Yet no certainty is possible. We must accustom our eyes to the twilight
Peter Ackroyd, Foundation
When I sat down to write this today I confess that I was completely unsure of what day of the week it was. I had all the best intentions to start scheduling posts ahead of time (I even have an ambitious schedule of post already brainstormed and posted on a lined sheet of paper on the wall beside my desk) and yet, so far, this level of organization has eluded me.
Now, one might ask, does not the fact that Monday begins the workweek give it some kind of dreaded importance making it an impossible day to forget? Perhaps for most this is the case but since I have decided to forgo the 9-5 existence in order to stay home with my little Aria, the days of the week have accordingly lost their typical structure leading to days that feel full and fast on their own as opposed to simply things to get through until the weekend rolls around once more.
But what about my husband? Doesn’t his work schedule make it easier to remember what day of the week it is? Another good question, hypothetical reader of mine. Yes, Louis does work full-time at a more typical 9-5 type job which necessitates remembering the existence of Mondays. However, since we have been slogging through this never-ending pandemic, he has had the great fortune of working from home which means Sundays are not capped off by a desperate attempt to be under the covers at a decent hour in preparation for an obscenely early wake-up call. His hours being a bit more flexible, and minus the typical commute, Mondays have lost their ubiquitous “beginning of the work week blues” and have now become only a bit more structured than the two glorious weekend days.
What is the point of all this, you ask?
Another great question!
Only that I meant to write this post yesterday and quite literally forgot it was Saturday. That’s why.
So, after that loquacious beginning, lets get to today’s topic. Shall we? It’s related to all this, I swear.
Wisdom may be rented, so to speak, on the experience of other people, but we buy it at an inordinate price before we make it our own forever.
Robertson Davies, Leaven of Malice
As I was going through my book of quotes today (woefully out of date as it is since my novel reading has fallen drastically over the past few years…) I came across this sentence written by the brilliant Canadian author Robertson Davies – one of my husband’s favourites!
What struck me about this quote was the image of a price for wisdom. For me, that price seems to be time as I have so many things I am curious about, so much I wish to learn, and yet all of this takes time. Time which is hard to find as a first-time-mom working from home during a pandemic.
With a sigh that seemed to come up from the soles of the feet, he rose…”
P.G. Wodehouse, Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves
I’ve made the executive decision to divide my rather long and emotional tale of my trip to the beaches of Normandy into several different posts. I do this not only in consideration of your time, dear reader, but also your mental health – especially as we are still in the midst of a global pandemic. I have a feeling this series will run to 3 or 4 posts and I hope you will join me for all of them.
They settled, just for one blessed instant, on a place that held love, not loss.
Louise Penny, A Still Life
I promise this entry will be much lighter than the last few chapters of my travelogue have been – finally focusing on a sense of peace and awe instead of destruction! Savour it well because the next one will tell of our visit to the beaches of WWII fame. And that one is a doozy.
After taking in as much as possible of the information about Caen’s experience of the Second World War, we turned away from this beautifully tragic city towards our next destination: Bayeux.
For where can one find more noble distraction, more entertaining company, more delightful enchantment than in literature?
Muriel Barbery, Elegance of the Hedgehog
As my motivation to write returns in leaps and bounds, so to does my willingness to drink deeply of the fountain of literature. For me, literature does not only mean fiction but blogs, articles, non-fiction, op-eds, anything in the written word that piques my curiosity.
From here on out, on the first of every month I will be publishing an account of the most moving, interesting, fascinating, striking pieces of literature I read over the course of the last 30 days. In trying to keep these entries as short as possible, I’ll attempt to stick to a quick recap of what struck me about the work and a favourite quote. No promises that these blogs won’t be characteristically long though…
Ridley’s heart sank within him. Physicians say that this cannot happen, but editors know a sensation which may not be described in any other phrase.”
Robertson Davies, Leaven of Malice
Re-reading the last travelogue I published, so long ago now it defies reason, I was struck by the intense emotions which had been inspired by my research into the bombardment of Caen during World War Two. Before even embarking on the tale of my 2015 trip to France, I had known that many of my recollections would result in revisiting the hard feelings which accompanied almost all of our war-related outings but I confess I have been surprised by how much these musings have affected my psyche. So much so that often weeks or months pass before I feel that I can once again return to those days filled with, yes, adventure but also intense explorations of the human suffering that was the constant soundtrack to the World Wars.
Even now, all these weeks since I posted my last travelogue, I find I have to give myself a few moments to digest the thoughts and feelings laid out so honestly in my travel diary before I can even begin to craft another post.
And so, without further ado, we return to Caen, France to finish up the tale of our visit to that glorious if pained city in November of 2015.
As though, knowing that everything is possible, suddenly nothing is necessary
Diana Gabaldon, Outlander
How is everyone doing? We are now in the 12th month of Covid-19-induced social distancing and the pandemic is showing no real signs of abating any time soon…so I imagine you have all been better?
One the bright side, if you’re reading this, you are alive. And that, in itself, is something positive.
Now that the days are shorter and we are well into a time of year that is difficult for many even without an international health crisis, I thought this might be a good time to introduce the second half of my post about coping mechanisms which I have found to be particularly useful to get me through these trying times largely in one piece.
And so, without further ado, here they are. I hope, if you are struggling, that one or several of these resonates with you and helps you to find some joy in an otherwise frustrating and disheartening time.
Her mother, she knew, revered light. It was, she’d been told all her life, what we all strive for. That’s why it’s called enlightenment.
Louise Penny, Dead Cold
Light is often something we lack in these dark winter months. Though we may brighten up our living spaces with as much artificial light as possible, nothing compares with the real thing. And once the Christmas decorations are down, our homes can seem even darker than usual!
Compounded with the seasonal lack of light, which is already difficult for so many in the best of times, is the fact that we are still battling a global pandemic. Though curfews (where they exist) take effect long after the last rays of sunshine have dimmed, stay at home orders mean that many of us are experiencing much less natural light than we are used to – much less than we need.
And then there is the metaphorical light many of us are finding hard to locate in these rather dark times. When all we read on the news is story after story about deaths from Covid-19, projections of further loss (both in terms of human lives and economic certainty), and timelines stretching far beyond our already surpassed limit of isolation-tolerance, it seems impossible that this overlong tunnel has anything but, well, more tunnel at the end of it. Or maybe even a dead end where our lives never return to any semblance of the normal we crave.
However, there is indeed light, even if it may seem a little dimmer than usual due to our screened-out, tired eyes. Beyond the doom and gloom reporting lie stories of complete strangers helping one another to weather this storm. The orange oaf has been voted out. Anti-racism movements and wide-spread empathy are slowly starting to heal the centuries-old wounds left by racist, divisive policies and discrimination.
And a new generation is growing older, stronger and wiser, day by day. They are our hope and our future and I for one am doing my best to help leave this world better than how I found it: for them.
As many of you know already, I became a mother for the first time mere months before the coronavirus changed our lives as we knew them. My daughter, Aria, who was born at the end of January 2020 just turned a year old. She entered a world just beginning to understand the nature of the Corona-beast and crawled gamely into her second year around the sun incredibly and happily oblivious to the fact that her parents were grieving the lack of family surrounding their precious child on her first birthday.
And yet, despite our sadness at not being joined by all our family and friends as we celebrated this milestone with our little girl, the small number of guests did not seem to faze her in the least. Though she resolutely refused to take a bite out of the sunshine cake I had cobbled together for her – let alone smash into it like some babies do on their birthdays – she treated us nonetheless to her sunny smile and bubbling giggles the whole day, only pausing to frown when I tried desperately to get her to ingest some sugar-filled icing. When I finally accepted defeat and released her from her high-chair’s captivity, she babbled away under the dining room table while we ate the cake that was so repulsive to her. As I chewed my surprisingly good (albeit VERY sweet) piece of sunshine, I marveled at how happy she was to just explore her own little world – no comfort eating coping mechanisms necessary for her.
I have read a lot of articles over the past year about how hard this pandemic has been on parents and, don’t get me wrong, it has not been easy. There is a reason they say that it takes a village to raise a child. Parents, especially new ones, rely heavily on their support networks (be it family or friends) to get them through the particularly difficult first few years of a child’s life. The newborn phase in particular is filled with sleepless nights, tears, and more questions than can ever possibly be satisfactorily answered. My heart goes out to those parents taking their first foray into the stewardship of a young one’s life without so much as an hour off to go out for dinner with their partner or a friend. And I can’t even imagine what parents of school-age children are going through. Yes, indeed, this pandemic has hit families hard.
But despite the obvious frustrations of parenting during a pandemic (my own daughter has not spent more than a few hours away from us…ever!) there is a light to be found not just at the end of this tunnel, but throughout it as well: Our children.
You see, children truly are extraordinary. Even the older kids in my family, who are obviously more aware of the pandemic and the effect it has on their lives (no or fewer playdates, their parents’ exhaustion, being stuck at home way more than usual), have amazed me with their resilience. They continue to see the incredible in the everyday, and still look at this world with wonder when many of us adults have stopped seeing much of anything good in it.
If my daughter ever reads this some day, I want her to know that she has been my guiding light through the past year of fear and varying levels of isolation. Even on the hardest days, when the tunnel we are in defies my best efforts to positively discern a light at the end of it, all I need to do is sit with her for a little while and the haze of despair that temporarily clouds my eyes lifts. She smiles and the whole world brightens. She laughs and the future seems full of promise once again.
I hope she one day realizes that she is the one who helped her mother to not only see but revere light again. And when this pandemic ends, and it will end, I hope to help her share her light with the whole world.
I would like to know, dear reader, what has brought you light in these darker times? I’d love to hear more stories of positivity.
Take care of yourselves. And, remember, Life is beautiful.
“…patience and perseverance generally enable mankind to overcome things which, at first sight, appear impossible. Indeed, what is there above man’s exertions?”
– George Borrow, Lavengro
How is everybody doing? Hanging in there OK? Can anyone believe we have been in the grips of this pandemic, at least here in Canada, for half a year already?
As I’ve written in previous posts, the last six months have been hard. I recognize fully that my Covid experience has been incredibly privileged compared to the vast majority of humanity. To start, I have a roof over my head. I’m warm, dry, fed, healthy, safe and am able to bubble up with at least part of our family. Both my husband and I have been able to keep bringing in paychecks and we have only one dependent who is an infant and therefore does not need to be homeschooled (I’m not supposed to be schooling an 8-month-old…right?). So, yes, all things considered, my situation could be much MUCH worse.
However, none of these privileges can fully combat the fact that we are living through a global pandemic, and one that looks on track to last a while longer (PSA: Wear your masks, people!). Not only is the isolation and fear crushing some days but learning to parent while not having access to our much-beloved support networks has been much harder than I could have possibly imagined. Yes, now we have at least one set of grandparents and a few uncles and aunts in our bubble able to help but that leaves two sets of grandparents, many uncles and aunts, and the rest of our extended family largely out of our daughter’s life for the time being. And this alone is, well, heartbreaking. As I wrote in a previous post, this is not in any way, shape, or form what I envisioned for the first year of Aria’s life. Not by a long shot.
Don’t worry, though, dear reader! This post is not meant to be all doom and gloom. I am actually going to offer below some coping mechanisms that seemed to have worked to largely bring me back to a place of calm and positivity in the midst of so much chaos and negativity. I hope they will help someone, anyone, to find even just a little bit of light in the darkness but, remember, it is still OK to not be OK. Take a deep breath. We will get through this, together.
“Moments like this act as magical interludes placing our hearts at the edge of our souls: fleetingly, yet intensely, a fragment of eternity has come to enrich time. Elsewhere the world may be blustering or sleeping, wars are fought, people live and die, some nations disintegrate, while others are born, soon to be swallowed up in turn – and in all this sound and fury, amidst eruptions and undertows, while the world goes its merry way, bursts into flames, tears itself apart and is reborn: human life continues to throb.” – Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog
How is everyone doing?
We are now, let’s see, 6 months into COVID-19 self-isolation measures. Half. A. Year. How is this possible? How can it possibly feel like no time at all has passed while also simultaneously seeming like we’ve been in isolation forever? Is this how hermits feel all the time? The mind boggles.
Like many others, I have struggled during this time to keep on top of the many productive tasks I set out to consistently chip away at despite having what appears at first blush to be an unlimited stretch of time laid out before me each morning.
Wait, scratch that, who am I kidding? I have a 6.5-month-old daughter…I wake up before the sun and by the time I catch a moment to take a deep breath that same sun is somehow on its way down again. I wonder if the days feel as unreasonably short to a baby as well.
Motherhood aside, as this is not what I wished to post about tonight, I can summarize the last few months in one single word: Rough.