Month: May 2020

Praise the Press

May 2020

Hard to believe it has been a whole year since we picked up these two mischief-makers. They have certainly brightened our lives for the past twelve months and I’m so glad we got them in 2019. In 2020 it would have been impossible to jump in the car and drive across four provinces just to collect “free” kittens.  Another change in our “normal.”

May 2019

As we head into “after lockdown,” I’m reflecting on what has encouraged me during these past weeks. The calico cats are high on the list, as is my dh, my neighbours and my church — even though services have been virtual instead of in-person.

I’m also grateful to my local newspaper. When everything else stopped, my Victoria Times-Colonist arrived at the end of the driveway six days a week. I read it over breakfast before confronting a day that was weird and uncomfortable. The T-C, as we like to call it, kept me in touch with my neighbourhood. It told me what was open and what was closed. It published the daily epidemic figures. It published letters to the editor, just like before. It carried the funnies and syndicated columns to remind us of how life used to be.

Finally, the newspaper spearheaded a “Rapid Relief Fund,” raising over a million dollars in two days for distribution to those in need in our community. Over  time they raised six million dollars for food banks, housing, kids charities, seniors needs, and anyone struggling just to get by. It was a wonderful effort, strongly supported by large and small donors throughout the area. In an age when printed newspapers are considered a relic of the past, our local paper glued us together in a way no on-line service could. When I read the paper, I was reading about my neighbourhood.

I confess, I do like a newspaper. Heck, I even subscribe to the weekly from my old home town. The news there consists largely of who had the highest score at bridge or euchre and where all the church suppers are located. I just renewed for three years. This paper speaks to me of daily life in a small town. Births, deaths, marriages, anniversaries — they are all recorded and they connect us, one neighbour to another, kind of like extended family.

I may have a bias toward the printed paper. My great-grandfather was a newspaper man. I never met him but I have an old trunk that comes from him. It’s little more than a box, really and was how he ordered paper. It is big enough to contain  10 reams, or one bale of printers paper. It is a wooden box with a hinged lid, a lockable clasp, leather handles on both ends and is covered in very thin leather. It always makes me smile.

When I was a child it was used as a dress-up box, and it lived in my closet. After I left home, it became a treasure chest for my nieces.  Then they too grew up and the old chest came to live in my new home. Since I’ve no need for a dress up box, I now use it to store paper. I have a sense of rightness that the old battered box has come full circle.

Now, as we come out of lockdown and the world is opening up, I tip my hat to the local newspapers who kept folks connected with their home town, who lifted our spirits and still keep working to make sense of the world we live in.

What about you, dear reader? Do you read your hometown paper? Do you prefer your news on-line?

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After the Virus

homemade masks

In my part of the world we’re moving into phase 2 of the reopening of the economy. Restaurants, bars and cafes will have some indoor seating. Some streets may close to traffic in order to allow more patio seating. Hairdressers and dentists can open their offices. Gyms are back in business. 

Some stores require a mask, some provide hand sanitizers. Some will not allow customers inside at all but offer pick up at the door.  Social distancing is still required everywhere.  We’ll all have to learn new rules and more than one set.

Looking at life after the shutdown, I wonder if there will be COVID inspired stories. Authors still write about the defining moments in history, like the two world wars, the American civil war, the Napoleonic wars, and Roman conquests and a host of other seminal events. Will this be the story of our time?

As inspiration for fiction, wars are “easy.” Lots of scope for derring do, for self-sacrifice, for love against the odds, for heartbreak and sorrow and starting over.

Illness, especially one that keeps us all at a distance, doesn’t provide as much scope. The “enemy” is invisible. We don’t know if we have defeated him or never encountered him. Mostly we are asked to sacrifice for the sake of others, but we can’t see the results. We don’t know if our neighbours are healthy because of what we did, or if it is just luck. 

When I look at the bookshelves, I don’t see a lot of plague literature, even though the Black Death wiped out 50 million people, 60% of Europe’s population.  Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, a selection of my book club, is the only novel I’ve read with the plague as a major feature. I found the story unsettling. the scale of death incomprehensible. Maybe I’ll read it again in light of our own experience.

Five centuries later, the Spanish ‘flu took the lives of millions of people. Again, it has not been a major theme in American literature. The Smithsonian offers up an explanation with this report.

Will our generation of writers tell about this defining moment in our history? Will we have stories of heroism by front-line workers in hospitals?

Will we have love stories about how couples kept the faith with each other while one was on a ventilator and no visitors were allowed?

Or what about those couples with long-term marriages who could not visit each other after fifty or sixty years of marriage. Will they be the inspiration for fiction writers?

Will we have psychological thrillers about families forced to spend eight weeks together inside their homes?

Will we have stories about the lost moments — no graduation ceremonies, no big weddings, no milestone birthday parties, not even a proper funeral for loved ones who died. I think that latter is one of the saddest consequences of this silent killer.

With so many deaths, will we see a surge of “starting over” stories?

Or will writers shy away from a real-life event that is just too overwhelming? How can a fictional story stand up amid the reality of COVID 19? Similar questions were asked after 9/11. See this article in the Economist. 

What do you think? Writers, do you see an opportunity for story-telling in our current experience? 

For readers, do you want to read about “Covid lockdown?” Or would you rather put the whole thing out of mind? Are you too busy figuring out how to live with our new normal to have an interest in the worst moments of the epidemic?

Share your thoughts in the comments section. We could have a great conversation.

 

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Adapting and Silver Linings

A rule of thumb for singers is that to correct a mistake, one must sing the phrase correctly seven times in a row. Once that is accomplished, the old (wrong note) habit is overtaken by the new habit, with the right note.

We’ve now been in the COVID19 lock down for more than seven weeks, so, if my singing teacher was right, our new habits should now be automatic — or not. The change to society and our individual lives is so massive, I think it will take much longer for this to be normal, or even the “new normal.” 

However, even though “Zoom” is not my habit, I’m learning to use it. I’ve had chats with my family, thousands of miles away, and with my writer friend, twenty miles away, and with my writing group, VIRA, scattered all over the place.

I’d still rather see friends and family in person, but the VIRA meeting was interesting. Holding it on-line meant members who live far away could actually attend the AGM. Those who are afraid to venture out because of their own health conditions or those for whom they are caregivers, were able to attend over the internet. A silver lining for one cloud.

Our group had planned to have an all-day workshop in September with a guest speaker — from the US. Since travel across the US-Canada border is restricted to essential only, that workshop cannot go ahead as planned. Still, we’re making arrangements to hold it on-line. We can have a lot more attendees when physical space is not a consideration. Another silver lining.

Many jurisdictions are moving to relax restrictions, but the physical distancing requirement and the travel ban are still in force, so even a technophobe like me has to learn technology for connecting.  A personal visit over a cup of coffee without the distraction of my own face on the screen — man do I need a haircut!– is my preference.  But, on a platform like zoom,  I can see my friends all need haircuts as well. Misery loves company?

Mental illness is an increasing concern at this time. Anxiety and depression threaten to make a bad situation worse. Staying connected is a coping strategy so things like Zoom meetings are a good antidote.

Depression tends to make one lethargic. Use the “ten things” or “seven minutes” strategy discussed in my Post Avoidance blog. Even a small effort, like walking 50 steps,  can increase one’s sense of well-being.

Help someone else. That is a long-proven strategy for dealing with negative feelings. Even if you are stuck at home, there is someone you can help. Maybe organize a Zoom chat, or contribute to a charity, or make phone calls to other shut-ins. There is always someone who needs a helping hand.

Move. The human body was meant to move. Walk around your yard, or run up and down stairs or make 15 circuits of your kitchen. Exercise has enormous benefits, both physical and mental.

We all have to adapt to the world we live in now.  Those of us set in our ways may resent the changes, but scowling and grumbling isn’t going to solve anything and may make us sicker. If you’re feeling down, please look for the silver linings.

I wish health and happiness to all my readers. Zoom is a useful tool for getting us through this tough time.                                                                    

 

 

 

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Post Avoidance

I’m happy to report that I’ve made progress with the list of chores I’ve dodged in the past. The sewing room has been dusted, scrubbed and organized. Yippee! Only problem is now I don’t want to start any project and mess it all up. Since the weather is changing, I’m sure there are summer clothes that need mending or pressing or new buttons, but I’ll continue to avoid until the crisis point is reached. 

On the writing front, I’ve made progress there too. For me, editing comes much easier with printed pages, so I’ve run them off and covered them with red ink. Someone famous once said, “I hate writing but I love having written.” That’s the way I feel at the moment. Seeing where I can add scenes, subtract extraneous phrases and tighten up the action gives me a lift. 

It would appear that threat of public shaming is a sufficient goad to get me out of avoidance mode. However, Diana L has some much more fun suggestions in her comments on last week’s blog.Thanks, Diana, for sharing your ideas.

I’ve done a variation of “ten things” but I always include a bribe. e.g. Once I’ve done ten things I can have a piece of chocolate, or knit for ten minutes, or . . .

Seven minutes seems a very short time, but if you set the timer and race until it dings, you’ll be surprised at how much you have accomplished. 

So, here’s wishing everyone a great week of super accomplishment whether it’s done ten things at a time, seven minutes at a time, or inspired by a deep well of ambition within your soul.

To quote Dr. Bonnie, “be kind, be calm, be safe.”

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