Lessons I Didn’t Learn on Zoom
The pandemic has taught me that ugliness is the only definition of beauty. That beauty can be found in the most mundane places. That the mirror is beautiful. That life pivots on the balance that we ourselves define. That we can be as happy as we can be sad. That the half glass is only as empty as it is full. That God lives through nature and nature lives through us. That Little Earthy feels just as we do, and takes breaks just as we do. That love is essential. That love is essential. That love is essential.
— Ahmed Ali (Tubli, Bahrain)
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My glasses fog; my mask sucks in as I breathe. My toddler grandson looks at me but can’t see my smile. He cries. “We’re safe. We’ll social distance. Spread antiseptic after each bathroom use.” The baby plays on the floor ten feet away. I wave. I readjust my seat cushion so I won’t be in pain like last night. They wipe down the dinner dishes, tiptoe to me; hand me my plate. I take the other end while they scurry back to the safe zone. After four days of “being with” my children, why am I so depressed?
— Phyliss Merion Shanken (Atlantic City, New Jersey)
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COVID: a burden, a reminder
Ding! Phone notifications make my stomach drop. What’s wrong? My touch ID fails, my mind is flustered. Preseason cancelled? School cancelled? Where will I go? “It doesn’t matter,” I convince myself on those nights, overwhelmed with guilt. Hands chapped, touch ID fails again. Anxiety weighs heavy. Is my family safe? Is she home yet? Can mom wait without a doctor? Now an empty summer approaches. I helplessly want to help. Do I risk my safety for loved ones? I’d be okay… right? Still, there’s beauty in disarray. Coronavirus reminds me of what matters, what I have. I’m vulnerable, but grateful.
— Celine Pirard (Cologny, Geneva, Switzerland)
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An Evening Rain-shower
Yesterday, I saw the heavens open up. I stood in the grass, arms uplifted, and marveled at the gentle teardrops streaking through the air. For a moment, I forgot who I was. For a moment, it was like I didn’t exist.
That night, as I sat in my room accompanied by the groaning sky, I thought I had been deceived. Amidst our crumbling world, an unfeeling moment feels like a betrayal. Today, impulse leans us toward hyperawareness – not apathy.
What is the rain to give me permission to forget? What is the rain to patch that hole?
— Claire Yuan (Woodbridge, Connecticut)
This series is edited by Thomas Peterson. One of the editors of Artists & Climate Change, he is also a theatre director and researcher whose work focuses on the climate crisis.