Art and Life in the Time of Coronavirus
Adapted from my diary-in-progress, “Art, Yoga, and Life in the Time of Coronavirus”. These are the first three entries. Once I am caught up, I will post daily.
Tuesday, March 11th, 2020
I do not feel equal to this task, but have been thinking for weeks about keeping a diary on my experience of our world gone crazy/scary. So, to begin.
I have been reading everything the NY Times has written about this pandemic (finally named as such by the WHO today) from early January, though lately I cannot keep up with all of the articles. As soon as any reliable info began to come out of China in mid-January, it became clear to me that this thing was going to come at us like a freight train—one only had to read carefully to see that.
I have made myself unpopular for several months by voicing my opinion. I understand the need to stay calm— in fact, it was only by staying calm that I was able to absorb new information and put things together. But human avoidance behavior has left us unprepared, worldwide. Panic can affect our health and the stock market, but trying to minimize the situation is what has allowed the virus to spread quickly.
As always, my antidotes are making art and doing yoga. I am incredibly lucky that I will still be able to do these things even when/if I land in quarantine. I am also fortunate to live with my husband, and in a rural community where I can take long walks; work in my yard, sit on my screened-in back porch; and move freely to and from my timberframe studio, a few steps away from our back steps—all without endangering or risking infection from other people. Further, Jack and I have always worked at home, so the adjustment will be easier than for many.
Today I am playing catch-up in my studio, tweaking prints from our session at the Woodstock School of Art on Monday; and wiring and labeling a large canvas to be delivered this Monday to a private art consultant who is determinately getting business done…while the getting is still possible. Fingers crossed that she manages to show the piece before the corporation that is interested in it for their boardroom closes down.
On Monday, we said goodbye in Woodstock to our artist friends from Nantucket who visited the area as part of a continuing exchange. Hugs all around, even after much conversation about social distancing on all weekend. (On Friday evening I showed them the Ebola Elbow Bump, which none of them were familiar with. This illustrates how fast things are moving—by Sunday or Monday, the whole nation seemed to have that down.) These are probably my last friendly hugs until this thing has come and gone.
Yesterday, Tuesday, when we visited our Dad in Oneonta, my sister and I did not meet him at his retirement community, opting instead for a restaurant—in an area with no known cases–and no hugs. This was probably my last meal out for a while.
In our area in the Catskills, so many folks—including my sister—are back and forth to the metro area all of the time. I assume that the virus is here, but has not yet been identified.
This morning on the phone with my friend Jenny, I observed that weekenders from the NYC area were all soon going to be holing up in their country homes. A few hours later, I saw my New Rochelle —a hot spot for the virus in NYS—neighbor’s car in her driveway, and an hour after that my Brooklyn neighbor walked by with his dog.
That is surely what I would do in their shoes.
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Thursday, March 13th.
We have no known cases of Covid-19 yet in our immediate area, but all assume that it is just a question of days, or hours. Events are being cancelled right and left and I decided yesterday that I will not be going out to eat or to any large group events. I was supposed to have a bite with a friend last night, but decided that, even with social distancing, eating out at a place frequented by travelers with someone who came back from Indonesia a week ago Sunday with a four-hour layover in Tokyo just no longer feels sensible.
We are all in that teetering spot of deciding to pull the plug on our plans…or not yet.
I will go to yoga tonight here in Chichester, and taught yesterday both at the Zen Mountain Monastery and at Catskills Yoga House, taking lots of care. I have discussed protocol at CYH again with Sara today and she is disinfecting like mad and encouraging students and teachers to bring their own props, which I have been doing at the ZMM but only partially doing at CYH. Our groups tend to be smallish and the space is ample, and classes are going to be smaller now, as well, no doubt. No kapalabhati breathing (vigorously expelling air through the nostrils) or hands-on assists, which I had already implemented myself recently.
It seems not yet the time to pull the plug on this incredibly lovely and healing practice. But that, too, is looming. I have encouraged Sara, who supports herself and her six-year-old son with her teaching, to think about how she could offer at least a few classes a week remotely.
I am not worried at present about the Zen Mountain Monastery group that I am teaching at 7am two days a week, since they have been in retreat as a group for over two weeks now and it will be the same cohort tomorrow and next week. And then a week off, and we will see what happens after that. And if next week doesn’t look good, I will cancel that, too.
The virus isn’t even here yet and we are all so stressed out.
In the studio, I tweaked and finished a few of my collages and am preparing canvases with my dark gesso blend. I have not been able to concentrate well with all of the phone calls and texting with sisters and Sara, and also my good friend Jenny.
These collages are small, 5″x5″ or 7″x5″, but a bit larger than I was doing last fall. They rely on my own dyed rice and mulberry papers which I arrange and manipulate during their drying time to create interesting textures. This has been a new exploration within my collage groupings, allowing me to create open and simple arrangements on the boards. A few other types of papers and bit of paint here and there helps.
I might have to leave my phone in the house tomorrow and turn off NPR so I can focus on painting, which I need to do both for my deadlines (should they still apply) and for my sanity.
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Friday, March 13th
8:30am: Yoga last night was lovely, and Sara had worked hard to shift to safe prop use and also be reassuring. It might be the last class that I take for a while, and we will see about teaching on Sunday.
The Woodstock yoga studios closed down yesterday. There is one confirmed case in Kingston and four further south in Ulster Co. In light of the lack of a cogent federal response, especially in regard to testing for Covid-19, organizations are proactively closing down or canceling events. We should be following the Korean model of widespread testing, but there is no leadership at the top. Incredible that we can’t get this done. Hoping that NY State will manage.
At my 7am gig at the ZMM I left a note at the door asking people to bring their own props in from the other room (whereas, just Wednesday, I brought them all in ahead of time). This is to protect them as much as me. I wonder, in the silence of their Ango, do they even know what is going on? I don’t know what the guidelines are about digital media use.
This was my forth class there. I had initially been finding the inward nature and silence of their yoga practice within the retreat to be a little disquieting in a hard-for-me-to-read sort of way, compared to my classes at Catskills Yoga House.
Today, I found it calming.
I gassed up today on my way back from teaching, deciding to pay more at the Phoenicia place rather then later in Boiceville, a potentially more crowded stop. I am now calculating that the lower the per-capita usage is, the better the odds are of not encountering the virus.
Such thoughts seem like those of a paranoid crazy person. Despite the relatively early warning that I had with my tracking of the virus, at moments I cannot believe that this is our new reality. And it is going to get much, much worse—these decisions now are almost like a dress rehearsal.
5:15: I think I finished this 24″x36″, will know for sure when I give it a fresh look in the morning. In a way that is quite timely, I painted this piece to add to new works for my May online show with Butters Gallery in Portland.
Butters Gallery went to a digital and by appointment modality about a year and a half ago, but still have 10 or so pieces of mine on the website and in storage. We decided to combine these with work from my studio, which I will set aside for the duration of the show, shipping sold work from here.
It feels most appropriate to work this way at this point in time. We will see if anyone has any money to spend in mid-May and June, but at least the personal contact/social distancing piece has already been taken care of.