Rowing was a religion for me, composed of a set of rituals and movements repeated until they became a meditation.
Deborah Harkness, A Discovery of Witches
I am just now, very belatedly, listening to the Artemis Fowl series on audiobook. I know, I know, they’re middle-grade and perhaps not meant for a woman of my age, being somehow already in my mid-thirties.
However, I am a firm believer in the idea that books are not meant for any particular time of life. You may read a more adult piece of literary fiction at 15 (as I did when I read Jane Eyre) and find it changes your perspective on life. On the flip side, you may read works meant for young teens in your thirties and find yourself grinning ear to ear at their brilliance (as I am now). Regardless of your age, good writing is good writing, is it not?
OK, Erin, what is your point.
Well, in the first Artemis Fowl book, without giving away any spoilers, we find out that The People (magical beings such as fairies) are required to regularly perform The Ritual to ensure that their magic powers remain topped up and ready to use. If a fairy goes too long without performing The Ritual, their powers may fail them when they need them most.
While we mere humans (or, mud people as we are called in these novels) may not have a supply of magical powers, we too rely on various rituals in order to feel and perform our best.
People who know what they’re doing have a purposeful air to them, even if they don’t seem to be particularly active
Francis Pryor, Home
Hello my dear readers. I hope this missive finds you well, truly well, or as well as can be given the uncertainties of our times.
Yes, I know, all time can be said to be uncertain since all we can do is experience the present as it is without the means (or perhaps even the desire) to change the past or to predict the future. But this last year-and-a-half has seemed even more hazy, has it not? Hazy in the literal sense with the continuation of the horrific forest fires being fought and, unfortunately, succumbed to when all else fails in communities all over the world (to say nothing of the heat domes, floods and, conversely, droughts). But for the majority of us this time has been hazy in the figurative sense as we struggle with a collective brain fog making what were once every day activities seem exhausting and perhaps pointless.
Right now, in Ontario at least, we are in a bit of a lull as far as the pandemic is concerned. This is not to suggest that our frontline workers are not pushing themselves to the limit every day to keep us all safe, fed, clothed and healthy – because they are – but rather that our case numbers have been thankfully reduced to something slightly more manageable overall. For now.
But is another wave coming? Some say yes, some say no. And I will not claim the all-too-common title of internet-accredited epidemiologist whose views are confirmed and bolstered by the echo chambers of the world wide web. I will simply say that I am hoping another wave can be avoided, that I am cautiously optimistic about this, but that I am preparing myself internally for another lockdown if such measures are necessary for us to get through this damn thing once and for all.
She wanted so to be tranquil, to be someone who took walks in the late-afternoon sun, listening to the birds and crickets and feeling the whole world breathe. Instead, she lived in her head like a madwoman locked in a tower, hearing the wind howling through her hair and waiting for someone to come and rescue her from feeling things so deeply that her bones burned. She had plenty of evidence that she had a good life. She just couldn’t feel the life she saw she had. It was as though she had a cancer of the perspective.
Carrie Fisher, Postcards from the Edge
Now, let me just preface this with saying that the use of the quote above is not in any way shape or form a cry for help. I’m very aware that I am lucky enough to have an incredibly wonderful life that is so full of joy, adventure and happiness.
This quote spoke to me when I flipped through my book of beautiful words today because of the peculiar experience we are all living in this moment (or at least, in most parts of Canada, I recognize each nation’s experience is different).
More and more people are getting vaccinated and as a result, case numbers have been falling and life is starting to open up again. And when I say open up, I don’t mean just economically. People throughout the country are feeling free to once again hug their loved ones, to show off babies born during the depths of the pandemic, to heave a sigh of relief over a long-overdue drink with a dear friend.
And, believe me, I’ve been feeling much of this relief as well. My family has remained fairly careful but we are indeed starting to see more people: if still largely socially-distanced (something my 18-month-old daughter struggles to understand). I even had Aria in Mom-and-Tot swimming lessons this past week which was glorious – and her development has advanced in leaps and bounds simply as a result of those 5 days around other kids. It’s magnificent to watch.
And yes, there is still a but. This isn’t over. While Louis and I are both vaccinated, Aria is not (and nor are any of our friends’ kids). So opening up completely is still out of the question. And then you have the Delta variant emerging more and more causing case numbers to crawl up again and bringing with it the looming threat of further lockdowns.
So, you have this confluence of society opening up, vaccines being doled out to those willing to take them, and new more contagious and dangerous variants leading to a perfect storm of…uncertainty.
People don’t do this kind of thing because they have all kinds of extra time and energy for it; they do this kind of thing because their creativity matters to them enough that they are willing to make all kinds of extra sacrifices for it. Unless you come from landed gentry, that’s what everyone does.
Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic
What kind of pandemic experience have you been having? Assuming all your loved ones are healthy (hopefully) and you don’t have 4 kids to homeschool while you and your partner try to work remotely, I bet your response to that question is somewhere in between the following two extremes:
Some people will cheerfully announce that they have read 120 books and even written one, while also taking up yoga, starting a homesteading project and teaching their neighbour’s dog sign language through the cracks in the fence.
Others glumly report that they have gained 30 pounds, watched every show on Netflix, Disney+, Prime and Crave, forgotten what the outside world looks like, and have lost all ability to socialize with other humans.
I, thankfully, fit into neither of these categories (though the first one would be nice… I have yet to figure out how to properly communicate with the neighbours’ dogs) and I hope you at the very least do not fit into the second one.
However, if you were to ask me the question at the top of this blog my answer would be: It’s really not been all that bad, at all. I’ve read a few books, watched some shows, neither gained nor lost much weight, started a small garden, and learned to understand my toddler (mostly). I’ve even spent a decent amount of time outside.
And yet, I am still lacking one thing I would really like to get back, apart from in-person socialization that is.
“For where all love is, the speaking is unnecessary. It is all. It is undying. And it is enough.”
– Diana Gabaldon, Outlander
I hope you will forgive me, dear reader, for not posting this yesterday…Easter spent without family was rougher than I expected (especially as it was my daughter’s first Easter) but I’m hoping writing this today will help ease the pain. If only just a little.
“Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened. Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
We’ll appreciate them so much more when this is all over. What will we appreciate, you ask? I didn’t really have one single thing in mind when I chose the word them. Fill in the blank: When COVID-19 has been vanquished, I will finally and truly appreciate _____________. Regardless of what your answer was (family, friends, restaurants, crowded shopping malls, travel, work, your annoying neighbour who comes by to borrow sugar every day), it’s true, isn’t it? When this is all over, everything – even the things we profess to dislike or even hate, will be somehow less odious. Because right now, they are simply not within our reach.
Right now, we are all on lockdown, unsure of when the rules and regulations will be lifted, unsure of what life will look like when it goes back to “normal”.
It’s as fascinating as it is frustrating that this has been hard on us all. During a normal workweek, the prospect of being told to stay home with our families for a few days would be a godsend to many of us – a chance to rest and recuperate.
But the undefined, seemingly unending nature of this quarantine is different from a mental health break or a vacation. So very different.
Families convene by skype, blowing kisses through the screen. Grocery stores are an oasis, their shelves sanitized on a nightly basis in anticipation of the touch of an unknowingly-infected hand the following morning. Food packaging is left on the front porch, cleaned and cleaned again before being allowed through the hallowed front doors. Swing-sets and slides are cordoned off to discourage those too arrogant or foolhardy to respect the simple request to stay home.
If you really think about it, unless home is not a safe place for you, we are being asked to do the one thing we should desire naturally: spend time at home with our loved ones. But the lack of control, of choice, makes this simple act a painful one.
What will the day be like when restrictions are lifted and we can once again be free to shake hands, to high-five, to hug our loved ones? Will we be filled with joy or fear that this isn’t really over…not forever? How long will it take for this to fade from memory? For the COVID-19 scare to feel like a dream?
I don’t know the answer but I hope this day is soon, and that the suffering to get there remains minimal. One can hope.
But as for this time, this time that has been given to us (whether you think it is a gift or not), we, for the most part, have the freedom to decide what to do with it. Not, it’s not the freedom we are used to but those of us who are lucky enough to have a roof over our heads and ready access to food (and toilet paper) still have a freedom of sorts.
So, will you bemoan the times you are living through? Or will you make of them what you will, what you can, assuming you and your loved ones remain healthy (andI hope they do)?
For my part, I am working on finding the light in the dark, the hope in the sorrow, the sunshine in the rain and the rainbows between the clouds. Soon, oh so soon, these oppositions won’t seem so stark, so dire.
But, for now, let’s take the positive where we can find it.
This too shall pass and what you will remember, dear reader, is what you did with the time that was given to you.
And, remember, life is beautiful…especially when you STAY HOME
PS. This is hard. This is not normal. This is a pandemic. It is OK to not be OK. All I ask is that, for your sake and the sake of your loved ones, you do what you can to take care of your mental health. For me, writing and focusing on the positive are my coping methods. Yours may be different. Don’t listen to anyone telling you you’re doing it wrong. This is unprecedented for our generation, as long as you’re taking care of you and yours in the best way that you can, it is not possible for you to do it wrong…what do they know? Have they lived through a pandemic before? You do you.
Aside from the Travel Tuesday blogs I usually post weekly (OK, OK, sometimes I post them on Wednesdays…) I’m thinking of writing these Solidarity Sunday posts every week while this self-isolation period is going on. Let me know what you think!