In the age of the coronavirus, fear, sadness, and suffering prevail. Unemployment, illness, and death are just some of the trials we face in this global pandemic. Amidst these difficult times, flowers bloom and humans find new ways to connect. A great deal of tenderness and meaning can be experienced when we look for it.
A recent writing prompt (#TheIsolationJournals) got me thinking about what I find nourishing. I hope my reflections provide some comfort and inspiration for others, as they did for me.
Writing nourishes me. During the quarantine, I’ve shifted from being an in-person after-school director to an online one. Beyond the technological and curricular learning curves of this transition, it’s meant a significant jump in screen time, which has impacted my writing routines significantly. I finally sat down one evening to craft a short story for adults. Before the quarantine, my writing projects included picture books, a YA novel, poetry, and nonfiction essays, so to begin a short story for adults was challenging, but the content felt fresh. Different times call for different responses.
I felt fulfilled in a way I hadn’t in days. Translating my ideas into words on a page provided a release of some of the pent-up energy I’d been storing during the quarantine and helped me process our shifting reality. In beginning to write that story, I accessed a deeply spiritual part of my being, some wise part of my subconscious, and gave power to it. After months of revisions, I confirmed I still had a toolbox to create new material.
Making time to write that evening triggered a shift in my writing routine. A former classroom teacher, I moved into after-school education so I could write every weekday morning, taking the weekends (mostly) off. A schedule-adherent educator, my writing needs persistent and yet not always regimented attention. Never has there been a greater collective impact on all of our lives and routines than this moment of the global pandemic.
It is precisely in such difficult times that we can feel overwhelmed and turn away from the things we love, either by choice or necessity. There is wisdom in pausing to take care of our most fundamental needs, in not pressuring ourselves to do more than we can handle or be extraordinarily creative. After a while though, pushing ourselves to hold fast to the disciplines that make us feel fully alive is important too. I recognize that I am privileged with my health, home, and time to access my writing right now. Even still, it’s important for us all to rearrange our lives to take stock. Doing so might also shed light on how the coronavirus will impact our lives in the years to come.
We can do this at an individual level, and at a societal level, as well. What, as a society, have we found especially nourishing during the age of the coronavirus? Although appreciation for healthcare workers is beyond the scope of this post, food, nature and the arts also come to mind from what I’ve read in the news and hear from my friends and colleagues.
The importance of eating food, and the preciousness of obtaining and receiving it, is no longer taken for granted in these days of scarcity; the people that help us in this process are heroes. If we are lucky enough to have access to food right now, we eat it to stay alive and hopefully healthy. Will we celebrate these heroes in the years ahead?
In a recent work email exchange about small comforts, many mentioned the importance of going for walks outside. Pollution has dropped and the earth seems to breathe a little easier (even if we as humans don’t) as the world comes to a rushing halt. Will we remember this moment and protect the earth in the years to come?
Last, we stand witness to the impact of the arts, as it lifts spirits and minds during these days. The power of writing is everywhere: in the news, books, magazines and journals. Entertainers are coming together in a way we’ve never seen before. YouTube and at-home entertainment shows keep our spirits alive with laughter, skill, music, and storytelling. In the months and years ahead, will we find ways to honor the critical role the arts played for us in one of the most perilous moments of our generation’s history?
The coronavirus’s impact is and will be profound. The quarantine has shed light on the importance of my creative, spiritual, and mind-body practices and like so many others, time spent in nature. New routines continue to foster these practices. Writing, especially, makes me feel alive, centered, and free in a time of death, confusion, and confinement. As the energy of the world shifts around us, I aim to shift with it.
If we all consider this together—what we find nourishing in the time of the coronavirus, and how we can change to cultivate it—we might just yet build hope for our unknown future.
Caitlin T.D. Robinson earned an MFA in creative writing at Lesley University and is currently working toward an MA at The Bread Loaf School of English, Middlebury College.