I’ve been dreaming about redwoods, reading Wendell Berry’s World Ending Fire, walking in the woods around Walden, wandering the Minuteman path to Spy Pond, telling stories to the children about heading to the forest to build a tree house, thinking about Ashfield and the land there, wondering about growing food and flowers, anticipating working in the garden.

When I woke up this morning, having taken a day off day care to reflect and find a way forward that feels right, I imagined ways our little people could gather safely. Just like in our stories, we would wear backpacks. The children’s parents would pack lunches. We’d wear outdoor gear and wander the bike path, exploring the edges I noticed yesterday, where others would be less likely to gather, collect sticks, bring shovels and buckets, one for each child, with their name on it. We might meet at Walden Pond, where kids could dig six feet apart in the sand they love so much. Parents would need to drop off and pick up at the Pond on those days. Days we explored nearby we might meet in the yard, and walk with a long rope, with loops six feet apart for each child, or with a stroller for the toddler and rules for older ones who might be allowed to run along the path on their own.

I imagined little cloth mittens for my toddler, so I could safely hold his hand, as words don’t always guide him. But are mittens safe?

I wondered how we would wash hands outside, how long we could be out without a bathroom. I pictured the yard, and our tiny sandbox, and wondered how we would share it with a group of kids, who normally congregate there in a bunch. I imagined giving kids access to the bathroom, sanitizing the surfaces as much as we could, sending kids inside to pee or poop while I was in the yard with the others. But who would check to see if my little guy had adequately wiped? So many, many details to consider in providing child care in the time of Coronavirus, COVID-19. Even if I were to follow our fantasy of the children leaving the day care for the forest, I can’t imagine caring for young children from a distance.

I did picture story time and singing in a circle in Magnolia Field. I wondered if the ground was too wet for sitting, pictured bringing an old shower curtain from my basement for us to sit on, or cutting it into small squares for each of us to carry in our backpack so we could sit farther apart. But squares of plastic and forest day care seem to be at odds. Perhaps we just get damp, or wear the rain pants or rain suits we wear on damp and rainy days.

When I announced that today I would be closed to think one Dad asked about a singing or story time over the computer. While I imagine that is something we could do, I spent hours meeting with Quakers for Worship and decision-making yesterday and by the end of it I was disconnected from the people and concreteness of my home world. The walk JT and I took to Spy Pond along the bike path, where I saw a real life tree house I wanted to show the children, and the scrubby edges of the path I imagined the children exploring, and the ducks on the Brook I figured the kids would be happy to see, and the open spaces at Magnolia that seemed just right for kicking balls or gathering for stories, was the highlight of my day.

Walking together, though, we held hands. We’ve been together through the last week of Coronavirus life altering experiences. He’s worked from my home upstairs and I’ve worked with the children in the day care down below. We are as safe as we can be to one another. Though we’ve each had contacts with the outside world, mine have mostly been with day care families and children and his have been with folks at the grocery and pharmacy and with a friend on her front lawn.

Yesterday my daughter returned from her father’s, where she’s been with others outside our household. Our day care housemate stopped work in the public schools on Friday. A child in the day care, who hasn’t been with us for a week, is sick, with fever, sore throat, headache. She and another child in one of our day care families have had contact with children and adults in a group where a parent has a confirmed case of COVID19, as he attended the Biogen Conference that is the epicenter of our local outbreak.

I don’t feel any of my teachers are safe enough to come to work. One has been working in a restaurant, now closed due to yesterday’s Governor’s orders. One has medical issues. One has spent the last several days with her mother, who is a doctor in a major Boston Hospital. One had a fever last Thursday and Friday, though her doctor said it wasn’t COVID19. I thought yesterday I would carry on alone, imagining and then confirming that the numbers would allow it, as they did on Friday, when I chose to operate that way.

Then this morning, after the dreams of the WFDC adventuring out of doors, I got notices from the EEC, saying we didn’t need to close but had to use approved cleaning products to follow COVID19 cleaning procedures, which in my range of ability to procure them, includes only Clorox, which isn’t a product I want to use on all the surfaces of the day care.

After reading that letter I got a petition forwarded by my colleague, another longtime provider who has been struggling with the decision to open or close, asking us to join other early childhood workers in calling for the state to close child care programs as it has called for the closing of schools and restaurants and bars, out of a concern for the health of the workers, who are made vulnerable by caring for our youngest. I saw a comment from worker from Bright Horizons, a corporate child care center, and imagined how many, many underpaid, under-protected workers are showing up to work scared, not knowing what to do if their employers, in many cases large corporations, remain open.

In light of all that, it feels harder, again, to know what to do. The Forest Day Care has a lot of appeal. If we could wander six feet apart, if no one needed to pee or poop for hours on end while we were out walking, if none of the children wore diapers or needed their noses wiped, if no one fell and scraped a knee, if I could imagine children playing together without touching, or comforting a child without cuddling, from six feet away, that dream might have come true.

At this moment, I can’t. At 6 o’clock last evening I changed my mind about being open today. My anxiety level had risen as I had tried to sort out where my housemate would be if the day care was in our shared space, as I thought about the vulnerabilities of my employees and of some of the children and their family members, of the responsibility I have to my family to keep them safe, and of the risks of inviting children and families into our home, of mixing together the children of families and caregivers with our many trajectories of connection over the last few weeks, of the obligation to society right now to do things we have never done before, which are difficult, sometimes unimaginable until they happen, which will cause hardship and suffering as well as prevent those.

So, today, I’m sitting with the images of children singing and running and digging together far apart out of doors, alongside the realities presented in the petition, by the Governor, by the news, by what’s been happening all around the world, and anticipating the way forward will come, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, week by week, month by month. Life will change. Many will suffer. I’ll find what I am called to do. For now it’s time to be still, to write and reflect, and to be present to the day.

May you all find peace and love in this time of fear and chaos. Here it’s sunny and I look forward to a walk in nature, watching spring emerge and hoping I’ll see others out in ways we haven’t been before, loving the natural world around us for the safety, inspiration, comfort, and hope it confers, even as we know nature, too, is in danger, and that everything is ever changing and mysterious.