Understorey Magazine is sharing your stories of the COVID-19 pandemic. Are you staying home? Working extra hours? Unable to work at all? Are you caring for others or do you need care yourself? What worries you the most? What do you hope for?
4 June 2020: Submissions to this series are now closed. Please enjoy the 30-plus stories written by women from across Canada and published during the “stay at home” period of March-May 2020. Together, these stories chronicle how routines, priorities, values, and expectations shifted during this unique time in our collective history.
In the year 20/20 our vision cleared. The fog of hedonistic narcissism that had covered the earth during the last century lifted with an unprecedented suddenness. Robed gladiators donned their masks and shields, and their gloves came on, as they prepared to protect the innocent victims who had been stripped naked and thrown into the centre of the ring. Spectators sat glued to their sofas in the global colosseum, eyes affixed to screens, mesmerized by the indestructible, impenetrable enemy that had taken the entire globe by storm. Some remained indifferent to the suffering, perceiving themselves to be invincible. Others shivered in their seats, petrified they would be in the next wave of sacrifices. The gladiators valiantly formed the front line of defence.
As the far-off battle became a global war and casualties grew exponentially, a new haze began to blanket the populace. Ennui took hold of the masses and manifested itself in anxiety, depression, and boredom. Days passed without name, weeks flowed into months, and time stood still while the clock ticked.
One Day, elbows will nudge in darkened theatres.
One Day, voices will harmonize with fingers interlocked.
One Day, sweet smiles will follow “sorry” when strangers collide.
One Day, arms will wrap lost warmth tightly, unapologetically.
Today: I long for One Day.
Since our co-written piece was published in Understorey Magazine last fall, we have continued to email and chat online and with each other via video technology, which freezes constantly, to keep expanding our project “Field Notes: Desire Paths, Women, Land and Body.” With the incredible world-shifts due to the novel coronavirus COVID-19, our conversations have also shifted. In these excerpted emails, we discuss where we were a mere eight months ago–Assisi, Italy–and where we are now. We edit a new piece, so comments go back and forth in relation to it. We marvel at how life in a pandemic is very much all Field Notes, desires, and desire paths held while we keep ourselves and each other safe, and worry about friends and family nesting all over the world, or out fighting for others’ safety and health.
Evenings of board games and laughter, intellectual discussions over dinner, days of drifting from reading to knitting to cooking elaborate meals and baking beautiful bread. Walks in the woods with my dog, the odd bike ride with my husband. Gardening in the sun. I had unrealistic expectations, perhaps, but this is what I dared imagine life in self-isolation might be, the four of us all together for the first time in years.
There have been elaborate meals—nettle risotto, roast leg of lamb, slow-roasted vegetables, homemade pasta. The bread has indeed been beautiful, thanks to the plethora of no-knead recipes out there now, and I’ve also made hot cross buns and nut loaves and cookies and yogurt. But discussions over dinner have often disintegrated into nit-picking and arguments, conflict over the Netflix account, and whose turn it is to walk the dog. Ah, the children are both home. Except they are no longer children.
I get it, life changed practically overnight for them, but also for us. The global pandemic caused us all to come to a pause and rethink our future in two-week blocks at a time.
We hear of the death of a man.
By key stroke. Counting
Another number. This could be you.
This could be me.
We hide the death of a child.
Deep in the womb. Living
Uneasy. Murdering easy.
Handful of shining clink.
We bear the death of a land.
In black smoke. Coughing. Uprooting
Breath. Limbs limp with fever.
Closed in prayer.
We fear the death of the Word.
By the book/podium/screen. Excising
Tongues. Tearing hearts.
We hold the death of our God.
Deep in our hearts. Dying.
All that remains. Charred wood.
—April 17, 2020
Recently, a memory of you, asleep
beside me in the wide bed
in Haileybury, your black
hair fanned out on the pillow
like a split seed.
Do you remember
that house? Where we found
the trunk in the attic, full of fancy
Life as a university student is an absolute, never sleeping, always studying, where is my caffeine, level of chaos. As a first-year university student, adjusting to this lifestyle was much more difficult than I had first thought. My first semester came with the thrills of new freedom and an expanding perspective of life and all it had to offer. With these highs came the lows, where tears accompanied thoughts of giving up in the face of midterms, labs, and the never-ending stream of assignments and studying. First semester finally ended, and I had learned so much about myself as a person and as a learner. I had gone through the ringer and came out with better studying habits and was fully prepared to conquer second semester head on.
we all say now, in light of, as well
as can be, strange days, these
has no short-term memory.
Each morning we have the grief-
of reminding the ravens,
the buried moles of our
and because it’s spring,
the budding poplars, returning
house finches. Each dawn
we must tell the remade
our sorrows and
our worries. So
stay safe we
are also saying, and take
only this time
we mean something real.
Came to me out of the blue–No
When the news reported that drones
Would be delivering Amazon packages
I thought about the spread
Of dinners, care packages and
Need to ever to get a drivers license, I think, since
The novel future is about how we are forced inside
Because the air is bad, or the ozone is torn
His very darkest brown eyes sparkled and were so vibrant in contrast to his blond, prairie-field fluffy head of hair flowing freely in the wind. His eyes jumped with the excitement he carried in his nine-year-old body.
He was as excited as any nine-year-old boy would be with the notion of going home. To be reunited with his maternal brothers, hopefully with Father and all his paternal extended family, too. Especially his friends. His excitement soared.
This time it was different, as this time he had to be extra careful, donning gloves, a mask, and sunglasses. He called it The Corona. It was his friend he retorted, likely his way of remaining calm and showing he can be a big boy.