Writing During the Summer of the Pandemic
It’s a very hot sticky evening as I sit in my comfy chair and think about how the summer is going, or is almost gone, and how quickly time has fled. It is mid-August, and the garden is looking a little tired due to the excessive heat and very little rain, but the potted flowers, impatiens and petunias, are still holding their colourful heads up somewhat wearily. They are very brave.
I am very grateful for the garden, especially in this summer of the pandemic. So many people I know don’t have one and are stuck inside their apartments with little access to the green spaces that refresh our souls and our imaginations. I was never a country girl and I’m not quite that now. I grew up in a big city and played games with my childhood friends on the hot pavement outside our apartments or small wartime houses, and never really knew what I was missing in those early years. My student years were spent in tiny student digs, in the middle of the hot and smoggy city, where carbon soot collected on all the window ledges, far from green spaces.
Now I am one of the lucky ones and live in a quiet neighbourhood with lawns and gardens, and I hear children playing in green yards, and I watch the birds and the squirrels attentively (and at night, an occasional racoon family), marvelling at their ephemeral lives. Their movement and colour and chirping enrich my own sense of being alive, of appreciating each day, the sunshine or the rain, the grass and the trees, the insects busily going about their tiny little lives, doing the work they must do to survive, just as we all must do.
I am so grateful for this small green space this summer because so many spaces that my family and friends were accustomed to taking for granted are so changed since Covid 19 appeared in our lives. We live in bubbles now, constrained and wary, limiting our contacts with people, going out only when necessary for food and things you really need (as opposed to things you think you need but don’t). We don’t see our family much these days, or if we do, it’s at a safe, socially distanced space, wearing masks. I can still tell when people are smiling by the way their eyes crinkle, but oh, I do miss those smiles that I can only imagine now, behind the potpourri of masks we are all wearing.
I haven’t been writing much this summer, though I do have deadlines I want to meet. Instead, P.J. and I have been making colourful masks for people, for family and friends, for anyone who needs one. In my spare time, normally, I am a quilter (when I’m not writing) and I am grateful for the skills I learned from my dear quilting teachers and friends, because these skills have been used to advantage while mask making. I taught P.J. virtually using Facetime how to make masks, and we send them out by mail, or drop them off, and thus feel and hope we are doing something positive to fight the awfulness of this pandemic.
As with every quilt I’ve made, every mask has been made with love, and the sharing is my way of giving hope and comfort to someone.
There is a green space at the bottom of the garden where I like to sit and write, with notebook and pen, or with my laptop, when I can ignore the heat and the daily onslaught of news (that I feel I must keep up with and stay informed about). But of course the news encroaches on my writing, as it does on all the other aspects of our lives. In Anostarja, book three in the Tales from Taihandria series, which we are writing now, Manon is on Earth, searching for the magical music that will save her own world from destruction, just as scientists today are searching for a vaccine that can prevent widespread loss of life here. And although there is no pandemic during the time she is on Earth, she does learn a fair bit of Earth’s history―a long chronicle of oppression and wars, the seemingly endless divisions that set one group of humans against another, and the slow poisoning of the planet that is daily accelerating to crisis proportions. But she also learns about Terran resilience, about the cooperation and sacrifice and hard won hope that have helped humans overcome so much adversity in their checkered past and present.
To write is to respond to the world around us, even as a new world is being created. I am grateful for the opportunity to leave this present Earth and to venture into another world where my characters live. In my garden I can listen to the birds and let my imagination roam and think about the characters in Taihandria, as well as those on Earth. Sometimes I feel bad that we have left those characters in suspended animation, frozen, while we have been making masks ― Periclea grappling with terrible news about her abducted kinswoman and the harsh winter, or Zahir about to find love for the first time. And Colin, who had to stay behind in Taihandria, is reassessing his life and his obligations and is missing his band mates, much as we are all missing our family and friends, and making those same readjustments in our own lives. We promise we will revisit our Taihandrian friends in earnest very shortly, and let them recount their stories to us and to our readers.