As writers, one of our sacred tasks is to observe, to pay attention to what’s happening around us. Some of us journal or keep diaries, but that’s not the only way to observe. We can also just stay present, be here now.
Our now is not particularly pleasant. It’s weird and uncomfortable and unpredictable. Are we nearly through this whole mess, or will it resurge in the fall? What’s going to happen to us politically? Socially? As a country with a national identity?
No one knows.
Not knowing is getting old, for all of us. It was one thing to imagine we’d just hunker down for a big crisis, get through it, and then pick up our lives on the other side. We didn’t expect this long, endless slog. I mean, it’s not getting bombed every night for nine months, which is what happened to London during the Blitz. It’s not the Black Death. It’s not a lot of things.
But…you know, it’s now. It’s Our Times. As writers, one thing we can do is stay present and notice what’s happening. In March and then in June and now, and continuing on until we are finished. (Even the Blitz ended. Even that war. Even the Black Death. Even this.)
Last week, I took a photo of my granddaughters and me in my garden. It’s a lush summer day. Squash vines wander up the trellis in the back. Blanket flowers burst in exuberance at our feet. Lavender and phlox are blooming.
Observation: My garden is a marvel this year. I have bushels of cherry tomatoes, three kinds of squash, and an experiment with the seeds of Aloha peppers that is yet to be finished. It may be that I end up with some form of ordinary sweet pepper, but as I was stuck in my house and feeling fearful that I might not ever be able to shop the way I had in the past, the experiment with the seeds seemed worthwhile.
The garden is lush, of course, because I’ve had time to lavish upon it. I haven’t gone anywhere since late January, so planning and rearranging and starting seeds in the new greenhouse have been my passion, my relief, my escape, as gardens have been across the country. It’s one of the blessings of the pandemic, this focus on growing, touching the land, burying our hands in the earth to bring forth things we can eat.
Looking at that photo, I felt the sense of time speeding up. Traffic is more noticeable again, and parking lots are a little busier. The numbers in my state are dropping dramatically, so people feel safer, and wander out, blinking, to socially-distance shop.
One day, sooner than we can imagine, it will be over. All of this—our pain and fear, our strange new pastimes and happy explorations of homely arts, our stockpiling of cleaning products, our long days home—will slip away into the past.
So where are we now? What’s happening? What can you see from where you are? What has changed, both in your local world and for you personally?
It might be worthwhile to spend some time writing about what you see from here, right now. Right now, you might be able to capture and incorporate some of the observations that we missed during the height of our fears. [Read more…]