Laura Davis Hays, November 9, 2020.
On March 3, 2020, I was flying back from Los Angeles, traveling out of Burbank through Phoenix into Albuquerque. I had a slight cold and cough, something I thought I’d picked up from my granddaughter, Gemma. In the airports, I started noticing people wearing masks, even gloves, but I did not know much about the reason. Just some germ-phobic travelers, I thought, or maybe religious women whose faces needed to be covered for the sake of propriety.
Once home, my symptoms grew worse. By then I was reading newspaper reports about Covid 19, including instructions not to waste time and medical resources by having a test. So I didn’t.
Certainly now, if I’d just traveled out of state through multiple airports, had attended a packed event to hear my son Gabe’s string quartet performed, an event where I was greeted by Cesar, my young cousin, where I celebrated with Gabe and his friends over drinks and pizza late into the night, I would know I was at risk. Some weeks later, Gabe and Cesar both experienced weird flulike symptoms including shortness of breath and body aches, and, despite negative tests, both believe they had Covid. Perhaps they’d gotten it at a subsequent event they attended together. Perhaps they’d both been carrying it in early March when I was with them.
I’ll likely never know. Now we are having the third record-breaking spike with the holidays upon us, and the governor has cancelled Thanksgiving and Christmas is looking iffy. Now we are habituated to a new lifestyle of masks and social distancing and working from home. We’re not going out to bars or restaurants, not taking family trips, not going to nail salons, or to the gym. Most everyone I know has let their hair grow long, or go gray. Fancy clothes sit in closets, high heels stay in the shoe rack, lipsticks have lost themselves in drawers. Sneakers and comfortable pants, same clothes every day, why not? It’s like we’re traveling and everything boils down to our wits, and what’s in our suitcase.
So how does writing fit into all of this?
I am currently working on multiple projects, as always. One is a sequel to my novel, Incarnation, and then there’s the sequel to that sequel. Another is a book of short fiction based on my Danish ancestry, including the final novella, The Clever Bear. Another is a new YA novel about two girls in search of a mother on a dystopian world with two suns. Plus, I’m sending out old stories and two have been accepted for publication. I’ve hired a writing coach, and a web designer/marketing expert. I’m reading books on writing, watching master classes on my computer. I’m obsessed, full of ideas. Stories write themselves in my head faster than I can put them down on the page. All this, despite racking up an extra 200 plus hours in my business so far this year.
So what’s different?
Time is part of it.
I read about a woman who hopes to keep working from home after the pandemic is over. She’s using her former commute time to have a proper breakfast, meditate and stretch; in the evening she goes for a run before dinner. I too have been finding a little bit of writing time before work, and the computer is often on my lap as I have a glass of wine in the evenings. These moments add up.
But it’s something else, too.
I believe many of us have become sharper and more direct in our thinking. We’ve learned to solve problems quickly with what’s at hand. We’ve gained new computer skills. Zoom and Face Time, remote learning, video streaming, posting. With restaurants closed, we’re cooking more with fewer trips to the grocery, so we’ve become more creative about food—three times a day. That creativity spills over into other arenas, feeding back into our stories, our songs, our teaching, our sewing, our parenting, our entrepreneurial projects, or whatever we need to do to survive and feel human.
Being home-bound is another layer of the change. I know friends who’ve cleaned their houses top to bottom, and then started over and done it again. Spring cleaning on steroids. Anecdotally, the construction industry in my hometown of Santa Fe is going strong. Remodels, additions, studios and workshops, home gyms. People want to feather their nests.
For me, Cancerian crab that I am, staying home is among my greatest pleasures. Writing, eating leftovers, nesting with the cats, reading, playing piano, watching shows, whoopee! Writing and more writing.
Not to say it’s all smooth and productive. Nor am I immune to resistance and distractions. But I feel as though circumstances are pushing me towards my dreams as time rushes on with no certainty of a return to normal.
I believe the subconscious mind, the hidden shadows of our beings, have emerged to replace outer preoccupations. Even if depressed and lonely, we feel something happening on a deeper level, something changing inside, maybe even something marvelous. The inner goddess is irrepressible. She demands we look for more beauty, more simplicity, more gratitude, more sweetness amidst the horrors and the craziness.
As 2020 creeps to a close, the future looms, and a sense of urgency with it. What will happen when we all go back to normal? Will we be dancing in the streets? Will we return to our old habits? Will our creative endeavors fall away?
I doubt it. The inspiration lies within and has taken hold. The outer slowing is like a meditation, the chatter stops, and we can hear. The Muse is us.
From the internet I learned that Isaac Newton invented calculus and discovered gravity during the plague and Shakespeare wrote King Lear. During the 1918 pandemic, TS Eliot wrote the Wasteland, Virginia Wolfe wrote Mrs. Dalloway. Now during the 2020 pandemic, multiple groups of scientists have fast-tracked vaccines, and art has taken on new shapes. Genius and discovery unleashed by the times. Necessity and opportunity meet.
For me, it boils down to living out of our metaphorical suitcases. We are traveling a new road. Our heads are up, we’re watching, changing, while around us, the exotic world blooms. We have time and space, focus, quiet, creativity, and urgency.
In the this time of Covid, we know grief and are intimate with anxiety. We’ve had time to slow down and contemplate, to be alone with ourselves, to consider our futures, to reinvent them. It’s like a long winter with the promise of the best spring ever. And in that spring, the stories of our unconscious mind will be revealed. These, the deeper, more beautiful truths that our hearts and souls long to share.
This is my fervent prayer.