For the past eight months I’ve observed the pandemic. I have lived through it, taking time to think on how I might go about capturing its essence on the page.
I was unsure of what to call it, let alone how to write about it!
The magnitude of illness weighs heavily on my mind. Illness weighs heavily over all of our lives. Masks, quarantine, zoom-education, etc. are all ways that we are trying to protect ourselves from ourselves.
I missed the outside, walking down blocks in Albany, dining-in at restaurants, and other small pleasures.
I wanted that back. I wanted my old life back.
Then I realized that this is a learning experience: quarantine, the virus, the masks, everything. The world seems to have gone crazy and that’s why it is important for me to share how I’ve learned from this experience, how I’ve found the light in all of this darkness.
And who knows, this may be an opportunity to connect with each other (if not with our thoughts, then at least in how we have arrived at them).
I’ll start by sharing what I’ve seen because I’ve learned not to trust my eyes wholeheartedly (many times they’ve deceived me) which means that I am able to look deeper into the base information placed before me.
What do the empty shelves I see in stores tell me?
That there is a lack of availability where there ought to be variety.
I’ve also seen nature thrive in ways it has not been able to for years. I’ve seen political careers rise and crumble. I’ve seen riots. I’ve seen protests. I’ve seen unrest and instability and sometimes beauty.
Literary type that I am, the only way I can make sense of it all is by delegating it to the page.
I imagine that the pandemic tastes like bourbon.
Weller and Eagle Rare.
Warm liquor for a chilled time.
There were warm oat mornings with brown sugar, nasty shocks of Novocain (I had much dental work done during this time), and this overall dry burn like that of a plastic stick up the nose.
In short, this year has mashed up to leave a nasty taste in my mouth.
The touch of pen to paper was the only relief I could find to counter the nasty taste of 2020.
For me, there has been no sweeter soliloquy than that of my own work.
Faced with an abundance of time, I was left to write. I was a faithful steward of the pen, pressing ink against leaf regularly. Blue, black, yellow, pink, I wrote using every color I could find in the stores.
But after clutching to the soft rubber slips of almost every Paper Mate Ink pen under the sun and feeling the tedious rolls of my wrist and the painful roll of bone over tendons, I switched over to type, tapping and slamming my fingers across the board.
The letters do not speak the same to me; each press of a key eliminates the individuality of my penmanship. I feared that these letters may not speak the same through me, so I fought to listen carefully for everything my words have to present.
Now, I listen intently to everything around me. I take in what others choose to ignore.
It’s important to understand everything that hearing gives you. You must understand that everything you hear has origins.
Hearing is an upper hand against the world. For all we input we rarely see much output. We need to hear each other more and talk less.
We need to listen and understand to write purposefully, to have a voice that one day others will hear.
I found a small comfort in the smell of family.
We all have a scent. Like a dog I’m addicted to aroma. I know mine and I know my friends.
Scents ignite memories and therefore stimulate the pen.
The first thing I do when I’m forcing myself to write now is to take note of the smells around me.
From cigarettes to gasoline, to bath and body works and fresh cut leaves, to dingy laundry, these all smell like trust and freedom and home to me.
My experiences give these ordinary smells a deeper meaning to me than perhaps it does for others. It colors my writing and makes me unique.
Through my senses I have found my path in the jungle of COVID, my calm in the midst of the chaos we call “the new normal”.
A deeper understanding of the world closest to me has both helped me to cope as well as finish my manuscript with an ease I had never before been afforded.
All of this I share to say that perhaps, with a deeper look into your senses you may find the comfort of the pen too.
The moral of my story?
During these hard times don’t forget to stop and smell the roses… and then maybe take a second or two to write down how it makes you feel.
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