We were ZOOM-ing with friends this week and I tossed out a question: What’s the first thing you are going to do when this is all over?
“Hug a stranger,” my friend Patty said without hesitation. I loved that. I loved the idea that we would once again live in a world when the prospect of hugging didn’t trigger a warning from my brain. Hearing Patty talk about hugs ignited a beam of light in the Covid Tunnel. I’m trying to follow it to whatever’s next.
My thoughts naturally run first to the dark side, especially at night. Earlier this week our pup, Rina, was ill and I was up for two nights mopping up doggy diarrhea. She, of course, went right back to sleep. I, on the other hand, lay awake for hours wondering who would take care of her if we got sick, and what would happen to the 26 million Americans who have lost their jobs, and who would step in and lead us all into the future which necessarily must look very different from the pre-Covid world. By four a.m. I was wiped out. I imagined for a moment, hugging a stranger. It felt good. I relaxed a little, slipped into sleep. When I woke up, the sun was up, Rina felt better, and I realized that what I need to do more often is nurture my optimism and courage. Pessimism and fear don’t need much help to flourish.
So, my goal today is to offer you little beams of light for whenever you need them. If you’ve got any to share, please jot them down below in the comments section or reply to this email. Maybe you’ve come across a line in a book you’re reading, or overheard someone say. Maybe you’ve got an observation from your own experience these past weeks, a podcast you never miss or just discovered. Or, and I’m really really curious about this, how does the future look to you - how do you expect life to change?
Meet Alberta, my favorite creation of Edith Zimmerman whose newsletter with comics, Drawing Links makes me smile and touches my heart. It’s one of the ones I check for each day just to see what she’s observed lately and how she’s turned it into a little window on the world.
Here are several short Reads from Narrative Magazine where you can find long and short reads from writers you know and many you don’t. First up is “I Long To Kiss You: Napoli in the Time of Coronavirus” by Heather Hartley, a short, sweet essay about the dance she must learn with her mother-in-law when they can’t embrace.
Narrative is also where I became intrigued with the idea of writing a very tiny short story. Here are four iStories, 150 words each, that tell an entire story in just a few lines. I tried writing one this week and submitted it. I’ll let you know how it goes. And if you want to see what can be done in just six words, check out these Six-Word Stories in Narrative. I’ve got three journal pages filled with failed attempts to achieve one of these. I dare you to try. If you do, and feel brave, submit it to Narrative or share it with me so I can see how you did it.
In the spirit of adaptation to the new world, The Newburyport Literary Festival will present its program today (Saturday, April 25) and Sunday, May 3. It’s free. The program looks great and again, FREE! There’s a terrific lineup. To register for any/all sessions just go here: The Newburyport Literary Festival.
A Beautiful Little Book
I’d never heard of Kate DiCamillo because I don’t usually follow writers for young people. Then I read this essay, “Why We Need Life-Changing Books Right Now” by Ann Patchett and discovered The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. It arrived Monday. We let it sit safely in the garage to let any particles of virus die and then I read it yesterday in one sitting. You probably already know all about this book, but if not, it’s about getting lost and found and love and home and not one word of it is a bit sappy or sweet. Instead it pulses with voice, originality, and attitude. And there were these lines of advice from one old doll to another:
“You must be filled with expectancy. You must be awash in hope. You must wonder who will love you, whom you will love next.” - The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
What Everyone’s Reading Right Now
The Russian masters. A pandemic story. A memoir of Jessica Simpson. These are just some of the stories keeping you guys company right now. Let’s keep it going. What have you been reading and what do you want to read next?
Irene in Vermont: I decided to tackle Anna Karenina during this quiet time. I’ve never read the Russian masters and had said that I would tackle them in retirement. A year and a half in, and book group in suspension, I’m doing it! Not very far into it, I’m already committed.
Our book group has suspended operations through this. We have a couple of nurses and teachers in our group and they have very full plates. We had just finished reading The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See. Great read! ( I even gave it to my husband to read.) Our next book will be Overstory (Pulitzer Prize winner) about trees. My husband is a forester and wrote a review of the book for Northland Woodlands. I'm looking forward to reading it, but Anna K first!
Pamela in CA: I’m reading Jessica Simpson’s memoir. Yes. And I’m listening to a book about the polio epidemic because it reminds me this will end.
Joyce in North Carolina: I have finished reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and enjoyed the stories. Now I am reading a totally different book that I picked up at our club house at the community we live in which has a book exchange. I am reading Little Girl Gone by Drusilla Campbell. So far the book is very good. The main character is living her own life of quarantine.
Mary Jean from CA: Here's a fun share: Elizabeth Gilbert's new Ted talk: "It's OK to feel overwhelmed. Here's what to do next."
And here are a couple of spine poems from Mary Jean to all of us:
Signing off now. Let me know how you are, what you are reading, what you are writing.
To the future - whatever it brings!
If you’re enjoying Spark, please feel free to share!
P.S. Here’s your moment of Zen. She’s feeling much better now.