As of this week 44.7M people world-wide have contracted COVID19; a staggering “1,175,400 people have died, and the virus has been detected in nearly every country…” (Covid World Map). The United States has the highest number of cases, and has the great distinction of being first in deaths too. New cases are growing here and abroad, causing a round of new restrictions and major despair everywhere.
These sobering numbers don’t care about borders or politics or whether one’s dictator or elected president did more or less than they could, there has simply been an unprecedented spread of this contagion. Unlike many people, I see no silver lining in this pandemic or the collapse of our economy from one end of the globe clear around; COVID19 and our response to it is a shit-show which has taken away our sense of normalcy, safety, and mental health. If it hasn’t caused you to cry on the floor for at least 20 minutes every day, I have to wonder what type of gilded tower you have escaped to…
So, is there a silver lining you ask? Perhaps. I have been a year round swimmer for most of my life, but it has always been one activity out of many, and summer swimming is often interrupted by friends and family and travel and downtime. But during this one we spent our time in isolation from all of that, which, and here it is, one gift, plenty of time for long swims. I set a goal in June, when the lake water was still on the chilly side, to work up to swimming around Blueberry Island, about 1.2 miles. Not overly impressive to the swimmers in my family, but more than I had conditioned for in open water in the past. I guess that was the most rewarding, realizing that you can condition yourself over time, and by August, I did it. Multiple times. Over and over, into late September, and I loved every bit of those long swims.
In July I fell into another activity, more out of desperation than drive, but it created another silver lining all the same, and that is painting. In June, when people in our country started to balk at wearing a mask, I developed a rather debilitating anxiety, one that I could not shake. It really wasn’t about getting COVID19, but more about living in a country overrun with imbeciles. I know that isn’t nice to say, but seriously, if you don’t think that wearing a mask, or physical distancing, or in the danger inherent in gathering indoors with too many people, and all the other good advice given to us by people in the know, then you scare me. I don’t know what you’re thinking. Perhaps those same individuals don’t think it is time we all made sure that black and brown lives matter, in schools, in the workplace, in media, in government, in every avenue available? Or those of you slinging an AR-15 straight into the streets with your righteousness. Militia men? You stand behind inept gun-loving 17 year old murderers, but don’t defend teachers who stand in harms way to teach those nut jobs? You say you are pro-life but against health care for all? Of course, I understand how Republicans love their elephant and red ties and want to remember Eisenhower’s strength. Sadly you have let the wrong people run your party straight into ruin.
But back to painting…
I cleared out a corner in the garage, set up a few shelves, ordered a few tubes of paint, and just started. Emotion flooded my canvases, even though most of my canvases were actually cardboard I cut up or old plywood or scraps I found lying around. Even on trash nothing made me free like an hour of brushing color on board. Pure escape with each stroke with every line with every minute creating something from the chaos I was lost in. Cezanne said, “A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art.” I will not call what I do art, but it has brought me back to breathing while facing what I must, what we all must, on the daily. And that is something powerful.
I love moving from surface to surface, playing with color and finding my way in the chaos. Maybe I am preparing for the shit show we will all face early November, as Trump has “unleashed a barrage of false, unproven and sometimes unintelligible claims about mail-in voting” (Washington Post). I suppose that is unfair, the entire GOP is spewing more lies every minute than any reputable source could fact-check. Voter suppression is not new, sadly every brown or black voter since granted the right, could attest to their struggle to cast a vote, but this year they are really outdoing themselves, from stacking the court with unqualified judges who sold their tiny souls to an “erosion of restraints” in a “racially polarized party system” [to] clear the way for greater use of “stack-the-deck” strategies” (Berkley News). Oh, yeah, painting is really important this week for sure. And voting. However you can, please do that too. Vote.