When the world sort of ground to a stuttered, bewildered stop; when plans were canceled one by one, many scrambled to translate formerly physical events into online experiences. Online school, church services, counseling, book clubs, science camps, church camps, even our kids’ school field day activities were exclamation-pointed and hyped and promoted enthusiastically; maybe over-enthusiastically, begging to be an exciting alternative in the year of the plague. It was an extended reach for normalcy, to not lose too much.
But I, odd bird, dove in to the quiet, the natural flow of time un-chopped. Between cooking for my large brood of children who were ever-present and ever-hungry, I delved into mask making and new handicrafts. I studied Norwegian, took long walks on local trails, picked berries, played board games, and had good chats with my chickens, parakeet, rabbits, and bees. I learned to carve spoons, weave rugs, make apple cider vinegar, and currant jam. I realize, of course, that my experience is a privileged one; not everyone has the opportunity to stay home, nor to enjoy nature at leisure, nor to have a spouse that is supportive and takes over childcare so I can care for my introverted self. I speak only from my experience, that is all.Some felt that the world had gone mad, but for me it felt as though the world was exorcised of the soul-crushing Demons of Hurry, of Hyper-Schedule, of Busy. Even if it was a forced hard stop, it felt like an opportunity for reflection, meditation, and appreciation of all that we normally speed past. I barely breathe in our harried culture; I was finally breathing deep.
But for others the lockdown was like prison; deprivation, loss, stress, and some anger. Okay, a lot of anger. We experienced some of that, especially navigating online schooling with spotty internet, borrowed devices, and missed Zoom meetings, not to mention the mess of papers, books, cords, uncapped markers, and so on. That was unpleasant indeed, and I feel no need to spin it otherwise. No exclamation points necessary.
Once school was finished I felt free; gone were the screens, the frustration, the cords which tripped me. In my email inbox came the invitations to Virtual This and Virtual That, and I knew beyond a doubt that for me, they were Virtually Futile. In order to experience in the smallest way an online event required a massive coordination of efforts. We live in a small, old, three bedroom home, all eight of us, and there is always someone yelling, laughing, screaming, or needing something. We have a separate studio space that would seem ideal for such, but our wifi doesn’t stretch that far, so our one device (an eight year old laptop with a cracked screen), cannot be of use there. I tried using my husband’s phone (I do not have one), but it had other issues and I’ve yet to make a Zoom meeting function without panic and sweat.
In order for me to participate in anything I need to be physically there. My home is too loud and too little equipped with technology, and also…
I need to be where my body is. In this I do not argue for a return to normal; heaven forbid while the plague still rages! But I do suggest that we live with loss as gracefully as we can. That we give thanks for all we can do rather than manufacture virtual substitutes thereof. That is just my opinion; I give you plenty of room to appreciate online offerings to your heart’s content, but maybe too, leaning into the loss and seeing what gifts it offers when it takes.