Monday, March 30, 2020

Trapped in the Amber

Well. Hello. How are we all coping? 

It has been a few sleeps. Last I blogged it was Valentine's Day. You can read that - - - > here. It was a lifetime ago, truly.

I've had thoughts on the tip of my tongue for about a week now, & I'm going to try to sort through them here. Since you're trapped in your home & maybe need a break from Netflix or obsessively consuming all the horrible news you are more than welcome to join me if you're so inclined.

What in the world? I mean what in the world, right? These are strange days. I guess since this vicious virus began to sweep the nation most everyone's life has changed in some way, though that largely depends on your occupation &/or whether or not you have kids.

Our day to day life is dramatically different. We are two weeks into our homeschooling journey. The kids have actually been out of school for three weeks as their Spring Break fell the week before schools across the state were closed until at least April 13. Their Spring Break falling when it did was a blessing since it meant they were at home a full week prior to this thing exploding in our state of Louisiana. 

Reagan handles herself so well. She is getting her work done largely on her own. Henry & I are struggling. Henry is a smart young man, but he is also a six-year-old boy who doesn't enjoy sitting still. He still, two weeks in, thinks it is hilarious that I am his teacher now, & when we sit to work most sessions begin with us going round & round about the need for him to stop giggling. 

I drove around town with the kids one night last week just to get us out of the house for an hour or so. We visited with my sister in her driveway (with appropriate distance between everyone), & she took this photo while we were there. It is the perfect visual to depict my attempt to homeschool Henry.

One day when they're older maybe the kids will understand why they could not get out of the car.

The Public Speaking class I'm teaching this semester is now taught exclusively online. While I am keeping my end of the deal & dutifully sharing videos of myself, lovely lecture notes, & a variety of other educational materials, sadly some of my students seem to be unaware that to take a class online means you must occasionally be online & engage with the material. 

Even crazier than all of the above is that for the last three weeks we haven't been to church. We literally have nothing on our schedule, no structure, in a way that we've never experienced before, not even in the summer. This situation is not necessarily bringing out the best in me. My sleeping habits are kind of terrible. I consume too much news & too many chips. Thankfully we're getting the kids' school work done despite the lack of a rigid schedule, because let me tell you, Global Pandemic Anna is, thus far, not a thing of grace & beauty. 

It seems overly optimistic at this point to think our church will meet on Easter Sunday. This last week I texted Henry's teacher his height because they are going to order caps & gowns for Kindergarten graduation. I don't know if there will be a Kindergarten graduation for Henry this May. I know he doesn't care, but I do hate this for the kids. They miss their friends. Their teachers miss them. At this point it seems unlikely school will resume in Louisiana on April 13. I am heartbroken for high school & college seniors. The phrase from James the Lord willing crosses my mind ten times a day. 

My trip to Scotland has been rescheduled for next May. I suspected this would be the case, & I am ultimately glad. Even if the virus situation doesn't look as bleak as it does now when May rolls around I'd rather not travel through international airports & try to enjoy large cities like Glasgow while constantly worrying. Now I have another year to anticipate the trip. I have another year to search online for amazing matching T-shirts my mother & sister & I can wear. I have another year to make progress with the Outlander novels. I have another year to share Outlander gifs with everyone I know. Claire & Jamie were separated for twenty years & by two centuries, so I can certainly wait one more year to head to Scotland. 

I am obviously bummed that Scotland has been moved, but unless the Lord has something verra dramatic in store Scotland will be there a year from now. As I told my sister yesterday, now that I have an extra year to prepare for the trip I have absolutely zero excuses for not meeting my fitness & plaid attire goals before departure. 

Despite reading too much news & reading other people's thoughts & feelings about this strange new reality in which we find ourselves I could not, despite having time on my hands to do so, find words to capture the moment. It's been frustrating me to no end for about a week. I read a suggestion on Twitter the other day, a very good suggestion, that we ought to catalogue this time via journals, letters, blogs, etc. In the same way we dig through stories & accounts of the Spanish Flu pandemic from the last century so too will future generations, our own currently young children & their children, one day ask us about & read about what we are experiencing right now. I usually cannot read a poem or a news article without feeling the urge to sit & write an essay, & yet here I sit in the middle of a global pandemic, trapped in my house every day, & I have not been able to string two words together regarding these strange days.

I finally figured out why the other night. I came across the Kurt Vonnegut quote above: Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why

I usually enjoy writing because it helps me sort through things, my own thoughts & feelings. There's no sorting through this. I haven't come to a crossroads where I need to make a decision about something; I am holed up in my home with my kids  hoping & praying my loved ones remain free of a scary virus. We all feel trapped, even those of us who still leave home daily to go to work. We have all been reminded in a visceral way that we are not in control of much of anything. Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.  

There is no why. That's the hard part. Our lives have been upended, & there is no why. Nearly everything is on hold, & the enemy we are fighting, the enemy from whom we are fleeing, is a virus you cannot even see without a microscope. I turn to words for clarity, for a sense of control, but words feel small & useless in the face of a global pandemic.

Naturally the image that comes to mind when I read Vonnegut's words is the iconic image from Jurassic Park, the mosquito trapped in amber that tops John Hammond's cane. 

I've been watching Jurassic Park & Jurassic World the last few weeks. I don't always give them my full attention, often turning them on in the background as I work to create & load things for my now-online class. I have always loved these movies. I will tell you why. They're entertaining, for one, but there is so much chaos & destruction in these films. I love it. I love it because, as I've come to realize, dinosaurs are one thing I will surely never have to face or fear. I am not watching Outbreak or Contagion right now. As I get older, & especially since I've had kids, I shy away from films depicting horrors I could possibly face, but a gigantic, angry T-Rex, well, I can & do enjoy the destructive chaos he causes. 

I love the character of John Hammond. I love the little short film in the original Jurassic Park that depicts the process of finding the mosquito trapped in amber, extracting dinosaur DNA, & using it to create the wonders of Jurassic Park. Michael Crichton was a smart man & a good writer, & it's a shame he died in 2008 because he would find what's happening right now completely fascinating. 

We are trapped in the amber of the moment. We want desperately to wriggle free. We all had plans that have been postponed or potentially cancelled. Maybe there is some purpose to it. Maybe something useful will one day be extracted from what's unfolding now. I don't know. I know God is always teaching, or attempting to teach, us things. There are certainly lessons to be learned right now. Still, it's hard to tell a high school senior that God is using a global pandemic to teach people lessons. Those words will not be well received by a college baseball player who was excited about his final season. The why of now is excruciating for some. We are used to (the illusion of) control, & things feel completely out of control right now. 

I will end with a thought inspired by Peeta Mellark of Hunger Games fame. Peeta, as many of you know, experiences serious trauma at the hands of the Capitol. They essentially attempt to erase his memories, & his storyline throughout the final book in that series is the story of him clawing his way back to sanity, back to himself . . . & yes, back to Katniss. Peeta & Katniss initiate a little ritual that he turns to when he gets frustrated or confused. He is confused about basic things that once were certainties to him, & one night he asks her about her favorite color:

At a few minutes before four, Peeta turns to me again. "Your favorite color . . . it's green?" 
"That's right." Then I think of something to add. "And yours is orange." 
"Orange?" He seems unconvinced. 
"Not bright orange. But soft. Like the sunset," I say. "At least, that's what you told me once." 

"Oh." He closes his eyes briefly, maybe trying to conjure up that sunset, then nods his head. "Thank you." 

But more words tumble out. "You're a painter. You're a baker. You like to sleep with the windows open. You never take sugar in your tea. And you always double-knot your shoelaces." 

Then I dive into my tent before I do something stupid like cry.

I've found myself doing a similar thing these past two weeks, just repeating (usually not aloud) a refrain of what I know is true. It can be grounding during this turbulent time. You could even make a list if you're a list person.

I am Anna.
I am Gordon & Susan's daughter.
I am Trey's wife, mother to Reagan & Henry.
I am an American. 
I love coffee & drink it black.
I love to make lists.
Jesus is Lord.
I am immeasurably blessed. 

See? All as true today as they were weeks ago before all this mayhem began. Is it too dramatic? I do not think so. This situation seems about as dystopian as The Hunger Games, minus the love triangle, of course.

I pray you're hanging in there. It seems like there are a thousand additional things I could say, but again, it's just all so surreal. We don't know what happens next. I suppose that's always true. 

Enjoy your Netflix. Wash your hands. Thank a healthcare worker. Say your prayers. 

From quarantine, I am respectfully yours, 


1 comment:

  1. Anna, what a delight to discover your blog! I am also a blogger who lives in Louisiana, and enjoys Outlander, Henry Cavill and John Krasinski. Oh, and of course, coffee. Like you, my blog has been a very useful outlet for my busy brain, especially these days. I look forward to exploring your blogs further and I hope you will visit mine,