Reflections on Quarantine Past

Life changes regularly. Some changes are gradual, with fuzzy edges, perhaps, while others are more defined.

Before I retired, I found a couple items in the three-dollar bins they had at my local craft store. They had the slogan “Unlock your Dreams & Explore your new Reality” boldly displayed. That slogan became my retirement motto seven years ago. Retirement was one of those life changes with sharply defined edges.

My dreams after retirement were mostly fulfilled. I took community education classes at both the local community college and public school district, classes on Tai Chi, drawing, ballroom dancing (before my daughter’s wedding), and memoir writing. I taught college classes to future teachers and wrote a book, both of which I had dreamt of doing. I must admit, the book topic that found me was not the book I planned on writing, but I am so glad I decided to meet with families of children with autism. I started planting simple veggies in my gardens – lettuce, snow peas, kale, tomatoes. I extended my herb gardens.  I volunteered as a conversation tutor for adult English language learners and put in a few hours on occasion at a food pantry. I lunched with friends regularly.  I liked my new Reality. Then in March 2020 came COVID-19 and quarantine. My reality exploded. This moment of quarantine had concrete edges.

My book had just come out six months prior to quarantine. With the enthusiasm of a new author, albeit one that is not fond of marketing myself, I had lined up book signings and small speaking engagements which came to an abrupt halt in March. My volunteer opportunities also stopped suddenly. I couldn’t wander the aisles of craft stores for inspiration or the library for reading material.

Life seemed surreal, so surreal, in fact, that each morning when I woke up, the first thing I did was peak through the curtains to see if the world around me was still intact. Were the homes across the street still standing or had they turned into rubble overnight or even totally disappeared? Were there people in sight, walking or working in the yard? Or were my husband and I the last people left? It sounds strange now, even to myself, but that’s what I did for a few weeks.

My first steps at creating a new reality came in the form of learning how to meet people virtually.  So many of us have a whole new virtual skill set now, don’t we? I became a Pinterest junkie and discovered a new hobby I had never known existed. And You-tube was full of information, samples, and how-tos. My local public library stepped up with curbside pickup for books. They offered virtual classes every day on an unimaginable array of topics. Sign me up, please.  

I learned that crafters are now called makers. Funny. I don’t know when that happened. I also learned that crocheting, which I have done since I was a child, is now back in vogue. I am now a maker who joined daily challenges offered by, of course, my library. Through the library, I also have a free subscription to Creative Bug, a site which offers videos on many forms of mindful making.

As a maker I extended my repertoire of crochet stitches and embroidery stitches. I learned how to create some fun and passably decent watercolor cards and improved my drawing skills through library classes, challenges, and weekly art club. I pulled out my amazing set of Prismacolor colored pencils which were a gift after I first retired. I tried new techniques with these pencils. My all-time favorite new hobby is slow stitching, a meditative stitching form that employs embroidery and scraps of fabric, buttons, and lace.

In crochet, I have to count stitches to make sure a doll or animal turns into a cylindrically shaped item and not an afghan. I have always enjoyed crocheting items but the reason slow stitching is so relaxing is that there is no right or wrong process or product.  “Embrace the imperfections” is what I’ve read. Just stitch and see what happens. I also like repurposing and reusing fabric pieces, old lace, old buttons, etc.

I began by slow stitching  bookmarks. By nature of their use, bookmarks need to be flat.

I moved on to a large project, a four seasons piece composed of four eight by ten seasonal pieces, eventually joined together. Exploring the gradual change of the seasons seemed like an appropriate form of art for last year. Because thickness would not be a problem if I framed the piece on top of the glass rather than under it, I added layers of stitches as well as beads, buttons, and even a piece of chain from my jewelry making days. (If you look closely at the sunflower, you can see the chain forms the stem.) The four seasons work fits into a poster frame.

From there, I moved on to small four by six pieces. Somehow birds kept popping up in the little pieces. These, also, have depth. Many of those became greeting cards since I was not going into stores to buy cards. I created other small pieces, a pouch, a cover for an e-reader, a cover for a composition book, and a Christmas tree skirt. This is definitely a hobby I embraced.

Now summer is here. My gardens are calling.  All the local mandates have been lifted. People are moving around the world as though COVID-19 is not still hiding in the shadows. I am not spending my whole day making things. I’m starting to re-enter the world.

I am looking for new dreams to unlock. The world around me is changing again and I don’t think my old dreams are no longer. We will see.

It is, once again, a New Reality!

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