“In writing, habit seems to be a much stronger force than either willpower or inspiration. Consequently there must be some little quality of fierceness until the habit pattern of a certain number of words is established. There is no possibility, in me at least, of saying, “I’ll do it if I feel like it.” One never feels like awaking day after day. In fact, given the smallest excuse, one will not work at all. The rest is nonsense. Perhaps there are people who can work that way, but I cannot. I must get my words down every day whether they are any good or not.” John Steinbeck
A friend yesterday commented in an email that — as far as my blog is concerned — I’m “pretty prolific.” It’s true. I have written an absurd number of blog posts in the six (??) years I’ve been doing this, and this is NOT the only blog. I began in 2009 with a blog on Blogger that I can still read if I want to but not you (ni-ner ni-ner). At the time I started that blog, I was digging out of a lot of bad stuff and I decided to write down one good memory every day. It was a good strategy for pulling myself out of that deep hole.
As I was writing my post yesterday about the horse I thought about my friend’s comment about my being prolific (as a writer, I guess that’s true) and why I’d written that post — and several others since this weirdness began. I also thought about what it means to write a blog and what I learned this past year from reading to actual real-life breathing people. I also thought about one of my longest-time friends — Ann — who called the other day and wanted to talk about Martin of Gfenn and whether writing a book about a leper had given me a perspective on what we’re dealing with now.
Of course my friend didn’t know what she was asking. That question naturally unleashed the whole quiet tirade on how leprosy was NOT a plague in medieval times, how that way of seeing it happened nearly 700 years later, how history is mythology and wishful thinking a lot of the time, and THEN a humor-laced (but really, who but me finds leprosy funny?) explication of what really happened back then. I’m telling you, that’s a tedious talk for anyone to listen to unless they’ve signed up for it. Fortunately, there’s also a video. 🙂
These are really weird times. My friend and I talked about that, too, how you go to the store and come home and wash everything you bring into your house. Most egregious, I think, for all of us, are the way it has impinged on the normal, every-day things we do mostly without thinking like pushing a cart through the supermarket, putting gas in our cars, hugging our friends when we meet, lunch dates, traveling. The extraordinary things — like volunteers making masks and scary statistics — we take those things in differently, with a kind of wonderment that can induce cathartic tears. When I told my friend of all the amazing things happening here in this remote, impoverished valley, she was truly moved. She responded with a dark story of how a company for which she is the general counsel (she’s an attorney) has had to lay off half its workers. That’s this moment in time. One blazingly beautiful story followed hard on by one of sadness and difficulty.
So my blog. I know what we’re all doing right now. We’re all getting through this thing that we don’t understand. Some of us might have good government, others of us don’t. In our connected world, we don’t only know what’s happening HERE but everywhere. The thing of “flattening the curve” REALLY means, “You’re all going to get sick, but we don’t want to overwhelm the hospitals, so this will space it out a little bit.”
So, my blog. The Big Empty is amazing and I live in it. I’ve always been grateful to the fates for bringing me here, but now I’m even more grateful. Where I live, there have been — in a place the size of Connecticut — only 20 confirmed cases. Of course, there are more who have it, but… 2 people have died. Since the odds of seeing other people in the Big Empty aren’t big, the chance of being too close to someone is also small. In an hour I’m heading to Alamosa to pick up groceries. I will be doing that in this same big valley. I don’t like it, the process is annoying, but, hopefully, when I’m done I’ll be set for two weeks.
I think often of my cousin’s son, with whom I’m friends, who lives in New York City. It’s a different thing completely for him. Streets that should be full of people are empty. Streets in my town are NEVER full of people. How it would be to have your world literally changed so dramatically in such a short time? In New York City, the a number of people equivalent to the entire population of Alamosa has died.
So, posts about the Big Empty? I write them so you can come with my dogs and me on solitary walks in one of the most beautiful places I know. My habit of writing? It’s my way of keeping things normal.
P.S. If you’re interested in the TRUTH about the medieval leper, I wrote a paper about it. I’ll post it in parts if enough people have sufficient curiosity. It’s pretty amazing…