…Thus the first thing that the plague brought to our fellow citizens was exile…Yes, that hollow that we carried constantly inside us, that precise emotion, that unreasonable desire to go backwards or, on the contrary, to speed up the march of time, those burning arrows of memory – all this really did amount to a feeling of exile. If sometimes we gave in to our imaginations and indulged in waiting for the ring of the homecoming bell or a familiar step on the stair, if at such moments we allowed ourselves to forget that the trains were at a standstill and if we then made sure to stay indoors at the time when, in normal circumstances, a traveller returning by the evening express might reach our neighborhood, these games, of course, could not go on for long. Then we knew that our separation was going to last, and that we ought to try to come to terms with time. In short, from then on, we accepted our status as prisoners; we were reduced to our past alone and even if a few people were tempted to live in the future, they quickly gave it up, as far as possible, suffering the wounds that the imagination eventually inflicts on those who trust in it.
If your employment isn’t impacted at this point and you’re feeling really grateful for that or you’re just fine when it comes to money, (How do I know you?), there are so many places you could support during this difficult time.
I’m worried about all the artists and musicians and writers who are barely making it as it is.
I’m worried about all the places I like to frequent here in Victoria because without them the city would be so much less, and there are so many restaurants and arts organizations that will really suffer given that the economy here is so focused on tourism.
Either order take-out or pick-up from them (doing your own risk assessment on that) or donate to them.
Places like Intrepid Theatre and The Belfry and the independent bookstores and the hole in the wall restaurants and the Victoria Symphony, Pacific Opera and Dance Victoria and Il Sauvage Brewing, Nourish and Hermanns because of the musicians who rely on that venue to make some money, and to do what they love. Here’s a blog post by Frankies in Vancouver about supporting the musicians who normally work at the club.
And then there are all the market vendors on Salt Spring who depend on the next 7 months of the year to make a living. Some are set up for online purchasing but many of the smaller ones are not.
I’m worried about the vulnerable people I see on the street every day and know that donating to places like Mustard Seed and Our Place and Women in Need Thrift Store and Megaphone Magazine vendors or Union Gospel Mission, the YWCA, the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre or Atira Society, The Bloom Group or Covenant House for Youth or Victoria Women’s Transition House or Youth Empowerment Society can make a difference.
Think about where you live and your favourite places or social service and arts organizations and donate if you’re able to.
Don’t forget that you can write donations off your taxes (for next year). Find out more from TurboTax if you’re Canadian: https://turbotax.intuit.ca/tips/tax-benefits-of-charitable-donations-5414
Here are some places that are either delivering or doing take-out in Victoria, B.C., although I’m sure there are many more since this list was created: https://www.victoriabuzz.com/2020/03/these-greater-victoria-businesses-are-offering-special-services-in-light-of-covid-19/
Obviously you are only one person with limited resources, (and those have taken a big hit recently) but you are better off than someone else. That’s indisputable.
Just figure out which group in your community you would feel good about donating your limited resources to and Just Do It! Today. By the end of this week. No procrastinating.
The corona virus has reminded us that the most highly educated and the least are of equal value in their service on the front lines.
The artificial socioeconomic value system that ties human worth to occupation is once again revealed as the arbitrary paradigm that it is.
In this time of crisis, and needing all hands on deck, the people whose socioeconomic status is at the bottom–the retail clerks, the janitors and cleaners and private home care providers or nursing home staff, child care providers and delivery/truck drivers are every bit as critical as the PhD medical staff, the online technology software wizards, the virologists and pharmacists and medical researchers.
Regardless of how undervalued the lowest paid people may feel on a typical day, they are now the canaries in the coal mines and the heroes on the front lines. They’re providing services that are every bit as important as the doctors and nurses responding to the deadly puzzle unfolding before their eyes.
These contributions have been revealed to be of equal value in our reliance on them but the difference is, those on the lowest end aren’t being protected in the same way. Many aren’t wearing gloves. They can’t back away when they’re ringing through groceries. They’re depending on you to do that, to keep them as safe as you can by not being there at all, or by following the rules of distance, 6 feet or 2 meters, and staying home if you’re feeling any of the symptoms at all. And self-isolating if you’ve returned from a trip, meaning, going right home, not to any grocery store where you’ll be in contact with others, then staying at home (14 days) until you know you are not ill.
Parents are on the front lines in a whole other way. Their roles are now magnified. They are having to offer the comfort, provide the distractions, set the example, waylay fears and anxiety, cook and be especially fastidious around the house in cleaning and making sure everyone in their family, from children to octogenarians, understands and keeps themselves and others safe by following the advice of the public health officers.
It’s a challenging time for social butterflies. They’re already losing their minds or they haven’t even taken the advice to heart, still going about their lives as if nothing is all that different.
Someone pointed out that sometimes people respond to anxiety that way. They pretend everything is the same, denial their modus operandi. They fail to understand or take to heart that their actions can no longer be dictated by preference or whim when those actions may cause someone else to lose their life because of how well or how poorly they changed their behaviour.
That’s the difference in mortality numbers between Taiwan who did everything right (100 deaths) and what’s happened in China, Italy and what’s to come around the world when seemingly draconian protective measures happen too late.
Sometimes I feel like the people who have had little hardship in their lives, emotional or otherwise, are just not very equipped to have the resilience required when things change for the worse on a dime like this.
They are so used to getting what they want, everything at their beck and call, that it’s hard for them to imagine they have to do something different when that something isn’t their choice.
And the most dangerous, the conspiracy theorists, are in heaven and in hell, so status quo for them, I guess.
The human body and its frailty holds the power.
Accept everything you must do to keep yourself and other’s healthy. Accept everything. Accept what you can not change.
Flattening the curve means fewer people get sick quickly and all at once and that alone can save lives.
I’m not saying instant adaptation is easy or nice, but it’s not that hard either. Not really. Not in comparison to the worst case scenario you or someone who matters to you might find themselves in.
This video from an artist named Matteo Marchesi speaking near Lombardy, Italy, is compelling.
His father is an intensive care doctor. https://vimeo.com/398651424
Learn more about what’s happening in B.C. via the B.C. Government’s Covid-19 updates: www.gov.bc.ca
I was at the Jane Siberry concert in Victoria last night. And she was singing Calling All Angels.
In the row in front of me, there were what I guessed to be three generations of women in a family. A grandma. A mother. A daughter. And when Jane Siberry started singing her song, Calling all Angels, the daughter in her late 30s started to cry.
She was wiping tears away from first the right side of her face and then the left side with the fatty palm of her hand and she made those motions for quite a long time. Had she not been doing that, I wouldn’t have noticed that she was crying. I was wondering what had caused her feelings to push to the light. I noticed her mom didn’t even turn her head. Was that because she didn’t notice? Or was it precisely because she had? And when I found myself mesmerized by this young woman’s emotion, I realized how much it made me feel better to experience her crying.
Just seeing her response quickened something in my own chest. I closed my eyes and reached for it. I wished I could take that journey right alongside her. I was envious. It was like a memory I’d lived so many times before but have now pushed so far down, again.
Earlier in the day, I went to Chelene Knight’s presentation about home related to her book, Dear Current Occupant. She was speaking about what home means and how do you know when you’re there? Do you feel at home because of a physical place or what factors make somewhere feel like home? Afterwards, a woman in the small audience couldn’t get through her comments to Chelene without her voice quivering and the tears pouring out. Chelene’s book and the thoughts about home she’d evoked were able to touch this woman so deeply that she couldn’t help but be there in that moment fully, emotionally, in feeling.
So to that woman and to the young woman last night at the Jane Siberry concert, I bless you for your tears.
You’re alive and you can still feel it.
Here’s the beautiful song in case you’re not familiar with it:
I wake up every morning now,
only a short distance from
Emily Carr’s heritage home on Government Street,
and that makes me happier than it should
because of who she was and who she became
even though who is she to me, really?
Just another woman who struggled to live
how she wanted to live — no more, no less.
On canvas and across her days, an original.
Not as easy a feat as that might seem.
Love her or reject her still?
Settler that she was, that almost all of us now are.
So much to learn about this old city.
Peering down from my eighth floor concrete perch,
each day book-ended by
watercolour washes of lucky accidents
and in the distance, three deciduous.
I’ve named them The Triplets because
three tall tops poking above the rest is what I see.
Regal and stretching, their tippy-toe branches
resembling that delicate ancient art: Crewel embroidery
except, in this case, offered up to the gods.
All it takes is a little imagination to transform this morning’s vista:
into an orange horizon on a distant savanna.
The heat from a tanned land blurring the whirling dervish of far away hands.
Nowhere near, as I am and The Triplets are, to Mile Zero on the West Coast of Canada where Terry Fox runs, in stillness, towards eternity.
Wishing for you this year, as I do for most everyone who has touched my life, ever, good fortune, stellar health, memorable conversations, fulfilling friendships and as C.S. Lewis describes in his book of the same name, The Four Loves.
Use bright colours to decorate your canvas in the next 365 days. Happy 2018!
July 31, 2017: Watched a Youtube video of a talk from 2001 by *Ray Bradbury recommended on Facebook by a stranger named Pauline Probyn.
August 1, 2017: Woke up to a neon ball of orange as if a graphic on the cover of Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451 was plucked from the page and pasted onto the sky, your very own slice of sky, a single sky of a billion views.
Met artist for coffee. Artist in search of a home, artist who speaks eloquently about the devaluing of art and the desperation to achieve (needle in haystack in Lower Mainland), the base level of Maslow’s Hierarchy: shelter.
Go about day. Buy tabbouleh and falafel for lunch.
Read one piece of short fiction afterwards luxuriating in a rare ability to focus lately, completely.
Feel the space in device-free time.
Turn on computer in spite of last line.
Visualize my mother’s girlhood notebook from her Home Economics classes. Grade VII. Grade 8. Grade 9.
Recognize the feeling of an opening.
Visions of photographs taken from that black book, mixing with her perfectly straight handwriting, remnants of a lost way of life. 1940s.
Stirrings of inspiration.
Every heading in her ever-so-tidy handwriting a historically domestic tombstone.
|Duties of Dishwasher|
|Experiments in Potato Apparatus|
|Luncheon Creamed Vegetables|
|Preserving of Peaches|
Marvel at her achingly neat drawings.
Wonder about the 12, 13, 14 year old she was then. Internal brightening.
Letters and photos and possibilities collage across imagination as if I am spool knitting (corking, French knitting, Tomboy knitting) who she might have been back then onto the page.
This is how ideas come.
*I don’t agree with Ray Bradbury that “modern” writers can’t write short stories or poems or that we’re all looking for ourselves. Sometimes we’re looking for those who are completely foreign. But I listen to this through the lens of knowing to accept opinions in the context of the age, race, and gender of the opinion-giver.
I went to a panel at the Growing Room Festival on Saturday called “No Way out but Through: Writing about Trauma.” The panelists were: Evelyn Lau, Christine Lowther and Sonnet L’Abbe with Elee Kraljii Gardener as the moderator.
I was invited to be one of the active listeners. I’m not sure who suggested me. Someone, I suppose, who knows that I’ve taken quite a few counselling and related courses (eight to be exact) as pre-requisites to a Masters in the past few years. Poet Jonina Kirtan was the other active listener. Fortunately, or unfortunately, nobody needed to talk to us.
Let me rephrase that. Some women may have benefited from sharing their feelings. There were no outward signs (except coughing) to indicate that. The thing about coughing is maybe you have a cold or maybe your emotion is being manifested through coughing. Who’s to say.
How strangely serendipitous it should be that I would find myself being invited to that event because what some of the panelists had to say set off a bit of a light bulb moment for me in understanding that some of what I’m writing about is, of course, trauma-related. And if I re-examine some of the things I’ve been writing about from that perspective, it’s much clearer to me how to focus the stories and perhaps my entire manuscript with that in the background as the “golden thread” of explanation.
Evelyn Lau spoke to how she needed to be completely in her own space, in silence, in order to have the psychological space to work through her stuff. She spoke about forming her commitment to writing long before a commitment to people. “When talking hasn’t worked, writing is all that’s left.” And she also reminded us that trauma can also translate, eventually, into strength.” That, I believe, for me, has absolutely been true.
As a writer, a storyteller, you have to decide who you serve. Do you serve the writing or do you serve the people around you? Christine Lowther recalled hearing that (from Evelyn Lau) and as a result, (and she’s not alone in this experience based on what I’ve heard from other writers), she’s had relatives not speak to her for periods of time because of some of the things she’s written.
I think it was Elee Kraljii who said “the closer you are to a trauma, the more catharsis feels like the impetus for the writing. Years later, however, if you are still writing about it, it can feel psychologically damaging.” Interesting insight to mull over.
Christine Lowther has been writing/re-writing about one specific image left over from a childhood experience, approaching that trauma and having new memories surface to add new layers and different ways into the story.
She recalled having some student say to her 20 years ago, “Well, I hope you’re not going to be writing about this 20 years from now!” And she still is. And maybe that’s what every writer is doing. Writing about the things that were the impetus for writing in the first place, in only slightly revised ways, but with layer upon layer of new insights impacting the words on the page.
Sonnet has this incredible project where she’s using Shakespeare’s sonnets to write around and interject her own writing over top of them, layering her experience as a woman of a Guyanese, South Asian and African mixed descent over some of the most seminal works in British colonialism. I hope I understood that correctly.
I don’t know when trauma became a commonly referred to word but it didn’t exist when I was growing up. Or if it did, the depth of understanding related to it is greater now. At least that’s how it seems to me. After a lot of therapy, some education and my own insights, I can’t help but see how that term – trauma – gets loaded with so much misinformation and misunderstanding.
Our stories, after all, are just our stories. They don’t come with labels alerting us to the clinical box they might fit inside. We can so easily forget to recognize how the scenes we’ve been a part of in life can be defined clinically in ways that we can so easily overlook. Sometimes that acknowledgement, not just in life, but on the page, can not only lead us to be kinder to ourselves, but to a more cohesive narrative.