It seems incredible to me that just 10 days ago from the day I am writing this, I was urging my partner to stick to his plans of traveling to Texas to visit his son at Shepherd Air Force Base because, I figured, it’d be the last window to do so. I was secretly still on the fence about attending a writers’ conference in Bowling Green, Kentucky the next weekend – yesterday, as I write this. As we talked about Texas, I scanned Twitter headlines about Italy. By the end of the conversation that night, I was no longer sure the trip was a good idea. Within two days from that night, the writers’ conference was canceled, and while I was disappointed, I was also relieved I didn’t have to make the decision myself.
Today, I’m ready to begin my second week of working from home. Illinois, like several other states, has declared a state of medical emergency, has forbidden large gatherings of people, and discourages all but essential travel and commerce. This condition holds, for now, until April 7. The idea of attending a conference has become ludicrous.
I don’t really mind being home, though it’s more fun when it’s by choice. I’m profoundly grateful for the opportunity to work from home, and I have plenty to do to keep myself occupied. Furthermore, I live in the most beautiful part of Illinois (no offense, upstaters) and outdoor activities aren’t off-limits yet, so if I feel the stir-crazies coming on, there are trails to hike that will keep me quite a distance from others.
I worry, as we all do, about family and friends. I worry that my 18-year-old son might not be taking all the necessary precautions. I worry about older family members who live far away. I worry about my brother, who is still working in Florida – he’s considered an essential worker. I worry about my many friends in the music, bar, and restaurant scene, many of whom are without income for the duration, and some of whom own or manage independent businesses that do not necessarily have a wide profit margin.
Yeah, there’s plenty of bad news going around. And plenty of worry.
And plenty of light and love and community support as well.
In my area, as in many places, musicians are hosting “closed mic nights” by streaming solo performances in their living rooms and sharing to a particular bar, café, or restaurant page. It’s to keep the community a community. And many of them are setting up pay sites where viewers can drop a few dollars in the virtual hat, either to benefit the musician or the staff at the particular bar, café or restaurant.
Writers are doing this too. I participated in an open mic on Zoom today – the first time I’ve ever attempted such a thing. Other writers are reading their works in short videos on social media, or joining other writers in hosted, virtual events.
It helps. It helps me anyway. It’s good for us to come together to share something other than worry – and we can share worry too. It’s good for us to focus on art and storytelling and song. At a time when we ought not be physically close, we discover how close we are and can be in spirit.
So, please, keep the jokes coming – it’s possible to laugh together even when things are so serious. Please keep singing and writing and painting – surely it’s what we need now as much as we need toilet paper!