what do we do?

Seriously.

What do we do? What do we write, or say, or create? Are we allowed to be happy amidst the misery and uncertainty of a global pandemic? Can we make plans for the future?

I haven’t written since early February and while I was already feeling plenty of uncertainty then, now everyone, everywhere, is feeling a level of uncertainty. Unprecedented. My husband chides me for using this word. “If I have to hear ‘unprecedented’ or ‘the new normal’ again…” (he finishes this statement with various and sometimes dramatic endings). We are all tired of the commercials, the corporate messages, the politics, and yet they continue.

And we are the lucky ones, with a house and food and jobs to busy ourselves, for now, anyway. When my mind wanders to those without these things, I don’t know what to do with the ache.

There is a pause happening in the world–a musical conductor with her baton poised, ready to begin the piece of music that just isn’t written yet, with instruments and musicians not yet materialized.

I shot a few rolls of film in February and early March, and then as this pandemic grew I froze. I put the cameras away, stopped writing. And that didn’t feel right, or make any sense, and I still have a shoebox (well, a hiking boot box) full of film, so the cameras have come out again. And the watercolors. And the pens and notebook. And I’m venturing into creative outlets again, and even if sometimes for a moment I feel selfish about that, it feels right and it makes sense out of the things that don’t make sense, and for that I’m grateful.

For those of us that have a strong need to feel control over things, we will have to learn to give up some of that in this new world. We still have to be strong for others, and we have to plan for futures that may or may not materialize, and we have to be okay with not knowing.

Right now, little white flowers called sand cress are blooming all over the open dunes. Fresh green shoots of dune grass are popping up amid the pale yellow grasses from last summer. The fern shoots are shoving their way into the sunlight and I will be here to hike on the ridge and watch them unfurl in the coming days. The trillium, I hope, will not have suffered from the recent polar vortex and will carpet the forest floor soon. Pandemic or not, overfull Great Lakes or not, these things continue. There is reassurance in this.

In February, when we were not worried about a virus but were very much worried about Lake Michigan’s rising waters, our diminishing protective bluff, and the impending decisions to be made about saving the cottage, I shot a few rolls of black and white film in the Minolta SRT-102, experimenting with some old Cokin filters. I shot the lighthouse with this ridiculous filter that has pink and yellow and red dots all over it and an eye shape in the center, with a clear “iris.” I tried to find samples on flickr and elsewhere but I don’t think anyone has found a good use for this filter, at least not with color film, so I tried it with black and white film and, well, I kind of love what it did to the Little Sable Point Lighthouse.

Little Sable Point Lighthouse, black and white film, and Cokin spot filter

I still have decisions to make about the cottage–big ones. The Great Lakes are still rising, and the future is pretty damn uncertain. But, I’m going to keep searching for ways to move through this.

2 thoughts on “what do we do?”

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