Virus Life

“Weave, weave, weave me the sunshine, out of the falling rain.“Weave me the hope of a new tomorrow, and fill my cup again.”

The old Peter, Paul and Mary song says it all nowadays.  There’s more than enough falling rain to go around, what with the Covid-19 virus, massive unemployment, fractured stock market, and a shortage of personal protective equipment for those who are protecting the rest of us.  One wonders how many other dominoes will fall.

Still, plenty of people are out there weaving the strands of falling rain into baskets and bowls of hope.  We have always risen to the causes on a national scale.  Companies ramp up production of hospital masks and gowns.  Volunteers appear out of the woodwork to help fill the need in food banks.  And on and on.

Sometimes it’s easier to look at the small gifts closer to home, so as not to get overwhelmed by the sheer size of the problems, and the helpless feelings that can generate, especially during a global pandemic when we are on virtual lockdown to prevent spread of the virus.  If you can’t go out, how can you possibly do anything to help?

Small gifts.  Going on a Bear Hunt had neighbors putting teddy bears and other stuffed animals in windows so kids can find them all.  Creating a scavenger hunt in a neighborhood, looking for all sorts of things from a devised list, although “fire hydrant” was on one list for a neighborhood in the country where there were none!  A daughter and her family purchasing two identical cakes, so they could have a birthday celebration for grandma, together on Facetime.  The cake had to wait two days in the garage to make sure no infection would be possible, but the party went on via social networking on the right day.  Neighborhood walkers aplenty, still laughing about something, even across the six feet of necessary social distancing.  

Even in a concrete jungle, tiny flowers manage to squeeze through the cracks and blossom.  So, continue to weave yourself some sunshine.  Hope for tomorrow. 

Working with Words

Working with words is in my genes.  My grandmother never wrote a simple note; it was always in verse.  In response to a request from her son for a loan, she scratched on an envelope, “You have been to me kind and true / So I’ll fork over a five to you.”  A generation down the line, my mother kept meticulous trip records.  Apparently, it really is hereditary as my daughter graduated with Screenwriting and English majors.   As for me, I remember beginning my first short story on a family trip when I was eight or nine.  It was one of those Bulwer-Lytton prize-winning gems, starting off something like, “The midnight clock struck in the village. Bong!  Bong!  B—“  You get the picture.  I know I didn’t get past the fourth or fifth “Bong!”.  So much for the Pulitzer Prize in literature.

From there I worked my way into high school poetry, filled with angst and word choice so purple as to be almost fluorescent.  Some of it I have since reworked, and, like Kafka, I hope the old stuff is burned.  Eventually, experiences I observed or experienced began a persistent knocking on the inside of my brain, and I had to get them down on paper. Writing essays taught me that I could slash and burn; editing didn’t leave scars.

Over the 25 years I spent in the trenches with beginning writers, teaching middle school and high school English, I complained about not having enough time to do “outside” things, such as reading.  Finally, I simply made time to read.  Similarly, I wanted to write more, but didn’t have the time.  However, a few years ago, that persistent, albeit infrequent, knocking from inside my head to write something down became poundings and hollerings.  Fortuitously, on an airplane from Los Angeles to Milwaukee, I had packed a yellow legal pad and a pen in my carry-on, and finally gave in to those demands.  By the time we landed, I had sixteen pages of frantic scrawlings as I transcribed the voices of the women talking inside my head.  It had begun with an offhand reminiscence by my mother: “I learned to golf so I could smoke.”  From that, lives began to emerge, and I simply had to write it all down.

At the moment, my own story, my writing life, continues to evolve, and that is the one story over which I have very little control.  That doesn’t bother me.  I am having far too much fun watching where all this is taking me.  I thought I’d somehow “dry up,” but writing seems to be a lot like reading; once you start, the first just makes you thirsty for another, and then another.  I continue to write because I am compelled to.