Karen Egee, Brunswick, Maine

My husband and I moved to Maine from Boston suddenly, to help out my 85yearold father when the pandemic hit
Journal entry early April


I dream of a damp trail through the woods. It is one of those dreams that seems totally real. I can see puddles of water pooling over pebbles. Through the water, I see a layer of brown pine needles covering dead leaves, covering dark earth, the edges dotted with piles of melting snow. 

“This,” I tell myself in my dream, dreaming that I woke up, “This trail, these woods no longer exist. Remember? Coronavirus. Remember? It’s all gone.” 
 
Then I start waking up for real, slowly, in layers. It’s still dark. It’s true. It’s not true. Pandemic. Big red numbers on the news, unfathomable numbers, more dead every night. That map on the front of the newspaper with our city and cities everywhere covered in overlapping blood red circles. Hospitals overflowing, people dying without loved ones there, doctors, nurses, others, risking their own lives to help. It is all true. 
 
But the path in the woods where the dog and I walk every morning does still exist. Later, when it’s light, after I feed him and let him out, after I check the paper, before I digest it, before I scramble eggs and fry bacon for my husband and father, we will walk along that path in the woods, he wagging, sniffing, trotting ahead, me breathing in cool air, my feet maybe getting wet through my sneakers, where the snow is mostly melted, in the puddles of my dream. 

We are lucky, our little family, lucky for now at least.




Sun glowing behind tree branches

Rosanne Singer, Baltimore, Maryland

Journal entry October 2

Like so many of us I have been keeping social distance from people throughout the day, every day—on my daily dog walks, as I maneuver past fellow customers in grocery stores, when I spend a rare visit with a friend outdoors and even when I see family. I’ve been learning over Zoom, attending events on Zoom and sadly had to say goodbye to a loved one on Zoom. So it has been a remarkable treat to teach a memoir workshop in person at a senior residence in Baltimore. Of course, every precaution is taken—I use hand sanitizer, fill out a health questionnaire, have my temperature taken, wear a face shield and stand alone on an auditorium stage while masked participants work at socially distanced individual tables in the audience area. But together we have found a way to make this an emotional, intimate experience that bridges the physical distance. Each week participants bring in a written piece that is part of their life story. They share it out loud and listeners gently ask questions or comment. Even without a microphone or shouting we are able to hear each other. One week a woman read us a remembrance of September 11th when she worked close to the World Trade Center and experienced the shock and trauma of that morning but also the humanity and kindness of those around her. She wasn’t sure she would have the courage to read her story out loud, but she did and received what felt like an emotional embrace from all of us in the room. I took this photo from the stage on August 27th.



David Etheridge, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Journal entry August 10

Online is fine for Phnom Penh students with good wifi, but outside the city the service is poor or non-existent. And students from the provinces don’t have the hardware. “At home, I share smartphone with my younger sister and mother,” pings Linna. Ratanak in Kampot runs his laptop off his phone hotspot which for several courses a week is expensive . . . and these days who’s still working in Kampot? Have a 9-student roster — 5 turn up and another 3 check in but have wifi problems and leave; 1 is absent. 
 
I hear wind blowing. Kimchen’s gone to a riverside restaurant where the wifi is better than at home.  “My internet interrupt now,” pings Sreyleap. Linna chats that she can’t talk during class because she’s at Cafe Joma. Ratanak’s microphone icon bobs:
 
“Ratanak, why are we listening to your rock ’n roll?”
“Sorry, teacher.”
“Please … or I mute you. Now . . . Does everyone understand the hypothesis?”
 
You ask the question and get nothing: 
 
“Does silence mean ‘Yes, I get it.’ ‘No, I don’t.’ Or ‘I don’t care.’”? 
 
Silences are exhausting. In the classroom, you read a weak smile or a face, and reformulate. But zooming, students don’t show themselves, so silences are inscrutable, almost always empty.  
 
“Today my internet is so super slow,” says Sreyleap. 
“Stay with me, please.”
“Okay, teacher.”
“And we’ll finish early.”
 
*
 
Telegram pings: “Please remind ur students to pay tuition fees.” Sreymom.
 
We’re not state funded, so we take the future on faith. Haven’t seen a pay check in three months. Sreymom asks if I’m stressed. “Only when I think about it.” It’s my Covid gift to the developing world: Work in the air, get paid by the wind. . .  it’s all right here, right now in the tropical heat with lousy wifi.
 
“Stay w/ us, teachers,” pings Sreymom.



May 27: I bloom to survive. Escape into my garden. Hug my universe.
June 7: Try to disappear. Geometry of sadness. Color to survive.
June 12: Escape with design. Move to patterns of silence. Shade fear in color.


Johnny Stone, Raleigh, North Carolina

I am a 93-year-old widower. I live alone. I love to write and draw. I have 5 grown children and have been sheltering in place since May.

Journal entry May 31

At 9:46 a.m.  My oldest son Junior called to check on me. Phone call was short and brief. Just wanted to know if I slept well and what I ate for breakfast. Remember Dad, don’t go outside. Okay. Love you.
 
At 11:33 a.m.  Tracy my youngest son called to check on me. He thinks he is my father. Loves to give advice and counsel. But in a loving way. Dad, you need to start taking vitamins. Dad, you can get exercise if you walk from room to room for 15 minutes a day. I told him I would feel like a mouse in a maze. He laughed and encouraged me to stay limber. Don’t get stuck on the couch watching those cowboy movies all day. Alright. Love you.
 
At 3:15 p.m.  Lisa called. My youngest and only girl. What’s up, Dad? Have you been drinking enough water? She knows I hate drinking water so she promises to drop off some flavored water and also a gift. After badgering her, she told me gift would be my new companion. A Betta fish. See you soon, Dad. Love you too.
 
At 7:12 p.m.  I received a call from Kevin. Just called to see how you doing, Dad. He was in a terrible car accident a couple of years ago and had to learn how to walk again. I asked more questions about him than he did me. Just hearing his voice and knowing he’s doing much better was good enough for me.
 
At 9:48 p.m.  Soon as I heard Hey Daddy-O, I knew it was son Stan. He calls me Daddy-O because he says I’m a cool dad. He lives in San Francisco. He told me a client of his died from Corona. It started with blood clots in the legs. So most of our phone call was questions about how I was feeling. Any unusual pains, Dad? No sniffles or headaches?
 
At 11:58 p.m.  Going to bed after watching news and eating a nice piece of NY strip. Best part of my day was all the check-ups from my kids. This corona thing has really increased their communication with me. I love it.



Isabel Learza, Baltimore, Maryland

Sheltering at home since March 13  
Journal entry August 8


When Terrylynn invited me to Asa’s art show in their back yard, I was tickled to hear about her five-year-old art spirit daughter living across the street. Saturday afternoon their yard filled with masked neighbors, even Janet, who rolled her walker up the hill to be there, a week after her hip replacement. 
 
Asa’s paintings and drawings were mounted on black cloth that covered the fence. 
She made her first painting at the beginning of the shut down, when the family had to cancel their annual visit with her Nana in Bermuda. She looked forward to the visit all year. But no flying out over the ocean this year. Her first painting, “The Big Deep Sea: Waterfall”, came from her sadness and fear of deadly Corona that kept her from her grandmother. It’s a big dark abstract painting, overwhelming, like drowning.
 
Terrylynn said Asa wanted the paintings and drawings to be in chronological order;
and moving along the fence, we could see/feel a shift. She painted “The Big Mind Imagination Town.” And once she understood her imagination could take her places, she made colorful drawings of the playground she couldn’t visit and the July 4th fireworks she wouldn’t get to see. And rainbows started appearing — a Rainbow Castle Gate, a Rainbow Waterfall. And a beautiful Rainbow Palmtree to bring her close to Nana in Bermuda. It seemed that Asa had found her way through the fear and strangeness of Covid times into joy.

Asa creating
Backyard gallery wall
The Big Deep Sea: Waterfall
The Big Mind Imagination Town
All Things Rainbow
Rainbow Palmtree

Kurt Schmidt, Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire

Sheltering in my home with my wife since March
Journal entry September 11


Our country feels as unsafe today as it did nineteen years ago on September 11, 2001.

Although dismayed at watching the tragedy of 9/11 alone at home that day, I didn’t feel the anxiety that permeated the voices of the TV reporters as they described the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Perhaps I’d lived too many years with my own demons to be frightened of the anonymous jihadists. It was with a calm voice that I described the course of events to my son when he arrived on the school bus and allowed him to see replays of the events on TV.

I wanted to assure him that God would keep him safe after we watched disturbing TV images of Islamic terrorists crashing planes into the World Trade Center in New York City. But I had no clue how God and terrorists fit together.

“Why did they do it?” he asked.

“I don’t know.”

“If they exploded a nuclear bomb in Boston, would it reach this far?”

“I don’t know, but I don’t think they have a nuclear bomb.”

“Why did those people jump off the top of the World Trade Center?”

On watching a TV commentary about the threat from chemical and biological weapons, he asked, “Do we need gas masks?”

I said there was no need to worry about things we couldn’t control. “Don’t worry. We’re going to be all right.”

“Why do the terrorists hate America?”

I felt then like the Englishman in the old movie Zorba the Greek, when Zorba asks him in a moment of agony, “Why does anybody die?” The Englishman says, “I don’t know.” Zorba says, “What’s the use of all your damn books if they don’t tell you that?” The Englishman says, “They tell me about the agony of men who can’t answer questions like that.”

Today I write about the agony of being attacked by another enemy — a pandemic that is ubiquitous.


Suzanne Iuppa, Aberdyfi, Snowdonia National Park, North Wales   

Alone since March 23rd, I had not seen any family since December 25th
Journal entry August 31
 
The sand is very fine, a light creamy yellow, cool and a perfect dampness a few inches underneath, for building sandcastles. He brings his spade up, full of angel-fines, and puts it into his bright orange bucket. I am digging a hole with my hands big enough for him to stand in.
 
I show him how to level the top when it is full, with his spade. He shows me how to tip the bucket over­ — tap tap tap. It’s delightful to see the castle turrets, real in the air. And to knock them right over! To stand in a tunnel and let Grandma cover your feet, shins and knees; then to break the mold. 
 
He has done this before. Perhaps once?
 
We decide it’s best for him not to wear his nappy into the ocean. It’s the warmest seawater temperature of the year. He shows a good respect, wanting to hold our hands to run into the waves. He watches the wet sand accept his feet and close over his ankles, with the real power to petrify. Then he runs across the breakers, shrieking. He knows to fling himself down in the magic strip where the surf is just coming in, and feel his whole body halfway between two elements. Above us, clear blue sky and it feels like last day of summer, but everyone is so aware of it. We are stealing it back for one day.
 
On a wide, wild Cardigan Bay beach, usually littered with a host of stranded jellyfish 
— not a single one.
 


Katy Stanton, Westminster, Maryland   

Journal entry September 9

Today is the second day of # Scholar Strike. Difficult to strike from my teaching responsibilities but I keep reminding myself that my abstinence from labor for these 48 hours is making a point — that I stand in solidarity with others for racial justice and against systemic racism in all its ugly forms. To focus, I rest in The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, listen to the interviews of Isabel Wilkerson.

My college teaching until March was a joyful expression of what matters a great deal to me. I could live and learn with young people, so vibrant with their tattoos and neon hair and pronouns. I felt an adrenalin rush walking across campus, a place to explore creative ideas and indulge in deep thinking.

Then Covid hit, and I was told to prepare for online teaching in one week. My fun, part-time two-day-a-week gig turned into a 24/7 anxiety attack in front of the computer screen. No one seemed able to read instructions that took me hours to compose. Everyone had questions in my email Inbox. Students were in different time zones. Some who had loved class disappeared into cyberspace. The learning curve has been steep. Last Monday I set up a discussion forum for classwork, but students couldn’t access it. Those attending remotely wrote sarcastic comments in the chat and never turned on their cameras to show their faces. 
 
I do not feel like I am teaching, merely surviving the pandemic and hoping to help my students do the same. I dream of a future where I will not worry when a student coughs or be afraid to read a thesis statement over someone’s shoulder. 

For today, I am with my colleagues and students, on strike for racial justice, dreaming we will soon wake up to a better world.


David Etheridge, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Journal entry July 28

Last night’s gecko droppings are on the desk—she eats dengue-infected mosquitoes, so fair trade . . . freaks me once a day darting out from under the bed. She doesn’t move quickly up the wall; she moves erratically.
 
*
 
Listen to old Zeppelin tracks and weep—the tunes take me back, take me don’t know where and I ache for lost time. How did I get from Kashmir to here?
 
*
 
For a Saturday there are fewer people out although all the street hawkers are there and BBK market is fully open. Most wear masks except Westerners. I don’t notice, so barge into the pharmacy, but on the way out I see that people wait outside to go in one at a time. Try to keep at least a meter distance, two if possible, but others don’t observe that protocol. 
 
Temperature check at AEON Maxvalu Express, then a westerner is too close and I say, “Step back . . . please.”
 
“Oiy, I stand wherever.”
 
I don’t know where the line is between fear of Covid and careful of Covid. I’m a wear-a-mask-all-the-time guy. There are too many “que sera, sera,” insha’allah, “if it’s God’s will . . .”, and “I don’t believe it” folks wandering around. I’m not afraid of Covid . . . I’m afraid of people. And it finally happens—at Thai Huot I’m temperature checked and set off the alarm, 38C (100.4F). She stops me and I panic. “Where to buy food? Who doesn’t temp check?” And she holds the gun under the ceiling AC draft for a few moments, then checks me again and I’m okay. I shop here; she checks my temp. We know each other.


Sue Fagalde Lick, South Beach, Oregon

Sheltering in place for 6 months
Journal entry September 3


The weirdness gets old. I saw my ophthalmologist, Dr. Haines, yesterday. He pronounced my eyes “perfect.” At 68, that’s a relief. He did not say anything about the embarrassing moment when he came into the examining room and found me crawling on the floor looking for my hearing aid—which fell off as I was adjusting my COVID mask.
 
COVID protocol included calling from my car when I arrived, just like at the dentist’s and the veterinarian’s office. “Jeremy” told me they had a seat available in the waiting room. Half the tan chairs were blocked off. Exactly one masked gray-haired person sat in each section. Jeremy took my temperature (97.7) and handed me a pandemic questionnaire: had I been sick? did I know anyone with COVID? had I traveled anywhere? 
            
After the assistants called two old ladies in, Jeremy scurried out with wipes to sanitize the chairs where they had sat. 
            
When my turn came, the assistant led me past the inner waiting room where people usually wait and talk to each other while their pupils dilate. The chairs were shoved against the wall, the TV off. 
            
The exam was quick, tense as I leaned my chin on the machine and Dr. Haines stared into my eyes. Usually he keeps up a constant chatter, but not this time. “Perfect,” he said. “Congratulations.” He offered an elbow bump, and I left, squinting in my dark glasses as I walked out into the blinding sun.


Rich Bates, Columbus, Ohio

Journal entry September 4

We are bored. I am growing weary of my own company. We are getting punchy. We are regressing to infantile behavior. Yesterday, Sharon complained of my not clearing the almond butter wad off the shared spoon I handed her to dip her own dollop of apple-wedge-smeared-nutty-delight so I chased her around the kitchen waving it wildly as if to smear on her smock! She screamed; I giggled. I am deranged! Sanity is becoming a casualty of this isolation. 
 
I try journaling (ala Cameron, Way of the Artist and Progoff the Jungian) and grow numb with stream of consciousness idiocy. I try meditating without my Zen sanga and nap sitting upright. I read insightful tomes explaining the causes for the rise and devastation of this demagogue and nod off after 10 minutes. 
 
I watch the birds flutter at the feeders and am mesmerized into catatonia. I am learning to distinguish the variety of bird calls of each species, but wonder at the shrunken life of a 15X20 foot condo patio vs. an 8 acre farmstead in the midst of thousands of acres of open farm ground and the half globe of an endless sky stretching to an endless horizon. But memory serves and I return to tiny but explosive things—a goldfinch watching me as he plucks a kernel from the feeder, chops it in half, letting the tailing fall while he tongues the remainder down his throat. A song sparrow splashes in the mini bird bath and then serenades me from the crab apple overhanging our fence. 
 
The telescope collapses to the microscope but life still pulses. Maybe.




Lori Drawl, Cortland, Ohio

Journal entry August 15

I find it ironic that the pandemic hit in 2020, a numerically symbolic reminder that hindsight is 20/20. 
 
I often find myself recollecting my deceased Grandma Helen’s painful tales of the plague from a century-ago. She was nine years old when the Spanish flu struck her family in the Appalachian foothills of Belmont County, Ohio. It was January 16, 1918, when her mother succumbed to complications from the flu just nine days after giving birth to baby Flora. Two days later, her maternal grandfather also died. Within the next year, her Uncle David died.
 
As the oldest child in the family, Grandma Helen found herself in the position of surrogate mother to her five younger siblings. Unfortunately, Flora died in August from the likely preventable ailment of “diarrhea”; however a child being raised solely by her nine-year-old sister probably didn’t stand much of a chance. Her father resorted to alcohol to cope and became an abusive tyrant.
 
A microscopic germ wreaked havoc on this family leaving emotional scars and lifestyle coping mechanisms that even affected future generations. Grandma Helen became a bit of a germ-a-phobe, sometimes bordering on hypochondria. As a child, I recall her over-protective nature and hypervigilance to exposure to any contagion, no matter how minor.
 
Grandma’s memories provide 20/20 hindsight to a cautionary tale. With clear vision, I don’t complain when asked to wear a mask, wash my hands, and socially distance. The consequences were very real in 1918 . . . and are again in 2020.

I decided to try to paint portraits while self-isolating. These are two of my grandchildren who live in Las Vegas (Liam & Bryce).

Bryce at Bryce Canyon.
Liam.

Photo of diary entry

Peaches
Peach pie

David Etheridge, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

February
 
[Prime Minister] Hun Sen says that he’d rather have Cambodians infected with the virus than anger the Chinese by evacuating students from Wuhan — “We will keep them there, so sorrow and happiness in any circumstance can be shared.”
 
Sreymom says, “What leader doesn’t look after his people?”
 
March
 
In BKK 1, [Phnom Penh community] Cambodian laborers and Chinese capital work through the night to build glass tower gardens like Shanghai . . . and you see a head-shaven barefoot monk in a saffron robe wearing a black face mask waiting for a tuk-tuk under a streetlamp . . . and in that flickering yellow light . . . he could be an extra in a zombie apocalypse movie . . . and you joke about him but he believes in something . . . and you don’t know what to believe these days . . . so you believe in nothing . . .  And it’s like that.
 
April
 
Watched The Salzburg Connection, 1972 movie, and binged on 10 episodes of Gracepoint (aka Broadchurch ITV series) with Vanessa yesterday. Today it’ll be The Fall.
 
May
 
After Anyza’s illegal crossing into Thailand, she zooms into class from just over the border at Aranyaprathet.
 
“Thank you so much teacher for your good advice. Especially for your kindness when we have a mistake.”
 
Anyza’s pregnant and working in her shop. She asks about prepositions of place. She unmutes her zoom camera phone which is on the floor tilted up, and she’s in shorts and crop top, leaning in and out of the camera, and suddenly I’m a voyeur.
 
June
 
Monks are expert at cremating skinny Cambodians, but not so effective with thick-boned Europeans . . . your $500 goes only so far. On the third day you’ll receive your spouse’s ashes in a box and a Lucky Market bag with charred anklebone pieces. As part of the new entering-the-country Covid protocol, the Ministry of Health charges tourists for testing, quarantine, and $1500 for cremation if necessary, so no messy bits or plastic bags.






David Kopelke, Queensland, Australia

Journal entry August 5

The main resurgence of COVID-19 is in Melbourne. This is about 30 hours by road from us and two states away. Despite what Trump has said, Australia is not “devastated” by COVID-19. Yes, there has been a 500% increase in infections; but Australia was recording only a couple of cases a day and we are recording now over 500 a day. So, I guess it is accurate to say that we have had a 500% increase. However, when compared to the US, this is still not a lot. We are currently recording about 11 deaths a day. 

Unfortunately, some Australians are getting very tired of the whole thing and we are starting to get more and more people not taking the issue seriously. Victoria, the worst affected state, has around 800 cases in lockdown yet the police found over 300 were not in quarantine. This is been why there has been such a jump in the number of COVID-19 cases. Our governments are taking the matter seriously with lockdowns and border closures put in place. 

My state had three people go to Victoria, party, then lie on returning to Queensland. They all caught COVID-19 while in Victoria. They are now facing AUD20,000 fine and up to 5 years in jail. Unfortunately, many of those who are breaking quarantine have missed out on government financial support. They are lowly paid and if they don’t work, they have no money to buy food so they go to work even though they are sick just so that they can feed their family. 
 
This week, the government introduced paid pandemic leave to address people working while sick.

Although only a small group, there are some who are critical of the steps that the federal and state governments are taking. The mostly right-wing media gives high-profile to those who like to attack the rules such as having to wear masks or stay in quarantine. These people use scripts direct from the US claiming Magna Carta and other ridiculous legal bases for not having to follow the law. They haven’t even bothered to change the measurements to metric when arguing and use American language.

I loved my time in the US. You are so fortunate to have such a beautiful country (and green, it is so tiring everything brown and dead) and I found the people lovely. This was despite knowing that so many were carrying guns and would be just as happy to shoot you as say hello. 


Dian Seidel, Chevy Chase, Maryland

Recently returned from Pathumthani, Thailand
Journal entry March 1–August 1 


March 1: My husband and I are eager to return home after a stint teaching together in Pathumthani, Thailand. After restocking the pantry and sorting through mail, we rush to visit family, then arrange get-togethers with friends. 
 
Two weeks later, we are caught up in the pandemic. Only essential businesses are open. Our dates with friends become phone calls. In public, people maintain “social distance.” No one hugs or shakes hands. Instead, some Americans adopt something like the Thai wai greeting, palms joined at the chest, head bowed. Thailand issues similar stay-at-home orders. Schools close around the world.
 
In summer, the coronavirus rages like wildfire across America. It’s unclear whether students will return to class in fall. But Thai schools re-open on July 1. We see photos of our kindergartners. Their school uniforms now include masks and face shields. Only two students sit at tables meant for six, but every child is back in class. 
 
The first case of coronavirus detected outside China was in Thailand, but the epidemic is not out of control there. Scientists don’t yet understand why. Maybe the widespread use of masks, maybe the tradition of the wai, keeps germs from spreading. Or maybe it is just good karma. In America, normal activities are suspended. We spend every day together and rarely leave home. We have time to spare. Time to remember Pathumthani.



Photo of sculpture in a river
Photo of sculpture in a river
Ship of Fools



Facebook post reads: "My business partner and I doing our first Zoom interview—with Dr. Leana Wen, coming up on WBJC this week." Krummeck pictured at computer with her cat.

4/26

Facebook post of a link to a website, headline reads, "How do you program music during a pandemic?"



Darwin Curtis, Potomac, Maryland

Journal entry, sometime in April

There is much talk today about the negative effects of isolation; about the human need for companionship. About the third day of my time in solitary, I began wondering how I might counter that negative effect of isolation. My first initiative was to try talking to myself. But I found myself quickly numbed by boredom. At the end of my second attempt, I realized I had gone sound asleep for half an hour. 
 
I ran through a mental list of creatures who might keep me company, all of which bellowed or barked or snarled or bit. Then I hit the gerbil. Referring to Google, I read that “gerbils are very social animals who need the company of their own kind in order to be happy.” I wasn’t up for a morose gerbil and I certainly wasn’t ready for mingling with a pride of gerbils, even jolly ones.
 
On the same page, Google offers the thought that “Hamsters definitely can be friendly and enjoy the companionship of their owners.” I knew hamsters to be good listeners, which is unusual among vertebrates. But loquacious? Would I want to acquire a maybe binge-eating hamster without much to say? Or which mumbled? And Google adds: “There are hamsters who . . . make it clear that they prefer to be on their own.” I had second thoughts.
 
As my isolation deepened, I remembered that when I was a little kid, my Aunt Mary Claire had given me two goldfish in a small bowl. In my mind’s eye I could see them belly up and floating. But that was an idea: fish. Well, there was the question of common interests. Fish do seem to enjoy eating fish which are smaller than they are. I, too, enjoy eating fish which are smaller than I am. Beyond that, I could not identify significant areas of rapport. And what does one do with the fish when it’s time to clean the aquarium? Fish? No.
 
A couple of weeks further into solitary, I reopened the subject after asking myself, “Who was that furry old gink with the white beard I just glimpsed?” Maybe, I thought, he’d like to chat. Then I remembered that, at the beginning of my auto-incarceration, I persuaded myself there was no reason to shave. I had just passed a mirror. That furry old gink was me. 



Stress Baking. Pastel.
My Precious. Pastel.



Ken Felt team photo
The Ability 360 team. Felt pictured far right.





Fiona Jones, Dunfermline, Scotland 

Lockdown beginning to ease after 3 months
Journal entry July 2


Family conversations in lockdown be like: “So where did you go for your Covid walk today?”
(Covid Walk, noun: The single daily outdoor walk from home, as permitted by UK government during COVID19 lockdown.)
“I went up the hill northwards—and guess what I saw! A tree like a city: everything lives in it.”
 
So from then on the tree has a name: the City Tree. A metropolis of busy thriving life within its roots and trunk and asymmetric branches. A tree that’s been treeing for centuries, long enough to stand there treeing the rest of the trees how to tree. 
 
We’ve seen more trees in Lockdown than in the twenty years we’ve lived here. Birch trees, white-barked, light-foliaged, airy. Oak trees, slow-growing, late-leafing, in attitude more fighter than dancer. Horse chestnuts unfolding bat-wing leaves and blossoming like candles. Beech trees, so thick-canopied there’s little but mosses and mast underneath, yet full of holes and niches and food-chains of crawling life. The City Tree is a beech. 
 
Trees are comforting presences: old but not garrulous; alive but never demanding. You can heal, you can dream, you can think under trees, and envision the World After Lockdown Ends—what it should be like. I think we should fly less, buy less stuff, spend less time travelling, more time walking outdoors. I think we would live longer, breathe better that way. 
 
The trees told me this, and they ought to be right. They’ve lived long enough to tell us how it’s done. 


Daffodils Down the Block. Gouache.
Coronavirus. Gouache.


Susan Felt, Phoenix, Arizona

Sheltering in place since March 13
Journal entry June 17


Amanda and Michael and the kids are back home. We all survived.
 
When Michael called in April to “explore” the possibility of coming to Phoenix to escape Chicago during this global pandemic, our tepid “of-course-we-would-love-to-see-our-grandchildren” response revealed the conflict that rumbled beneath.
 
First, there was the 28-hour straight through drive he was suggesting. Our seven-year-old grandson has rheumatic heart disease. He’s as high on the vulnerability list for Covid-19 as his wheelchair-bound 71-year-old grandfather. We’d been isolated in our home since early March. 
 
Then what about those public bathrooms? Roadside “nature” stops. Eating? Car trouble? Falling asleep at the wheel come hour 18? Quarantining for two weeks once you get here?
 
Our daughter. Our son-in-law. Our grandchildren. We live for our visits with them.
 
But this time, it was hardly, we can’t wait to see you.
 
He painted a compelling picture. When will we ever have this opportunity? The Chicago cousins can be with their Phoenix cousins. We can have Papa Ken and Nanasus’s school with our grandchildren. Our family can be together. Take walks. Watch Netflix. Bond. Do puzzles. Play charades. 
 
Catch the coronavirus. Fall apart. 
 
Such was the need to seek sunshine, a swimming pool and an outdoors where their children could play without fear of navigating crowds of unmasked Chicagoans, that they came. They spent a night in a hotel, thus eliminating the possibility of falling asleep at the wheel. Handled food and nature responsibly. Quarantined for two weeks. And stayed an extra week.
 
They are back home putting together a trampoline to keep the kids active until parks and the lakefront are reopened. Michael was right. When would we ever have this time again? 



photo of a Little Library


Karen Leathean, Northern Territory, Australia

Journal entry March 24

A trip to Casuarina Shopping Centre showed me closed and boarded up food court spaces. Usually busy, a place for some retired groups to enjoy a coffee and interaction. Now tables are collected together and wrapped in acres of calico cloth. I wonder if a local fabric shop gleefully sold yards of this fabric. A few outlets still offer take-away only. Seniors who met in these places—where are they now? 
 
Security appears to be a growth profession. Wandering around giving people a warning to purchase essentials and move on. Despite Northern Territory virus cases only resultant from overseas arrivals, and as yet without community spread. Perhaps these high-visibility vest wearers just enjoy the power?
 
Every time I buy something, I ask, ‘are you happy to take cash?’ expecting to be told, ‘no, cards only.’ 
 
Extent and randomness of empty shelves continues to startle. Paper towels, empty as if manufactures all agreed to limit production. Eggs, my daughter suggested, might be scarce due to long distances they must be transported. We are more than 3,000k from the closest egg farm. 
 
The new normal of staff members offering hand sanitiser and trolley wipes is clearly visible as are floor markings declaring how far apart supermarket patrons must stand. 
 
I am disappointed to note long queues snaking from the Centrelink (Unemployment office) despite early tropical heat. But vanishing jobs is one reason I can afford time to travel to Darwin. 



Orman Day, Laurel, Maryland

Sheltering in place since March 15
Journal entry June 15


Not long after questioning whether a friendly poltergeist had hidden her hearing aid in a candy bowl, Mom was jarred by more paranormal activity in her locked-down rooms. For her 101st birthday on May 28, Mom received a bouquet of flowers and gas-filled “Happy Birthday” balloons. After a few weeks, the flowers wilted and dropped their petals and were whisked away by the facility’s cleaning lady. 
 
Drooping somewhat, the three multi-colored balloons remained huddled together in a corner of the front room. Then, defying scientific explanation, one of the balloons floated into Mom’s bedroom. 
 
“I have framed photos of family members on top of my dresser,” Mom told me during our daily phone conversation. “It floated down and stopped in front of different people to look at them . . . like they knew each other.”
 
She returned the balloon to the front room, but later, the balloon wandered back to the bedroom and landed on her pillow. Creeped out, Mom feared the balloon wouldn’t let her sleep, so she anchored it to the teddy bear in the front room.
 
On Saturday, ever-cheerful Melody rolled a serving cart into Mom’s front room to deliver punch and cookies. It was Melody’s birthday—so Mom, who had to restrain herself from giving the aide a great big hug—presented the errant balloon to her. Giggling, Melody tied it to her cart. Relieved to be rid of the mischief-maker, Mom smiled and waved as the balloon bobbed out the door. 



April 12 Doodle
April 28 Doodle


Stephen Kingsnorth, Wrexham, Wales, UK

Sheltering in place since March 17
Journal entry April 28


Today is Tuesday; my weekly marker, recycling collection, woke me. My routine as yesterday, echo of 6 weeks’ advised Parkinson’s self-isolation. Rain prevented D asking me to take a walk; unless limbs are very sore, it is easier to consent. I pretend control. Such victories are pyrrhic, consequences costly. My self-assertions are petty; I become the child I claim not to be. Since lockdown, we have slept in separate rooms; creeping alone under the insomnia duvet in the early hours causes less tension. I changed TV channels, hearing her bed creak. By the time D descends, I have washed yesterday’s dishes, managed to sneak the almost-drained into the cupboards. I have sorted pills, fed the aquarium, and waited; to take breakfast alone is unwise. She called me to sort my salad lunch and cooked the usual delicious healthy vegetarian dinner. My visits to the gym have ended, my weight increasing. I dread the question. She has baked lemon cakes for the neighbors, kept one for us. They are good, but calorific; she is unsettled if I decline. She spent the day making face-masks. Her skill is undeniable: I was called to take a photograph. My hours passed writing poetry; most is poor. Yet when frequent rejections arrive, I sink. Despite the late-night anti-depressant, I grow morose. My drifting hope is that in the morning I will remember to maintain my sadness. Usually leg pain shifts recall. Tomorrow will repeat today, without recycling. Will I remember it must be Wednesday?





Drink Black Liquid Death. Drawn April 15th in response to an April 13th dream.
When the Glasses Come Off. Drawn June 3rd.

Amie McGraham, Scottsdale, Arizona

Journal entries March 11-15

March 11
3 airports, 2 airplanes, 2 nursing homes, this tiny state with more pine trees than 
people, a skeevy Best Western, another fucking hospital and I have lost. An. Entire. Day. Something pushing me from motel to the long wooded driveway up to the hospital. Patches of snow. Yellow-gray sun slowly dropping. A meditation room. Blue stained glass and peace elusive. Mom asks me: “Is my daughter coming?”
 
March 12
Brunswick-Bath Best Western “Plus.” Unclear what qualifies that superlative. 
Not their bitter coffee. “Everyone looks for pots,” says the breakfast area server. 
“It’s not in pots.” Continues wiping down the table, spray bottle of disinfectant 
hooked to her belt loop.
“I’m glad you’re cleaning the surfaces,” a white haired woman remarks. “I was going to attend an . . . event in Portland Saturday but I’ve decided against it.” 
No one comments. What would you say? That’s too bad? Sorry to hear? Good idea?
Meanwhile, a questionable president addressed his flock in a stilted feel-good speech last night. No one feels good about this. 
 
March 13
Of course. I’m in dementia hell, hotel hell, virus hell. Exited hospital hell, 
Mom back at the Vicarage, so there’s that. 

Blood transfusion? No. Palliative Care? No. Hospice visits? Again, NO. Mom is . . . changing. She looks chalky. Translucent. Doing that weird hand thing, 
moving her bony fingers through the air as if directing an orchestra. 
 
March 15
6:39 am. Can’t get out of bed. I —
Mom’s place on lockdown. Dad’s place quarantined, 2 positive cases.



Naomi Karp, Washington, DC

Sheltering in place since March 13
Journal entry April 16


My dad’s mishpachah was wonderful. Zayde chanted every syllable at Brooklyn Passover seders. Bubbe made kreplach soup and had soft skin. But they were dime-a-dozen Eastern Europeans from the shtetl. 

Mom had the more exotic if frightening tale. A teenaged refugee from Nazi Germany, she escaped because Aunt Eugenie married a State Department guy. They’d lived through Kristallnacht, Grandpa’s Dachau stay, and losing the family distillery, “Borato.”
 
Now that they’re scattered, an electronic thread sews my maternal side together. The first email had the unlikely tagline “Seasons Greetings?” Cousin Frank in Germany, 90, wonders how Die Familie is surviving this viral nightmare. “Though the civilization-whitewash of us humans is rather thin, let’s all hope that things will improve and that the world might be just a little bit better.”

Through the miracle of “Reply All,” letters ping-pong around the globe. A cousin in Providence shares joy: a new grandson born, named for his grandpa who survived Hitler. Another explains Die Familie’s Argentina branch. The Third Reich brought them south. Later some moved to Israel, Brazil, Mexico, and even Deutschland. Who knew?

Greg splits time between England and China, but is social distancing in the Nevada desert. We’re a modern Diaspora. 

Emails still fly around our pandemic planet, sparked by a rabbi’s exhortation: “Every embrace that we avoid must become a verbal expression of warmth and concern.” I feel the heat of the family hug.






MaryAnn Moenck, Rural Western Wisconsin

At home with my husband since March 11 except for grocery runs and care packages dropped off at Mom’s assisted living in Maplewood, Minnesota. I last hugged my 95-year-old mother on March 5. 
Journal entries May 10 to May 17


May 10
Mothers Day. Did nothing. It sucked.

May 11 – May 12
Crabby Mom. Helicopter at 4:30 a.m. Failed video connect. She is giving up. I am disheartened. Cause of death: Abundance of caution.

May 13
I ordered an oversimplified tablet for Mom that will give us video chats. It’s a glimmer . . . Waiting on rain to plant our garden. The dirt is hard and dry. 

May 14
We planted the vegetable garden today. After weeks of poor quality lettuce in the store plus Covid concerns, I am looking forward most to fresh salads this summer. The lettuce row looks colorful, bright, and mouth-watering. 

May 15
First mowing of the season, and perfect weather. I am appropriately tired now at bedtime. Curbside supper from WaterShed while the rest of Wisconsin goes crazy with the Wisconsin Supreme Court opening the state abruptly. Supreme, my ass. Idiots! 

May 16
Ran the new tablet to Mom’s. Saw her through glass. She had a bad day, even told me the 8-inch tablet was too heavy to lift. I drank more wine than necessary after that. 

May 17
Triumph. “I love this thing!” Mom said, during our first video chat. She is just inside of capable with the new tablet. Online Scrabble with Mike and Ginny. They kicked our butts. Inch and a half of rain, badly needed. Good day. Goodnight. 


My Subway Driver




Kathleen M. Churchill, St. Germain-en-Laye, France        

Sheltering in place since March 14
Journal entries March 17 – April 4

 
March 17
H. arrives today. We seal the hallway to his room, ceiling to floor, using duct tape and thick plastic trash bags. I’m not sure how long he’ll be quarantined in there (M. just popped her head in to say two weeks). 
 
March 22
Seven days tomorrow since we’ve left the house. All week, police have been stopping pedestrians and motorists asking to see permission slips we are meant to carry with us. Yesterday, in balmy spring sunshine they were megaphone shouting “rentrez chez vous!” Go home!
 
March 25
We sneak into the forest for walks. Beneath budding trees, as far as you can see, small white flowers sheltering in dark greenery make a floral carpet, paths winding through, as if in a fairytale.
 
March 26
People who have never run, jog down the empty street—they look not yet defeated.
 
H. doesn’t leave his room. M. calls to him through the plastic. Sometimes he answers, sometimes he doesn’t. We put out food. Much of our days are spent worrying about our sons.
 
March 28
Evening cocktails in the garden. H. climbed out his bedroom window and sat in a chair under the blossoming chestnut tree while we huddled by the house, talking with him over the phone. 
 
March 31
Lapis blue skies. Last night strong winds blew open windows, dislodged shutters banging from their locks.
 
April 4
From my bedroom I can hear the train going to and from Paris. I wonder who, if anyone, still rides it.


Merry Benezra, Nova Scotia, Canada          

Sheltering in place with my cat Kali under our Provincial State of Emergency since March 22
Journal entry May 11

 
I dreamed of thirst, was thirsty overnight but too deeply asleep to do anything about it. A newspaper article about pandemic drinking mentions the problem of alcohol as a sleep disruptor, but I am finding it the very opposite. It is like wading into the Ouse with rocks sewn into one’s sweater pockets—effective. But it occurred to me to give some thought to my liver, or kidneys, or whatever organ has the difficult job of cleaning out the toxins. So I will make an effort to drink only one spritzer and refill with San Pellegrino. 

Yesterday I went upstairs to slip an apple cobbler recipe under Adele’s door. There was an ambulance in front of our building, and EMTs in full pandemic gear. It turned out that Winnie had fallen, yet when she left on the stretcher she seemed in marvelously good spirits. The excitement brought Clarissa out into the hallway, masked; she reported brightly that she has lung cancer, but that it is on, not inside, her lung, and it is shrinking. Adele came out and we triangulated at two meters apart to chat, each one holding her corner.

It was cold and drizzly and I too stayed indoors all day, in a funk and not even doing the 10-loonie apartment jog. Some of the trees are generating ragged green buds. Soon, or within a week or two, they should come into full leaf. Rain, here, is the magician that pulls summer out of its hat. I cannot wait.


Eric Forsbergh, Reston, Virginia              

Sheltering as much as possible since March 20 while providing dental services for emergencies only
Journal entry April 15

 
As a dentist, I am in a high-risk category, because I work literally in the patient’s mouth. Our office is open for emergencies only. If someone has an oral abscess, we need to treat them so they don’t overburden the emergency room.  
 
We take all precautions available to us, including personal protective equipment, but the N95 masks are on back order, and we have none of them. We take temperatures, and ask if patients have fever or cough. 
 
I worry about the healthy carriers of COVID19, who are shedding the virus. Also, there will be patients shedding virus who are not yet sick. My face has to be 18 inches from the patient’s mouth. Using the drill, there is an aerosol mist which spreads to a five-foot radius from the mouth. Contaminated with virus or not, it settles all over me and my assistant. Our necks are exposed, as are the backs of our heads. 
 
My wife and I have discussed this. I’m 69. My good health is my best protection, but, honestly, I expect to get the virus. We can’t get near our two children, each married, and each with a baby under six months. Including their spouses, I ache to hug all six of them.
 
I struggle with the chance of infecting my wife, and have offered to live in the basement. But she’s decided we’re in this together.                             



Berry Point


Vivienne Vermes, Paris, France

In lockdown since March 17 
Journal entry April 15

 
I live in the centre of Paris, in the heart of Montparnasse. This is normally one of the noisiest, most raucous parts of Paris. Now, the only sound I hear is a pigeon cooing.

Walking down to the crossroads between the Boulevard Raspail and the Boulevard du Montparnasse, I talk to the ghosts of Hemingway, Picasso, Beckett, Scott Fitzgerald. I stand in front of their cafés, the Rotonde, the Dôme and the Select, and wonder if they could ever have imagined this crossroads silent, deserted, the café chairs their wicker backs stacked clumsily against the windows, like the beige scales of some unruly reptile. 

Later, back in my flat, the spring daylight fades into dusk. I open the window. The dark, impassive façades of the buildings opposite look like so many empty faces. 

Then I hear it. Faint at first. Someone out there is clapping. The applause grows. People are bashing saucepans, clashing together spoons, or lids, or colanders, and clapping and cheering and whistling. This cacophony goes beyond the quartier, I can hear it in waves across the city.

Then comes the peal of bells from Notre Dame, the first time in a year, since the terrible fire. The bells merge with the applause. Gratitude for the heroes. I think of John Donne: “No man is an island, entire of itself . . . therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.”                                                 


Unknown Despair. Collage.
Invisible Boundaries. Collage.





John D. Thompson, Pella, Iowa 

Sheltering in place alone since Monday, March 16
Journal entry March 30

 
Finally, I found out what PPE means! I’ve been listening to Coronavirus reports since Leap Year Day. I bet I’ve heard “PPE” said a thousand times and then some but never could spread that acronym out: Personal Protective Equipment! Of course! “PPE” at 3 syllables is much shorter than “Personal Protective Equipment” at 9! It seems the Coronovirus syndrome has found its way to the world of acronyms. Just ask the CDC or WHO. 

FYI, “ACH” is for “air changes per hour.” “ARI” abbreviates “acute respiratory infection.” “ASTM” unveils the “American Society for Testing and Materials” (now gone international). 

Being “AC” myself (acronym challenged), I’m finding myself OOB (out of breath) to keep up with all these media airborne acronyms for Co-Vid . . . there’s another one. And, for God’s sakes, what does the “N” stand for in N95 masks? “N”obody has one . . . or “N”early 95 masks available at this time?

I vow to learn at least 1 new CVA (coronavirus acronym) per day, starting today. Let’s start with “HEPA” shall we? Any guesses! “HEPA” stands for “high efficiency particulate air.” Now, that sounds good to me . . . especially the “high efficiency” part. At first, I thought HEPA meant “Help Each Person Always.”  

Speaking of HEPA, we are in a HEPA trouble if we don’t acquire quicker testing, combative antidotes, and a vaccine in the VNF (very near future).



Painting
Fireaters Boogaboo
Painting
Fireaters Promise


Kathleen Klassen, Ottawa, Ontario

I have been in relative isolation for many years as a result of a significant head injury and sheltering in place with two teenage boys since mid-March.
Journal entry March 23


I have seen memes suggesting that pandemics are no time to text your ex. (No time to shower, wash your hair or dress up in a ball gown either, but that hasn’t stopped anyone, amarite?) When it appeared things might be shutting down quickly a week and a half ago, I did just that—not the ball gown part, but pink boa and sparkly blue stilettos. And I called my ex. He was very grateful for my concern and as a result of the open dialogue I asked if he could help us out. (I was quite beside myself with thoughts of full-time single-parenting AND the zombie apocalypse. I can do one or the other—don’t think I could manage both.) With unexplained coughing in the house, I had to avoid grocery stores. I also thought I might look odd shopping in stilettos. He willingly agreed and delivered groceries the next day.
 
He texted a few days later to see if we “needed anything.” I wondered what kind of madness this was (we don’t talk or text) and then remembered it was pandemic days so anything was possible! Yes, we need things! We need so many things I can’t keep my head on straight—puffers and nose spray and a restart on life and most of all frozen pizza!
 
When he showed up again with bagsful of groceries, I was wearing my holey, unwashed sweats, a much more accurate depiction of my state.



Photo of handwritten journal entry
Photo of red tulip
The Last Tulip








Pencil and watercolor on watercolor paper.