I messaged a friend last night, asking how she was doing. Seeing that it was me, she answered with the honest assessment of, “Well, &hit’s getting real…”
Pretty much sums it up, I’d say. After a good bout of texting, I FaceTimed with her. We covered what was happening where she was regarding Covid-19 and I spoke about things here in Halifax. The panic, the fear, the craziness. There’s even more of it today and I find myself wondering exactly how far up things can ratchet. I wrote in my notebook this morning…”Over my adult life, I’ve done more than a couple of seriously intense things I could never have known I’d end up doing…one or two of them worthy of at least a dedicated novella…but living in the midst of a pandemic still feels a little out there.
At one point during last night’s call, her university-attending daughter came into view of the camera. ¨Oh! Hi… Let me ask you a question I asked Mom last night… When you read, do you make pictures in your head? Do you see things inside?” “Yep. All the time. Colour commentary.” “Seriously?? You and Mom…both of you. That Never Happens when I read. I can tell you what happened and facts about a book, but for me, they are just words on a page. How do you make it live?” Neither her mother nor I had an answer for how that happens. “It just…does.”
I thought about that today as Twitter filled with pictures of more empty shelves where once were organized cleaning supplies, canned goods, toilet paper. I thought about that when listening to the video of singing across empty alleys in Italy. I think about this while reading the news and watching it… All of this media about Covid-19 that gets stitched together into a movie reel in my head. I wonder for how many others this happens…and how it affects the panicked response that plays out across our world. People take in the media as well as what is real, lived, and true wherever they are…and then the mind begins its coiling…taking in more images, more news, spiraling tighter and tighter…
And then, I remembered Frederick, by Leo Lionni. He was a mouse that noticed things, that collected colour and texture, smell, and sound…while the other mice were scrambling to stockpile for winter. They chastised Frederick, calling him lazy and not community minded. Until the food ran out… And then Frederick shared what he had spent time collecting. Stories, sensory input, images, colours that were deep and rich against the bleakness. He too had collected a part of what we need to sustain ourselves. Beauty, creativity, hope…portals to a different time that made the real hunger and the long fallow time a bit more bearable.
In the midst of this pandemic, we choose what we consume. We need to be aware, absolutely, and keenly attentive to our part in helping curb the impact wherever we are—whether in quarantine, isolation, or able to move about, being vigilant about distance, hygiene, and care for the common good. However, it seems equally important that those who are called by gift or interest, put out what beauty, creativity, and hope we can into the universe, especially now. It seems equally important that we notice what is mind, sense, and heart nourishing and share it somehow…within the realm of the real, the true, the lived. Both together, like spirit and body; because, when it is especially bleak, we will all need somewhere else to go until the greening of life’s fullness comes again.
Hope is not a standalone strategy for containing this virus. Beauty does not revive the thousands lost. Creativity does not fill the plate of a child whose main meal is had a school now closed.
But art might just be what helps nourish our soul and console our too real fears; it might be what reminds us of possibilities, what lets us open enough to see a solution, hear an idea, change our perspective, or envision a way forward and through until the new day rises.