It’s taken me a little while to settle down and focus on making something specific these past few weeks. The world has been ravaged by a virus that prompted acts of courage, as well as political calculations and irrational policies. As during any crisis, heroes saved the day or at least the hour; villains, idiots, and villainous idiots gave humans a bad name. The majority of us, mere mortals, caught in between, tried to simply figure out what to do.
One thing soon became clear to most: the fastest antidote to the pandemic, if not to the virus itself, was self-isolation. As one of the privileged few not immediately (physically or economically) at risk, I was barely affected by the confinement orders themselves. The disease's progression, the wave of suffering it created, and the uncertainty of the future have dragged me down. I can't help but worry about my more vulnerable friends and family members. I am especially weary of the distance separating me from my aging parents, who live on another continent, and whom I probably won't be able to visit for a very long time.
Still, well aware of my good fortune to be able to "shelter in place" in a green and peaceful environment, I have set up shop in my backyard. Using leftover wire from previous projects, I have been making small sculptures. Some are reminiscent of trees, others pod-like. I thought to liven them up with lichen collected from fallen branches and twigs during walks. I added air plants for variety, and because they, like lichen, survive on nutrients in the air, light and a simple, if regular, spritz of water.
Once again, making art has helped me to process chaos and make some sense of it. These miniature ecosystems remind me of life during the pandemic. Arranging plants and lichen in their various wire niches, I think of our homes containing our lives, and families having to share limited space. Some of them are reunited after living independently, a challenging yet worthy exercise in communication and adaptability.
I look at my “life pods", and they make me smile. I remember the words of a teacher I recently heard interviewed (on podcast The Daily, “The Struggle to Teach From Afar”). She talked about how she was envisioning her classroom during the pandemic. She said one of the things she was going to miss most was the "calming caddy." It was a collection of simple things, such as a little stuffed animal or scented lotion. A child could pick these items up to help them deal with powerful emotions and bring them gently back to the classroom.
I hope everyone can find a little something to lift their spirits and lighten, even briefly, the weight of the world on their shoulders, a little something to remind them of how life, even when confined, can flourish. One silver lining of the pandemic might be how it makes us look inwards and, if only for a minute, find pleasure and hope in simple things.
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