EVERETT — A self-described “amateur citizen archivist,” Richard Porter has written poetry, essays and short stories about life in Snohomish County in years gone by.
Now, he’s writing a blog about what it’s like to live here right now — under quarantine during the COVID-19 emergency.
“I had this moment in March when I was shopping for canned goods at Grocery Outlet, doing the prepper thing, buying vegetable seeds,” Porter said.
“I saw other people doing it. There was this palpable anxiety in the air.”
Porter, 34, launched “From the Epicenter: Dispatches from COVID-19 Quarantine” on March 19, four days before Gov. Jay Inslee issued his stay-home order. The title refers to Everett being the place where the first case of COVID-19 in the United States was documented in January.
“This is an historic moment,” he said. “I wanted to put on my citizen archivist hat.”
It all changed within a week. It changed so fast.
We stay home now. Or, we’re supposed to. Many people don’t, or can’t stay home.
The streets are silent at inappropriate times. Indoors, with our screens — our remote digital eyes — we watch a hysterical world.
So far, Porter has written 20 blog posts, in which he writes about his thoughts on the “new normal” — the isolation from society as a whole, and the uncertainty — even dread — about what’s in store in the months and years to come.
“I try to be very candid,” he said. “It’s whatever comes out of my head.”
It isn’t all negative. Porter writes about the positive things he’s seen since the shutdown in the Delta neighborhood of Everett, where he lives with his wife, Christa, and their three young daughters.
Life in Delta “actually has been very good because I feel like there’s a strong network,” Porter said. “People are dropping off flowers, baked goods, lingering for conversation. That bodes well for the future, if we can set up those kinds of neighborhood networks.
“I think Everett has that community mindset, and I’ve been proud to see that.”
Let’s plant Victory Gardens so we have something to eat as grocery stores are emptied. Let’s self-impose rationing and frugality for uncertain, lean times ahead. Let’s become resilient and bold. Let’s adopt a unified national consciousness to rally against a common enemy: a virus that threatens to kill many and cripple more, financially.
Maybe we’re being called upon to become the next Greatest Generation.
Noting that the economy is tanking and millions have lost their jobs, Porter acknowledged he has it better than many. He still has a job writing for the Snohomish County Tourism Alliance, and telecommuting makes life easier in some respects.
But he can’t ignore what’s going on around him. He writes about feelings of anger and powerlessness.
“I get upset when I see people breaking quarantine, but there’s nothing I can do about it,” he said. “It’s so baked into our American narrative that we’re individuals. But this global pandemic is a team sport. Our actions affect others.
“(The blog) is like therapy for me, so I can process my thoughts.”
Porter said he believes the pandemic could be a generational marker, like the Great Depression and World War II. He sees his blog as a historical record for his daughters, who are too young to understand what’s happening, so they can read and learn when they’re ready.
Coronavirus 2020. I’m trying to understand it from the middle of it happening. I don’t have the benefit of hindsight or larger context. I think it will be like when you cut into a tree. You can see a charred ring in the cross section that shows the year that the tree was burned in a fire. I think there will be a collective trauma marker in the generations that lived through this quarantine. Bad memories of lost school, fear, silence, the hoarding of resources.
He’ll keep blogging as long as the pandemic affects our daily lives — which means he’s in it for the “long haul,” he said.
With his kids foremost in his mind, Porter said he’s trying to stay positive.
“I want to hope for the best — that we’ll be more community-minded and globally minded, in a good way,” he said.
… It’s only rarely now that I remember The Before. Like, when I watch a movie and people on the screen are casually milling around on the street. It’s a sudden sharp pang of nostalgia. And then it’s gone, sucked up into the sunny numbness of Spring 2020. Well, that was then. And now is… unavoidable.