Friday, August 7, 2020

ONE WRITER'S COVID-19 SUMMER


Grandson leaping into cool, cool water.

As a writer, I’ve always looked for underlying themes, for insights and significance.  But I have a concussion, and that means life has been simplified for me several times.  

At first I resisted what felt like a retreat from a less fulsome way to live.  Then I got a reprieve in early March:  I was blessed with ideas that captivated me, and not only that, they fitted together into stories I wanted to write. 

Then I fell again and hit my skull.  I reeled.  Ideas vanished.  And at the same time, my daughter and her family escaped from Brooklyn to stay with us here in Maine in hopes New York would be safe in a couple of weeks to return.

Life was simplified again, but in a new way.  I became the in-house teacher for my 9-year-old grandson while his mom and dad teleconferenced their jobs.  

Being in charge of a bright, wiggly child wasn’t exactly writing a book, but it required a talent for fiction (pretending I was smarter than he) and creativity (finding ways to make the schoolwork enticing) and energy (Omg, I got so exhausted and frustrated with the craziness of a non-user-friendly educational system!). 

Still, he and I persevered, and we learned a lot without any concept of themes, insights, or deep significance.  P.S., we had a lot of fun, too.

Soon after school ended, and the boy immersed himself in other activities, I began having clear memories of what it was like to write a novel.  

I read through my research boxes, I made notes on my yellow pads, and I went to sleep lobbying for characters, scenes, whole paragraphs of exciting narration to awaken me.  It’s a delicious feeling to call upon one’s dreams, satisfying an old and welcome thirst for storytelling.

Now it’s five months since all hell broke loose with the pandemic. 

My daughter’s family will leave soon to move back home.  So my son and his family took Covid-19 tests, passed, and drove their packed car nine hours straight from self-isolation in Washington D.C. to vacation with all of us.  Wow.

They needed this trip, and we needed to see them.  We are all together, three families, all sharing our home and yard and forest.  The breezes are sweeter, the sky bluer, the coffee better by far.  We go to goat yoga, to isolated lakes, to secret beaches.  

Books are stacked on bedroom floors.  We argue and debate and have long discussions.  We take turns cooking.  We eat out on the porch.  We make s'mores at the fire pit.  The robin who owns our backyard sings to us all through the dinner hour.  What could be better?

We’re having a summer in Maine.  It’s different, but the same as earlier summers, too. 

Missing other members of our family makes me thrill even more to the busyness, the almost-normalcy of those who are visiting.  I've posted some of my photos on this page.  Right now it seems incomprehensible that we’re in the grips of a pandemic that has changed us and our worlds forever.

It’s summer.  In Maine.  But it’s not.  It’s Covid-19 summer, and a shiver of worry underlies everything.  

Still, I wouldn’t give up this summer for anything.  I watch, listen, and absorb.  I’m filled with joy that they are alive and healthy, and that John and I are here to witness them.

Pandemic be damned — I’ve learned a new depth of gratitude.

What about you, dear Rogue Reader? We'd love to hear what your summer has been like. Please leave a comment and tell!

8 comments:

  1. Summer has been VERY different. I am supposed to be in Maine now, visiting you, Gayle, and at my family's summer retreat where McKinlay's have been visiting since 1938. Unfortunately, with Covid, it just couldn't be. So instead, we gather with family and do our best to enjoy the great Colorado outdoors, hiking, spending time at the lake, picnicking in the parks with family. We took one road trip to MI to see our youngest daughter and spent time at the river and around backyard fire pits (something you can't do in Colorado with the fire danger). We've spent more time Zooming--a sorry substitute for face-to-face, but better than just a voice at the other end of the line. All in all, like you, some of the pleasures are the same, and yet different. Untill there's a vaccine or a treatment, I fear we must continue to recite the old Persian adage -- this too shall pass. Enjoy your summer. I'll post a picture on Facebook once the post appears to give you a taste of our summer!

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    1. What wonderful times you're having this summer, Chris, building new family memories, too. There's a heightened reality to it somehow that seems to make it more precious. I look forward to your photo! x

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  2. I so enjoyed reading about your "family summer," Gayle...what a great opportunity to spend time, share thoughts and your life experiences with the younger generation -- a time I'm sure they will treasure, if not immediately - I guarantee they will savor these lessons learned in years to come. As for me, we also had a week with family in Naples, then flew out here to our summer home in Southern California where the weather is blessedly cooler. Participating in zoom board meetings, I've also "zoomed in" to learning sessions about "social media for authors" as well as a great interview with a prospective publisher for a children's book I recently wrote (she asked for a submission). I've also written several novels during this "down time" -- writing keeps me sane. Now we all just pray everyone works to stay safe - and that we have a vaccine soon. But all in all, this "hunkered down time" has allowed creativity to prevail - and I've found it's truly been been a good thing.....Karna Bodman

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    1. I'm so happy you were able to have great family time, too, Karna. It means much. And also such terrific movement with your writing and manuscripts, and that you're back home in SoCal, although I gotta say as a longtime Santa Barbarian, I look at the weather and natural disasters and I'm finding Maine particularly peaceful,something I never would've guessed about myself. Enjoy it for both of us!

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  3. Other than disappointment over cancelled vacations and conferences, I was fine with not going anywhere or doing anything. I still had to go to work, so stir-craziness never hit me. And having no community orchestra, social life, church or volunteer work freed up a lot of time that I was determined to use to the fullest extent. I did get a few things done, but writing is not one of them. I find it impossible to focus on anything for more than a few seconds and every single form of digital media is determined to torment me. My husband has now been unemployed for over three months and while we’re lucky in so many respects, what I call the collective stress has caught up to me and...we’re losing it. I may take us both up to Ohio later this month to help my niece move—they don’t need our help in particular, but I think we need them.

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    1. I really get what you're saying about the stress of it, especially with your husband being laid off. This pandemic so about so much more than many people realize. Of course you're losing it, and so it seems to me are most other people and some of them don't even realize it. Go to Ohio!!!!!! Oh, how I wish I could go to Iowa for the same reasons you mention, but it's just too long a schlep at the moment. And write a blog about it! Want to read it! :)

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  4. Greetings dearest Gayle,

    Thank you for such an uplifting update. Indeed, beyond simply making lemonade from lemons, you have created an entire lemonade stand. Every day your life rings true of family, nature's blessings, and creating such enriching real-life stories.

    I am sorry to hear about your 2nd fall, yet grateful you are on the mend. Certainly, we live inside our own stories and yours is forever one of brilliantly championing all challenges.

    My summer continues to BE Magical. Since I call my daughter, three daughters-in-love & my six granddaughters Gayle. It means her father's BEloved Daughter; plus, Gayle is my middle name, today my six-year-old GRAND•Gayle Oakley & I lunched at the charming English Rose Tearoom in Carefree, AZ.

    Robustly, I engage in Social especially my personal Fb page where I am in touch with friends from all of my 7 decades. I enjoy posting on my Home Whisperer & the Scribe pages and sometimes on IG. These treasured connectivities are deeply appreciated.

    I am focused on family, self-care, writing, reading & prayer. I believe an old systems are crumbling. These times are the labor pains of birthing a pristine world. In fact, this is my current manuscript's story.

    Indeed, we are living in such interesting times. Thank you for blessing us with your immense creativity, gift of storytelling and positivity.

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  5. How wonderful to hear from you, dear Sharyn! And the connections in our name "Gayle" is so beautiful ... and unsurprising. I knew we were connected in lots of ways. Your summer sounds perfect, with all the emotional nourishment flowing from you and to you, and the those moments in life that remind us endlessly how lucky we are, and how much we have to be grateful for. Rock on, my friend!

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