Chronicling the Days – Jill Sapphire-Goldberg

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 Jill Sapphire-Goldberg, writing on Saturday, April 25, 2020.

Photo: Jill Sapphire-Goldberg

I hear the songbird in the predawn. I slept, as I usually do, with my window open. I believe the cold helps me sleep more deeply, and I really need to sleep better. I sleep a little more, simply because I can. There is a carless silence that is thick, even though I live right in town. I’m used to it now. When I finally awaken, sun shining into my room, I actually get out of bed. However, I’m aware of the word for what I’m feeling. Depression. I’m even getting accustomed to cycles through the week.

I was working up north in Québec’s subarctic with the Naskapis on March 13 when everything came to a screeching halt. The school there was suddenly closed and I was sent home to Québec City and into quarantine. I’ve not been in public since then, except for occasional walks. I live alone. I have a son in Québec City who I cannot see, and a daughter, who basically fled China, where she was working and who has hunkered down in Laos with her Nigerian boyfriend, a medical student in China.

In fairness, I’m usually fine with my solitude; after all, to a certain extent, I have chosen to live this way. However, these days, now that I’m over those first initial weeks of feeling alternately scared and immobilized by not recognizing the world I live in, my solitude feels heavy with the weight of loneliness. Perhaps it is odd, then, that I’m quite functional during the week. My work on behalf of the Naskapis is intense, fascinating, demanding and provides structure to my days, keeping me going. It is when the week ends that the thundering silence around me makes my voice recede up into my head. I might have moments of enchantment hearing something as “normal” as songbirds or the geese that fly overhead, the sight of the Full Pink Moon, some dusty ground where grungy snow recedes. I might feel like I’m engaging in self-care because I meditate and when I eat, I make healthy choices. Still, I cannot shake the sadness and depression that stay with me all day.

When I think of my 83-year-old father in Florida, his advanced Parkinson’s leaving him “frail,” as his doctor says, my tears just come. Will I see him again? I miss his wicked humor acutely. My 81-year-old mother is in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, but I cannot get to her either. I cannot even see my own son as he is in a sort of constant quarantine due to the fragile health of his girlfriend’s mother.

How did we get here, I wonder again, and how will we move forward? I make a pot of genmaicha using the tea set my son gave me when he was just a boy. I’m nostalgic for those easier days and realize how unexceptional I am in the end, how it really is ‘just’ our common humanity uniting us. Grateful for what I had and have, but wishing to hide in sleep, do I sing or nap?

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