intimate group of people, she’s made an exception. “It’s pretty regimented, and everyone is enjoying the challenge of that,” Peggy said. “It’s not meditative or theoretical or slow or calm. It’s vigorous. I make them sweat and get them out of their heads, get their bodies really humming. That helped me when I was their age, and they need that now desperately.” After family yoga, Peggy says they all unmute themselves and check in: “How was the day?”