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Looking forward and back: Reflections on pandemic

Editor’s Note: The following submissions are from two people in the same writers group reflecting on our current times. Articles are usually 600 to 700 words, but shorter articles are welcome and may be paired with others. Email articles on all aspects of inner peace to Sally McKirgan at innerpeaceforyou@outlook.com.

The Pandemic: What I Miss

By Patricia Florin

People are grieving lost loved ones, lost jobs, the lost freedom to go where they want or to touch others.

My own grief — I miss sharing laughter with a roomful of people. I think of laughter, especially shared laughter, as the high mass of the soul.

Now I watch YouTube, mostly the late-night shows staged from the hosts’ homes. It’s impressive how they have changed their shows and gotten their families and pets involved, to say nothing of the digital prowess it takes. And they still tell jokes, show us the humor of our ways. But where the audience used to laugh, there is now silence.

Sure, I could play old shows and share in that laughter, but it’s not the same. Even on Zoom, the laughter echoes hollow off the many walls we sit within.

Something profound has changed.

I suppose laughing alone is better than not laughing at all. Remember when we used to think such behavior was a sign of insanity? Maybe it is, but now it’s the new-normal insanity.

So I grieve the loss of shared laughter, grieve not being in the same room with others as we laugh at ourselves in this crazy, challenging, beautiful world. I trust we will again gather and share, starting with our grief and, eventually, our silliness and insanity. Until then, I laugh alone.

Patricia Florin, recently retired from farm life, lives in Talent and is the author of “A Life Let Go, A Memoir,” “Five Birth Mother Stories of Closed Adoption,” and “Knocking from the Inside.”

Reflections on End Times

By Dorothy Vogel

This past week I have been thinking about stories I’ve read or movies I’ve seen that took place right before a major event changed the world in which the characters lived.

For example, books like “The Great Gatsby,” which take place in the Roaring ’20s, all giddy with flappers and excess and living in the day, where the reader knows that time is nearly up for that sort of life. Half the fascination of “Gatsby” is participating in its brief moment of excess before the Great Depression hits. There’s so much poignancy.

And the 1930s, seen as the standard for hard times, were a gentle decade compared to what was to come. Many of the stories set in that time are about families with deep relationships who were too poor to get very far from each other. “The Grapes of Wrath” and the series “The Waltons” come to mind, multi-generational families with many children who live on the cusp of World War II, which would change them forever.

Ethos, itself, is a character in literature. I suspect we are in that kind of an “end time,” tipping into a period far worse than most of us have ever seen.

One can only hope that this year will be the end of a presidency of superficiality, lies and vanity, one whose pathetic deal-making results in no deals and whose thoughtlessness has dismantled American power and ushered in disease and poverty.

This may be the perfect deadend of 50 years that have spiraled down into corruption. The gains of the past 50 years are swept away into the cusp of something hard — pandemic plus depression.

The audience that writers of today have in mind may not be there by the time they finish their projects. Their readers will live in an era of widespread homelessness, food shortages, unemployment and the threat of pandemics.

Will those readers care about our fading era? Will the life we lived be viewed with nostalgia? Poignancy? A reminder of a world that’s lost? I think probably yes, because people seem to enjoy reading about what they no longer have.

But I also suspect that those who struggle through the new era will have more of the simple strength, decency, sacrifice and love that comes at us now like a blessing from those who keep our essential services going, from the medics, and from rooftops and balconies that clang with the only noise available from grateful hearts.

Dorothy Vogel of Talent is the author of “The Timber Mill Action” and “Not For Sissies.”