In mid-April, snow fell on Chicago. In spring, snow would upset me, along with the cold, the gray, The shut-in order changed much for me.
I now welcome the snow.
Conjuring that comforting safe place, I hark back to a sweet if hectic December: Driving like mad with my sister, up and down Route 1 between Walpole and Norwood, MA, helping her finish endless tasks: buying chocolates for the dry cleaner, the police, the letter carrier. Stocking up on wine, snacks, and sweets for the Christmas dessert party for her in-laws.
Late nights watching silly childhood Christmas specials (Mr. Magoo, A Year Without a Santa Claus), hearing the bells of Blessed Sacrament church all fill my mind as I observe the scene outside. The emptiness, my coffee, and oatmeal reinforce my coziness.
I’ve turned to two women who lived through both the first and second world wars for guidance. The French writer Collette (b. 1873) and the English painter Vanessa Bell (b.1879) lost loved ones to Spanish flu and typhoid. Throughout, they wrote, they painted.
As women born at the turn of the 20th century, they operated within the shut-in/work from home mentality as I wrote about earlier. Colette and Bell made the most of their situations by immersing themselves in their respective media.
Colette’s advice to a young writer whining about his life: “…if we said to her, ‘Colette, I’m unhappy,’ we would hear her voice of a grumbling laborer reply, ‘Nobody asked you to be happy. Work. Do you hear me complaining?'” (Earthly Paradise, Chronology, by Robert Phelps, p. xvii) Advice from a woman who lived through two wars in Paris, whose husband was imprisoned in a French internment camp for the crime of being a Jew…
After my days of online teaching are done, I’ve been mending and hand quilting as well as taking inventory of thread colors. It’s keeping me sane and centered. In my next post, I’ll share quotes from Vanessa Bell…
Peace and Friendship!