Chronicling the Days – Carole Thorpe

Welcome to QWF series ‘Chronicling the Days’, specifically for this strange uneasy time of coronavirus and pandemic, of social distancing and self isolation, of lockdown and quarantine.

In April 2020, we invited writers in Quebec to submit a story – of a single day at this time, because while we’re all living through this time, we know that we’re not all living through it in the same way. To stay connected – to know how we’re getting on. Every story valid.

Submissions have now closed for the series but we’ll be continuing to publish the pieces throughout May. Keep an eye for them here, or join us on the QWF FB Community page, and let the authors know if their words resonated.

This piece is by Carole Thorpe, writing on April 20, 2020.

Susanna Moodie & family in Belleville, Ontario.
Photo: The Canada Site

Pandemic Blues.

The distance between my Lenovo Ideapad and Samsung smartphone. South window with African Violet. Over Easter weekend, one solitary purple bloom. After Easter Monday, the bloom drooped, withered. I pinched it off, placed it in a blue-purple glass bowl that I made in Calgary, where I worked as a glassblower for many years.

The bowl with dried bloom is on a small table in my studio that I shipped from Calgary.

On the front right edge, an orange faded FRAGILE sticker constantly reminds me that words melt, anneal, break open.

A month ago, as places closed down and events were cancelled, I began thinking about “The Journals of Susanna Moodie”, by Margaret Atwood. I found selections in “Selected Poems: Margaret Atwood” (Oxford University Press, 1976). As a poet, when poetry calls to me, I reread and internalize poems.

Standing near my FRAGILE Calgary Montreal table, I speak the lines from the introduction, on Monday morning:

I take this picture of myself

and with my sewing scissors

cut out the face.

Now it is more accurate:

where my eyes were,

every

thing appears

Internalizing the power of these words. Reflecting on one decade after returning east from Calgary in April 2010, when I moved into my mother’s condo in downtown Saint Lambert. Searching for a photograph that captures that time in Saint Lambert as I struggled to work on my relationship with my mother. I took numerous photographs from her sixth floor penthouse condo.

And sunshine lights up my second story condo in Cote Saint-Luc. A cure for Pandemic Blues. I stand beside an oval table in my studio that belonged to my mother. After she died in January 2013, in an NDG residence, this table became another studio table. Yesterday I felt as if I was calling for her. Today I feel I am calling for her. Yesterday I placed a small clear paperweight with a carved hummingbird on the table. My mother gave me the paperweight. And like the hummingbird, she was tiny.

I pace slowly and call up these words from The Journals of Susanna Moodie, noticing that I need to practice the art of transformation that happens from reading to speaking:

Journal 1 1832-1840

FURTHER ARRIVALS

After we had crossed the long illness

that was the ocean, we sailed up-river

On the first island

the immigrants threw off their clothes

and danced like sandflies

We left behind one by one

the cities rotting with cholera,

one by one our civilized

distinctions

and entered a large darkness.

In this resurrected studio, crammed with books, art materials, sketchbooks, projects, unwrapped and repurposed, I roll out my yoga mat. Tadasana, mountain pose. Decluttering the space seems impossible after several moves.

It’s early afternoon. I finish a light lunch – an open-faced turkey sandwich, cheese, lettuce with carrots, potato chips. My audiologist calls from the Mackay Centre, across from Loyola Concordia. I’ve had severe hearing loss since I was two years old. He wants to know how my hearing aids are working. I saw him last December for an audiogram. I explain that they are working well and I bought extra hearing aid batteries.

I ask for guidelines for disinfecting my hearing aids. I’m not wearing hearing aids when I pick up the phone on my left side because my right ear has the most loss.

This afternoon I will befriend my hearing aids. I will insert them and recite The Journals of Susanna Moodie. How will this change the sensation of transforming reading to speaking to drama?

My afternoon recital begins:

THE PLANTERS

They move between the jagged edge

of the forest and the jagged river

on a stumpy patch of cleared land…..

I look out my studio window. Apartment buildings, cars, roads disappear. Instead, fields, forests, planters, birds, animals. With my hearing aids, I can hear everything in this new wilderness. Abundant birds overwhelm my ears with music.

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