Notions, the Pandemic edition

Soooo what’s going on with you? Anything new or exciting? Weird about that pandemic causing a global crisis, huh?

Joking aside, it’s hard for me to think or talk about much other than the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and the weird, surreal waiting game my community at least is playing. I am also so grateful for a life that allows me to prepare and (hopefully) weather this storm while simultaneously being acutely aware of the combination of privilege and good luck that makes that true for me as it is not for others.

Plus, you guys, THE LIBRARY IS CLOSED. But seriously. I have a first-in-a-series book on my shelf. Do I dare begin it? What if my holds of N. K. Jemisin’s The City We Became or Hilary Mantel’s long-anticipated The Mirror and the Light come up? Will I finally have to become an e-reader, scrolling dazedly on my laptop? Will no one think of the readers?!?!

I’m kidding, obviously, because we have to laugh even in dark times. But the truth under the humor is the real disruption of ordinary life, which has profound impacts on our systems–education, healthcare, economy, social services, and more. I’m very conscientious of how the library being closed means that many people cannot access the internet, clustered social services provided in that space, a warm space to shake off the night’s chill plus a clean bathroom, a place for teens to gather safely, or a place to distract and develop their children’s growing brains. And so much more. Libraries are the beating hearts of communities and their loss through social distancing is as necessary as it is disheartening and serious.

So rather than a full, thoughtful post, I offer the following:

  • Stay home if you can. Socially distance yourself. Seriously. Doing so protects your colleagues and neighbors and loved ones who don’t have that luxury by bringing less germs into those spaces. Social distancing will save unknown lives within your community.
  • Read what you can/what you like.
    • I finished Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, translated from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd Jones. This deliciously weird book features a unique protagonist, an older woman devoted to astrology who unapologetically denounces the violent slaughter of animals, to the point that she believes forest creatures are behind a spate of mysterious deaths in her tiny village. I caught echoes of Coetzee (without the preaching) and Nabokov (without the pedophilia) and Kundera (without the misogyny) but mostly this is a book in a class of its own.
    • I also re-read Rebecca West’s The Return of the Soldier, one of my “dissertation” books, a slim novel about the Great War, published in 1918 while the war still raged. I want more people to read The Return of the Soldier because it’s odd and slim and great. But more importantly, if you’re not a re-reader, now is the time to embrace the practice. (Perhaps a post on re-reading specifically soon.)
  • Cook things!
    • But also don’t be afraid to be innovative, particularly as you find yourself weighing your dwindling pantry options against the problematic task of going to the grocery store + the need to not suck up all the groceries in the area. This morning I made waffles. And then we discovered we were out of syrup. So I quickly heated up the dregs of a bag of frozen raspberries into a sauce and M. doused his with melted coconut oil and powdered sugar. Get cooking creative!
  • Embrace unique ways to connect with your people. A core group of lady friends and I have been texting on the reg. Lean into video-conferencing to host a virtual happy hour or group exercise session. Utilize social media for one of the few benefits it actually offers, connecting with people at a distance. Start a podcast!
  • Find things that you can do at home/in your neighborhood that make you happy. I asked about this on Facebook and received answers from long, slow runs to playing board games to re-watching favorite TV shows to taking breaks to dance. My submission? The cast album of Six, a concert musical re-imagining Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard, and Catherine Parr as pop divas. Super fun!

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