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December 06, 2021


So beautiful, Beth, as always.

My pandemic season has been particularly poignant, as I got sober at the end of 2019-- just a few months before the pandemic struck. The pandemic in some ways made the commitment to sobriety easier, as there were no bars to go out to and no social settings to tempt me, and on the other more difficult, as evidenced by the skyrocketing alcohol consumption that occurred in the US. (The number of times in 2020 where I thought I'd picked the worst year ever to quit drinking!)

The reason I share this, though, is that there continues to me to be so many parallels between quitting an addiction and weathering a pandemic, especially when it comes to these long plateaus that feel like stagnation and anomie, when nothing seems to change and you forget that just surviving-- just holding things together-- is a nearly heroic accomplishment, and counts as progress enough.

Beautifully put and beautifully drawn - I identify with all of this.

I'm asking myself how much of my "productivity" was proving my value to those I worked for (or myself); how much "social life" was the ego salve of being known and desired. Not all of it was that, but the pandemic has caused me to be more discerning. I have had, during the past nearly two years, some deeply-connected conversations and experiences that I doubt I'd have had during the busy before-time.

A son returned from a trip to his childhood home town and told me his favourite bakery was still open but the hours were so erratic and mysterious that he'd given up buying one of his favourite tarts. That seems a metaphor for what life is like for young adults now, and there's no sign saying what the opening hours are. Noses pressed against the window, wondering when they can get in.

Perhaps it is simply more of the same struggle--the pandemic has been revelation and laying bare of existing truths we may find difficult. After Modernism and its aftershocks, in a realm of often spiritless art (and science, and government), we must find our own field and till our own soil. That way lies healing.

That said, the cruelty of the times to the very old (early on, dying in some semi-abandoned nursing home--ah, New York, you failed in love!) and to the young (thrust into ways of learning that deny human faces by masking, or our need for the physical presences of one another) is a heartbreaker.

"these long plateaus that feel like stagnation and anomie, when nothing seems to change and you forget that just surviving-- just holding things together-- is a nearly heroic accomplishment, and counts as progress enough."

Siona, thank you for your honesty here and also for expressing this truth - that is exactly it, isn't it? And for so many of us, the pandemic revealed our addictions - to shopping, to food and drink, to going out and partying with friends, to being so busy that we really didn't have to live with ourselves, or the people we supposedly love. No wonder everyone wanted things to go the way things had been. And I wonder how many have actually faced those addictions. But I'm so glad that you did, and know it must have been particularly hard during such a time.

Damn-demic. You put the whole thing in words better than I could have done. I think both paintings compliment each other nicely, and I see them as a bit of a diptych.

As always, i relate to everything you say. Those of us who create must always be kind to ourselves. I keep saying, Slow and steady wins the race. It's a cliche for a reason.

It gives a sense of relief to know that others are going through the same confusion that I am, that I am not alone in this and in the feelings of hopelessness that sometimes arise. Reading your words and how you have articulated the difficult feelings and emotions that all of us are going through provides balm. The summing up, your last paragraph, is very true and it is what I will take from this post and carry with me.

Edward, I agree, the fable of the hare and the tortoise is a favorite of mine, because it really is true. And creative tasks that feel overwhelming and huge become less so when we tackle them in small pieces day by day, as I know you're doing with your writing. Bon courage!

Priya, it helps me to know that you share some of these feelings. I don't remember a time in my life that has felt like such a rollercoaster of moods; I try to be steady but it just hasn't been possible. Writing things out has been a help; so is going to the studio or trying to draw on a regular basis. I've loved seeing your drawings and photographs, and especially the exotic (to me) blossoms and pods you collect and then use in your work. Continuity of intention and purpose, halfway around the world -- there is something comforting in that.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.