Writing the Distance: Cyndie Warbelow

The Covid 19 pandemic is isolating Alaskan writers. We can no longer attend workshops or public readings. The coffee bars where we met with other writers are closed. To bridge these physical gaps, 49 Writers is providing this on-line forum for Alaskans writing the distance. Today’s work is from Cyndie Warblow.


Hunched in front of my screen I give in to the addictive darkness of the New York Times digital front page.
From there the clutch of the breaking news pulls me into its abyss, all bad news,
and at the top of the heap crouches COVID -19.

Photos of SeaTac, O’Hare, JFK at mid-day, a single masked person in the camera’s view.
The streets of Paris, Madrid, Seattle, once crowded with humans, now just empty asphalt and concrete.
Store shelves, emptied of material goods that we did or didn’t need, their bare, gray metal exposed.
Exhausted first responders, empty hotels converted to hospital rooms, reefer vans now temporary morgues.

Food—that’s what I need, a way I can calm this chaos and turmoil, escape this world spinning off kilter.
To the kitchen, the fridge with every shelf stuffed, not because I’m hoarding but well—just in case.
Half way down on the right side sits a 1# box of spinach, 360 cubic inches of green leaves packed tight to make them all fit.
Yellow tinges show in this massive mound of green, a color that will spread by the time I eat the whole box fresh.

I pour all 360 cubic inches into the largest sauté pan I have, pushing down so leaves don’t spill out.
The spinach stands like a solid mountain of green— resistant, full of nutrients, and for sure Popeye strong.
I sprinkle on chopped onion, garlic, spray it all with oil, add some salt, turn the burner on high.
I watch this box full of spinach distill within minutes to a wilted, green heap that fits in a 2-cup storage container.

Thrown into a hot pan, the flamboyant, water-filled spinach succumbs, reduced to this remnant of itself, slimy but delicious tasting.
As I savor a forkful scooped warm from the pan, I wonder —are we of this world no different than a box of spinach?
Add heat to our grandeur and ego and we melt down to a shadow of what we used to be?
Ill-prepared, shuttered in, waiting and waiting, hoping that this all tastes good in the end.


Cyndie Warbelow has been self-isolating in the middle of Alaska with her wood stove, greenhouse, cats and cellphone – trying to avoid spending too much time on her computer reading the New York Times.

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