Door

My desk occupies a corner of the living room. I’ve thought about changing to a spare bedroom, but I loathe giving up my garden view. This morning, a larch tree in my sister-in-law’s garden holds back the fog. I’m astonished by how much the tree has grown. Shortly before my arrival in Kaiserstuhl thirty years ago, Markus’s parents built the house and planted the garden, including the larch. The fog astonishes me, too; our summer’s over.

A blocked watercolor of Falaise d’Aval, Étretat, France.

When we first moved into this house, Markus set up his workspace in a cozy corner off the entrance hall. A door separated it from the living area. When left open, the door partially covered a picture we’d hung. We removed the door, storing it in the cellar.

In the first weeks of lockdown, Markus apologized for all his noisy conference calls. Really, he minded my noise. To problem solve, I’ll jump up and tackle small chores. Emptying the dishwasher, washing the windows, or running the vacuum helps me untangle ideas. Working at the office in the city challenges me precisely because I can fetch only so many cups of espresso or glasses of water in a day. I try to preempt my restlessness by walking to the office from the train station, a thirty-minute hoof I repeat at day’s end. I enjoy changing up my route, taking the heavily trafficked road or the leafy apartment-block streets.

One day, I came across Zurich’s slaughterhouse, a 1909 structure arresting in purpose but stunning in design, similar to a train station—terminus for the animals, I guess. An eerily silent place; I assumed it’d been repurposed, but my youngest daughter has a friend who lives in the area. Apparently, she rented out an extra bedroom to a woman who woke in the early hours to the cries of distressed animals and had to move out. The cries become audible only when the wind blows a certain way.

During lockdown, I answered problem-solving urges with brisk walks. I yoked my household tasks to Markus’s calendar, vacuuming or cleaning bathrooms during his call-free hours, until I remembered the door. He quickly rehung it. A simple thing; it brought us much relief.

The morning warms. The fog retreats. Before ten, blue sky appears. Sunlight lands on the larch’s topmost branches and spreads downwards.

This morning’s brisk walk included looking back on my sister-in-law’s house—ours a peep behind it.

Soon, though, the fog will break like a wave over midday. Soon, it’ll swamp the day, leaving the sun a soft, brief buoy. These days, I’m still working from home but solo. Still, the door hangs. It blocks the picture. I’d like to enjoy the picture again, yet the flu season creeps close, and a fresh spread of COVID-19 cases threatens. Perhaps Markus will be working from home regularly again.