With apologies to my readers and, especially to the Queen Anne & Magnolia News’ incredibly patient editor, Jessica Keller, I am back with my column after a brief, unplanned hiatus.

This pandemic has altered, among other things, my concept of time. As indeed it has for so many. I hear it all the time. “What day is it?” “Did that happen last week, or…  was it last month?” Things are moving so quickly — and slowly — between the virus, racial unrest, politics, financial decline and simply trying to keep up with this rapidly changing world.

The time we are in has also changed my priorities. And it has affected my choices. The things I choose to focus on. Although certain world events seem to be moving at breakneck speed, I feel my rhythm slowing, easing. Without social engagements, my evenings are free. I’ve watched — as in moment by moment watched — more sunsets than I had previously, despite living on a boat with a nightly view of the Olympic mountain range. I spent a week of evenings scanning the sky for Comet Neowise when it was passing by. And then spending time marveling over it. And recently, when I can stay up late enough, I have been enjoying the Perseid meteor showers that demonstrate their glory every August.

My solo workouts, since my gym closed and distancing from walking partners is near impossible, involve long, solitary hikes up Sunset Hill in Ballard. I do my strengthening exercises outdoors on the pier beside my boat without distractions other than the sun overhead and the breeze cooling me down. Both of these pursuits allow intentional time for reflection as I keep my body healthy and ready.

Conversations with family and friends across the country whom I won’t see for who-knows-how long, are satisfying and deep and loving.

The pace feels good to me. It feels better, more natural. I actually don’t miss the things I’m not doing right now. I occasionally think how nice it would be to go out for dinner or a margarita with friends on a warm summer evening. But it passes. The only time I get truly annoyed by it all is when I remember that it is because of poor federal leadership that we are in this position now. That we have not been able to get this under control when we clearly have the tools to do so. But even that passes because I realize that it is not within my power alone to change it.

I admit that I am speaking from a position of privilege. I have a place to live and a pantry full of food. I can make my twice-monthly masked and gloved trips to the grocery store, cringing as I drive past the scores of homeless camps along the side of the road. My family’s COVID bubble consists of my husband, my daughters and my daughters’ partners, so I get to see them. Added to that bubble recently is my first grandchild, born in late July! How fortunate I was to be present at his birth. And to be able to enjoy the sweet smell of his soft little head when he nuzzles against my neck. Now more than ever, I am determined to do what I can for this planet so that he has a place to grow up and live his life. There is so much hope and determination that this small person has brought into my life.

To that end, much of our energy currently is focused on building a house in Port Townsend. The pandemic certainly slowed things down, as have financial concerns, given what is happening in our country right now. But slowing down has caused us to examine even more carefully what we are doing and how we are doing it. We always planned for our impact on the environment to be as low as possible, factoring in the materials we are using and ways to make our house as energy efficient and environmentally responsible as possible. Our choices reflect the times we are living in and our environmental concerns. High insulation values, bamboo floors, scavenged tiles for our bathrooms and materials for the house. I have scoured Seattle salvage outfits and the Buy Nothing, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace sites for free or inexpensive, recycled materials for the house. I can tell you a story about most everything going into the house at this point!

If there were no restrictions on our movements, on our finances and on the number of people who can work on our house, we might have just pushed the “go” button and told everyone to get ‘er done. But because we have been forced to slow down, we feel that we are making better decisions. We work hard during the day — as hard as our aging bodies allow — and fall into bed exhausted physically from hard work all day long and mentally from decisions made about every single thing in that house. We sleep deeply and well each night, awakening a bit sore but well rested.

Course Correction: At this point, since it seems we will be in this mess for a while to come, take the time to think, to spend time by yourself, to figure out a way to do things a bit differently — even just a little — to conserve resources and leave as small an impact behind as possible. Enjoy the freedom that comes from limiting your choices or basing them on the environment.

— Irene Panke Hopkins is a freelance writer and essayist. She lives on a sailboat in Seattle.