We value art of the times. Of the vulnerable, the raw, the honest. We uplift those brave ones who surrender to uncertainty through the process of creation. We are a community of makers, processing fear, grief, joy and love in times of quarantine.
Today I filed for unemployment for the third time. Someone please tell me third time is a charm because I could use the reassurance.
I press 3 to get the automated man to repeat the menu of options back to me. My brain is having a hard time retaining information beyond walk dog, make coffee, brush teeth, wash hands.
I hear, but I’m not processing. Like when I heard the sterile sentence, “We’re gonna have to let you go.” My whole face buzzed and my vision began to blur. The words reached my body, but my skin refused to absorb them.
The automated voice for the Illinois tele-serve system reminds me of the L train. “Doors closing” sounds an awful lot like “you may press your selection at any time.”
I stopped touching my face, but I’ve been furiously picking, carving crescents into my cuticles, which bulge and burn whenever anything brushes against them.
One of my neighbors, maybe the one with the second eviction notice on his door, may have called this number hundreds of times this week. Somewhere there is a waitress with two kids who is chewing her nails down without realizing her fingers are in her mouth because she’s worried about where she’s going to find next month’s rent.
There’s only so much the nervous system can handle at once.
I drove my dog Maya and me to our favorite outdoor spot. It’s one of the few trails in DuPage County that isn’t closed or crowded. There’s a man-made pond in the center of it. During the evening, it transforms into a massive bowl of a liquid sunset that makes my heart leap like a fawn. Sometimes, I’ll let my dog off leash here. Sensing her freedom, she barrels through leaves and trips over her own legs.
It’s red-winged blackbird season. Red-winged blackbirds are basically the quarterbacks of birds. It’s best not to approach them in the reeds or venture anywhere near their nests. I admire them from a distance and watch them bounce from branch to branch like the natural athletes they are.
I pass a few people on the trail and smile. People on nature trails generally have this reaction. But it’s different during the time of corona. You and the cooped up marathon runner exchange looks of unprecedented understanding and mutual appreciation for the sun hitting your face for the first time in days.
Everything is alive, and spring is among us. Just the other day I saw a large congregation of ducks that waltzed by my window. They chattered about the happenings and politics of their day. It’s been a long time since the world was this way for them. “Can you believe it? Do you remember?” they ask each other.
Every other day around 9:30pm, I write a letter to my friend Ida. I tell her what I did that day, I answer a question, I ask a question, I tell her that I love her. I don’t actually mail her the letter. Instead, I send her a picture of my letter and a recording of myself reading my letter. Some may say that is cheating the letter-writing process, but I say, who cares? On the days I don’t write to Ida, I receive a letter from her. She tells me what she did that day, answers a question, asks a question, tells me that she loves me. We post these on Instagram.
These letters follow important rules we created for ourselves. For Ida, it’s that she won’t look at instagram unless she has something to share. For me, it’s that I will only post things that are rooted in goodness. We also wanted a project that felt personal. A piece of art out in the social media artsphere of two people talking directly to each other. A social interaction that happens in public. We’re moving that conversation online. And we’ve given it a hashtag: #LettersInTheTimeOfCorona
Ida and I are continuing to write our letters back and forth each night. And now, we’re writing letters to others. If you’d like to receive a letter from us (in the real deal snail mail!), fill out this form: https://forms.gle/91q2uGGhKQs8CmDWA