Recently I came across a file containing part of a novel I started writing a number of years ago, then put away and more or less forgot. Since re-reading it I’ve been trying to continue the story, which has allowed me to “travel” in this time of Covid, since the novel is set in northeast Thailand near the Cambodian and Vietnamese borders.
I pulled out books of faded photographs, guide books, one of Thai phrases and even a journal and settled down to recall the excitements and challenges I experienced travelling alone to an unknown place, where I didn’t know the language and where I had committed to teaching English at a teachers’ college for six months…
Thais are a wonderfully hospitable people. I was assigned a house on the campus and frequently taken to town to shop and eat out and…
Summer has come upon us after a long and, for many, a frightening and lonely spring. But there have been some positives to that lockdown season where I live; people have, on the whole, felt safe—instructions have been clear; politicians have listened to expert medical advice and followed it.
Communities pulled together to help their residents. Local organizations kept in touch with the elderly and stores stepped up or initiated delivery services. Telephone services for young people who need help in this difficult time, have risen to the challenge of responding to a large increase in calls. National Arts organizations have made video performances of both music and drama available for free, as well as discussions between artists, organizers and other participants, while local associations have encouraged their members to continue to create by setting up virtual art galleries and blogs where writers can share their current work or reflections.
Most of us have become familiar with platforms like Zoom, which have enabled us to attend family get-togethers, meetings with colleagues, and in my case, continue to record interviews for our radio series Word on the Hills. Not everyone has been able to work from home, but education, businesses, and other services have managed, with much effort and many challenges, to move online.
We’ve gratefully acknowledged the courage and dedication of essential frontline workers whether in health care, maintaining infrastructure or necessary services such as security, stocking shelves in the grocery store, or cleaning and disinfecting objects and spaces the public is obliged to use, but I hope that a fuller recognition and a deeper understanding of their contributions to our societal well-being will be part of our future.
Stage 2 of the recovery plan for the economy, instituted last week in areas of my province where infection rates are acceptably low or now non-existent, has brought some relief and excitement, but also more uncertainty and stress. Rules are less clear. While maintaining social distance is still regarded as key to preventing a new outbreak of the virus, meetings of up to 10 people are now allowed and family and friends may visit each other.
In public places like restaurants, service is only possible on the patio and regulations for the safety of both workers and customers have to be observed. Many businesses have, as essential stores did months ago, set up plexiglass barriers between dining tables, or between vendor and customer. Everyone who enters a store is advised to wear a mask, as is anyone who works there. As more people go back to work, Public Transit is requiring passengers to wear masks. Preparations for opening up can be elaborate and expensive. Not all companies are ready to go.
When restrictions were first loosened for Stage 1 several weeks ago, I was thrilled to be able to return to our local provincial park with my dog and delighted to find that people were conscious of social distancing regulations and willing to observe them. It was our first adventure— actually walking in a public place beyond my garden and neighbouring streets. Both these locales had left me more appreciative of my neighbours and neighbourhood, but being able to go further was real freedom. I discovered that our favourite trails were less popular than the shore; we seldom met anyone but another dog walker or occasional cyclist, from whom we kept our distance while exchanging cheerful greetings.
So last week when we entered Stage 2 of our recovery plan I asked my hairdresser, who runs her business on her own, if she was ready to open up. She told me about all the precautions she’s taken and gave me an appointment. Last Friday, feeling I must confess a little nervous, I presented myself at the proper moment and was greeted by Val and her dog, Cody. Sanitizer in hand, Val smiled from behind two protective masks, while Cody blinked at me from his basket. We spent a relaxing time together, and I left with my hair tidied, trimmed and pinned up, determined to continue growing it until it can be easily styled even by me!
But our uncertainties and worries remain. How safe are we as governments loosen restrictions? Will people follow advice once it is no longer a strict rule? Will we find ways to support vulnerable members of our society needing homes, food and jobs? Will money and profits once again become more important than people and healthy communities? Will we remember and act on the lessons of the pandemic with regard to health, travel, education, modes of living, politics, justice and climate change— systems and issues that affect the whole world as well as each individual life?
Thanks to Chris Graham, The Story Reading Ape, who first published this post on his blog
Is a fascination with what lies underground a universal preoccupation? A positive answer to this question is the underlying message from Will Hunt’s recent book, Underground (Simon and Schuster, 2019) which argues that our relationship with what lies beneath is so tied into our evolution that it has become unconscious and instinctual.
From the oldest of legends and folktales, through millennia of spiritual practices and stories from religions around the world to the evolutionary theories, which some micro-biologists are suggesting today, the nature of the subterranean world and its inhabitants has provided us with some of our longest-lasting mysteries.
The physical world, of natural caves, caverns, tunnels or constructed spaces underground, has often become a sanctuary in times of trouble, a place of safety for the living as well as the dead. Even though caves might be full of traps and dangers, they provided early peoples with shelter. They…
2020, how neat and new you look! You are an enigmatic egg, emerging from the womb of darkness and the passing of time. But we are twenty years into a new century and millennium, and what does the world look like? Remember the dire predictions of the collapse of our energy dependent, global society when our calendar was about to click over into the new millennium? The fuss was enough to make many people nervous. We are still battling fears—fear of what we have done or not done, especially in the last twenty years, and the helplessness we often feel as we look at the mess; fear of crazy politicians who seem to rise to power so easily on the backs of the ignorant, the angry and violent; fear of greedy corporations and the power they wield. And then there are all our personal fears to cope with as well.
It’s a long time since I wrote a blog, except for those used on our festival website (spiritofthehills); for as I chaired Spirit of the Hills Arts Association’s 2019 festival of the arts committee, the series of events we planned and executed consumed my time and me for many months. The committee’s dedication and constancy over this period were crucial and I am happy to report that the festival was a success. This being our second, we extended its length, added some new events to the core ones we developed last time and were delighted when the Lieutenant Governor Ontario accepted our invitation to visit and come to our opening reception. So, now as the snow is piling up and the colourful last days of October are long gone, what are we left with? Dramatic productions, dance performances, a concert and a multi-media afternoon involving poetry, videos, music…