SHELTERING IN WITH KATE DOUGLAS
Okay…read that title and I’m laughing. If anyone wants to be sheltered in with me, they’d better bring their work gloves and an extra chainsaw wouldn’t be remiss…let me explain.
It’s life in the age of the pandemic…Doug and I are both 70, and our governor here in California mandated any “elderly” age 65 and older are required to stay at home and not go out for anything other than essential trips. We looked at each other and sort of had a “holy shit. We’re elderly? Nah…” moment, and went back to doing what we’re always doing…working in the orchard, cleaning deadwood out of the forest, cleaning up all the branches from trees that either fell down or broke after a spring snowstorm last week after weeks of weather into the 70s. Essentially doing what we do best: Staying home! Our daughter, who knows us way too well, sent me the meme below…it’s totally apropos.
We moved from wine country to gold country in the fall of 2018. We just couldn’t take living in town anymore after a lifetime in the country, so we’re now in a tiny little gold rush town with two main streets…our driveway starts on one of them, so we’re essentially “in town,” but once you go down our driveway, which isn’t all that long, it’s like we’ve entered another world. We’ve got over six acres with a big pond, an old (probably over 50 years old) apple orchard, and over four acres of old growth forest with a stream at the bottom of the property. It’s like living in our own frickin’ park! One that needs constant maintenance…a LOT of maintenance!
I drive to the grocery store that’s less than a mile away once a week, and walk to the post office to check the mail, but mostly we’re just here because we don’t want to be anywhere else. In that respect, the “Stay at home” order works well for us!
Since I’m staying home, I’m finally finishing Dark Stranger, the book that’s been bugging me for over a year now. Considering that I wrote 4-6 novels and novellas a year for over fifteen years, it’s embarrassing to admit that I finally discovered that writer’s block isn’t just a cop-out for not writing. It really exists and it’s just awful! I literally lost my writers’ voice and nothing I wrote sounded like me. After almost two years of struggle, I discovered that it was all my OB/GYN’s fault…she took me off caffeine. I know, it is a cop-out to blame the poor woman, but it’s been a miserable two years without it, and it appears that coffee has been the source of creativity my entire career, because now that I’m drinking coffee again, my characters are talking to me and life is getting better.
As far as the pandemic, I’m being really careful because Doug has asthma, and it doesn’t help that he was a fireman years ago and much of their firefighting was done without protective gear. Even though he’s a big, healthy-looking dude, he’s at more of a risk if he gets infected with the coronavirus because it’s mainly a respiratory infection. I’m having drivers leave deliveries on the deck in the sun because UV light kills the virus, spraying boxes and packaging materials with bleach diluted in water, wearing latex gloves and a mask when I go out in public and wiping everything I touch when I get home with alcohol wipes until I can get to the sink and wash my hands. It’s inconvenient, but so far we’re both healthy. It will be a month in two days since Doug last left the place. My last trip off the Divide was three weeks ago. He doesn’t mind a bit, but neither do I.
Besides, mail order is amazing. I do my shopping—other than fresh foods—by computer and a few days later it shows up on the deck. I wave to the drivers to let them know I appreciate the fact they’re doing this, and it’s saving me a long drive off the mountain. The only way to get to the larger stores is to drive down into either the middle or south fork of the American River, and up out again on the other side. Each fork has created really deep canyons that surround our area which is called “The Divide.” We literally live on the divide between the two forks in a little place called Georgetown, one of the early towns founded during the first year of the gold rush in 1849, just a few months after gold was discovered in Coloma, less than ten miles away.
As far as what I’m actually doing—besides a lot of cooking, because Doug loves to eat and cooking is my therapy—it’s mostly work outside when I can get away from the book. We’ve got wild ducks and geese that come to the pond daily, along with a truly regal looking great blue heron who eats some of the gazillion frogs out in the cattails. That’s one of our favorite things about living here—the amazing wildlife!
We have so many different kinds of critters that we catch on “critter cameras” Doug sets out daily, and about once a week he puts together a video of all the activity. When we have enough clips to make a short video, I post them on my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/katedouglas.author If you go into the photos section and click on albums, the videos will come up. We even had a beautiful mountain lion wander across the dam a couple of weeks ago!
I’m in better physical shape than I’ve been in years, but I love outdoor work where I can push myself because I’m stubborn like that. When I’m working outside, I let my mind drift and Anton is finally back! For those of you who may have read my Wolf Tales or Spirit Wild series, you might remember that Anton Cheval is the pack alpha. He’s been the one prodding me to tell my stories, but when he quit talking to me last year, I couldn’t write anymore. Now that he’s bugging me again, I am finally “hearing” my characters, in their own voices and with their unique personalities. I’ve missed them and missed the thrill of actually finishing a book. Now that I fully believe it’s going to happen, I feel as if I’m waking up after a very long, dark sleep. DARK STRANGER will be the seventh book in the Spirit Wild series, a Wolf Tales spinoff that follows the second generation of Chanku, born into a world that knows shapeshifters exist. It makes for some interesting interactions between humans and Chanku. These are independently published, in print as well as ebooks.
I’m also planning to put out a newsletter in the near future. It’s been almost a year since my last one, after doing a monthly newsletter for years. I’ve received a number of print copies of some of the early books from my original Wolf Tales and Sexy Beast tales, and I’m hoping to give them out as prizes in my newsletter drawing, so if you have some but are missing any of the early ones, watch for the newsletter. I’ve also got a couple of pairs of custom Wolf paw print earrings that are really cool. They were made especially for me to use as contest prizes. If you’re not a member of my newsletter group, you can sign up at firstname.lastname@example.org I’ll send out a notice when it’s up on my website, and the notice will also appear on my Facebook page.
We still can’t believe we found this gem of a home, tucked away in Georgetown. We’ve met neighbors who had no idea it was even down here! What’s funny is that when Doug and I were dating in 1971, we were talking about buying property in Gold Country. He said, “Well, if we’re going to buy property, we should probably get married.” I said, “Okay,” and we were married a few months later. Our 48th anniversary is this May, so his least romantic proposal in the history of proposals obviously worked, but I gave him a really bad time at the title office when we were signing papers on the purchase. I admitted he was a man of his word, but it really shouldn’t have taken 47 years to get me up here! I’m just really happy that in spite of my mother telling me it would never work, his approach—while not the most romantic—obviously worked just fine.
He’s also my perfect person to be quarantined with.
This is the morning view of our pond out the kitchen window, and why it’s so much easier to “self isolate” up here than when we lived in town! The forest circles almost the entire property with the orchard just behind the house and running up a hill.
In the next photo, that’s me loading the logs Doug’s cutting off the tree on the ground behind me. It’s a big black locust that fell down during a snow storm last week—it pulled right out of the ground and just fell over! Each of those rounds weighs between 40-60 pounds. I weigh 122 pounds which means I’m lifting almost half my body weight. Because I’m not all that big, I’ve learned to use my legs instead of my back, so it always surprises me that I can pick up stuff that heavy—but if you notice, I can’t straighten my legs out because that sucker is heavy! I’ve been putting them in the wheelbarrow one at a time and pushing each one up the hill to the wood pile. Best exercise I’ve had in years!
Anyway, that’s about it from Georgetown, California, right in the heart of the California Gold Country, where we are surviving the first pandemic I’ve ever experienced. I do hope it’s our last, though I have a feeling we may be looking at our new normal. if nothing else, when you can’t go anywhere, there’s a lot more time for reading! And if you’re at all like me, it’s impossible to be bored when you have a good book to read. Be safe and we’ll all get through this eventually.