A writer I know recently addressed a group of other writers by proclaiming, in a somewhat scolding tone, “If you’re not writing about the coronavirus, you’re not writing!”
Well, then, I guess I haven’t been writing. For despite the omnipresence of COVID – 19, global pandemics, lockdowns, social distancing, sheltering in place, self-quarantining, high-risk behavior, epicenters, ventilator and protective gear shortages, essential non-essential businesses, flattening the curve, economic collapse, and the myriad of other things spawned by the virus that pommel us daily and have usurped the vocabulary of living – despite all this, I seem to have continued to write about ordinary things that please and delight me, as if the world we knew hadn’t changed utterly only a few weeks ago.
Why is this so? I don’t think it’s simple denial, for like everyone else the virus and its immense fallout have become an omnipresent and unavoidable part of my daily consciousness and routine.
It may in part be an innate contrariness, for like most writers I recoil at being told what I must write about. Nor do I think it’s mainly because I feel I have nothing new to add to the dialogue about it – though that’s probably the case.
Mostly, though, I think it stems from my conviction that, just as the virus has the potential to overwhelm our medical resources if we don’t check it, so it can overwhelm our consciousness if we let it, blotting out everything else. In times like this – particularly in times like this, it seems to me important to remember what we love about our life here in this place and how it sustains us.
But I also know that no matter what I write, the virus will be present in it, spoken or unspoken, like the dull roar of the surf underlying everything we say or do. In the meantime, what I can do is to write about the things we value and appreciate, to push a little against the darkness that threatens to overwhelm us.
So, for at least until our lives are returned to us, I will likely continue to write about such things – about the magical movements of snakes in the grass, about the ethereal spiral of the hermit thrush’s song, about the daredevil height of osprey nests, about the simple joys of local baseball games (when there were games), about the opportunistic rewards of beach combing, about the extraordinary architecture of mimosa trees, about the joys of local gathering places…In other words, about the thousand and one simple pleasures and surprises that make me cherish my life here.
And now it’s time to get back to writing, because the peepers in the bog below our house are singing like there’s a tomorrow.