Thursday, April 30, 2020

Why Keep Submitting Book Length Manuscripts At All?

As a follow up to yesterday's post, let me say how odd it is to find posts and tweets by others who did better with the Wilder prize than I did.  The runner up made this tweet:  "1st full-length poetry MS: 6 years submitting, various versions, 2 titles, 89 rejections, 4 finalist nods, 9 semi-finalist nods = 1 acceptance, #90 was the charm"

In response, Dave Bonta made this Facebook post:  "I'm beginning to understand why so few of my poet friends were Sanders supporters: they don't see/understand poverty. 90 submissions of a poetry manuscript in a market where most presses only read manuscripts through paying contests implies an outlay of more than $2000. Few books will ever make that back in royalties. I understand doing this if you're up for tenure, but otherwise, it feels very much like vanity publishing - paying to get into print. Which is sad in a world with so many print-on-demand and ebook options for self-publishers. Not to mention the fact that very few publishers actually do adequate publicity these days. You have to do your own promotion regardless, including setting up readings and wrangling reviews."

Is it wrong of me to experience a bit of comfort that the winner had been submitting her manuscript for so long?  It's not comfort in a vindictive way, but more in a camaraderie way, as I, too, have been submitting manuscripts for my first book for many years.

And yes, even longer than that, if we're being honest.  The manuscript that I submitted isn't one I've been submitting a lot yet--but the one that I put aside was one that I have been submitting a lot, and that I am still submitting.

One reason why I LOVE the Wilder prize is that I know that my competition is women poets over 50 who haven't had a book published yet.  If someone else's work is chosen, I'm happy that it comes from that demographic.  It's much more discouraging to submit a manuscript, get a copy of the winning book which is often written by someone (often SO much younger and so much more male), and realize all the ways that mine is different (and often, frankly, I like mine better).

Dave makes a valid point about what we're spending.  For years, I only submitted to presses where I would get a copy of the winning book.  Now that's less important to me.  Now I am only submitting to presses that I want to support, but those also have to be presses that do a good job with the physical book.

Dave talks about print-on-demand books, and he has a point.  But after an experience of bungling a set of business cards, I'm hesitant to be my own book publisher--I don't want to have to come up to speed on all the decisions that print-on-demand might entail.  I want a publisher to do that for me.

I'm certainly not looking to publish my book of poems because I think I'll get royalties.  Once a poetry volume might have paid a bill or two by opening up other opportunities:  readings or guest lecturers or visiting poets.  Even before the pandemic, those possible opportunities would have been somewhat limited because of the demands of my full-time job.  I am under no illusions about what is more likely to pay the hefty bills of medical insurance and the mortgage. 

It's not poetry.

Once I might have hoped for a different kind of teaching job, but even before the pandemic, I am aware that my chances were slim, even with a book with a spine.  I'm older and female and my PhD is a literature PhD, not a degree in some part of Creative Writing.  As I wrote about last week, some part of me will always yearn for a teaching job at a school like my small, liberal arts college--but I'm not sure those jobs will survive our current economic crisis.

I also realize all the ways that this pandemic may change book publishing.  A year from now, I may look back at this post and snort at all the vistas I didn't see/realize/understand.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Rejections Worth Keeping

Yesterday, I got one of the better rejections I've gotten.  I created a new manuscript to send to Two Sylvias Press for their Wilder Prize, the competition for writers who are over age 50--named after Laura Ingalls Wilder, who didn't start writing until after she was 50.

Here's the e-mail:

"Kristin-- please know, your manuscript was on our shortlist of only 20 manuscripts. This came so close for us, just a highly competitive prize this year, but we wanted you to know how strong your manuscript is and that it stood out for us. Please feel free to consider if us again if this hasn't been picked up. Your poems were some of our favorites and we are very sorry to have to pass on it. We loved your work.

Continue to submit your work to various presses with the knowledge of how subjective these decisions are. We believe in the mission of bringing more poetry and art into the world, and we encourage you to continue to do so as a poet."

I've been submitting manuscripts to Two Sylvias Press for years now, so I scrolled back through rejection letters just to make sure that this one was truly different.  In the past, I've gotten encouragement, but never anything quite like this.

I really appreciate the suggestion to submit the manuscript again--I will do that next year.  In the past, while I've gotten encouragement, I never really knew whether or not to keep submitting the same manuscript.  In fact, I created a new one because I felt a little silly submitting the same one again and again to the same presses.

I went back to my blog to see when I assembled the manuscript and why.  Here's what I wrote in this post in December:  "I also got a new poetry manuscript put together. I want something new to submit when Copper Canyon re-opens. They're pretty clear about not submitting a manuscript that has been rejected in the past. I'm not sure about whether or not to resubmit Ash Wednesday at the Trinity Test Site to other presses where I've submitted before--those presses aren't as clear. I think that the manuscripts are significantly different from each other, but I should probably look at the two of them side by side. Are they really that different? The new manuscript has fewer of the nuclear war poems. It's composed primarily of poems written since 2014."

Based on the feedback from this submission, I'd say that the new manuscript is worth sending to other places too.  And if it hasn't been accepted by the Fall, I'll resubmit to the Wilder prize.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Sheltering with Eavan Boland

Like many people, I was saddened to hear of the death of Eavan Boland.  Unlike many, I don't have a personal story:  I never studied with her or heard her read.  That's not unusual--there are many poets who mean a great deal to me, but I've never had live interactions with them.

I say I never studied with her, but in a way, that's not true.  When we moved to South Florida in 1998, I was delighted to discover that our public library had such rich resources.  I devoured many a volume of Boland's, and I often came across her nonfiction when I read the other books that were poetry adjacent (how to write, why to write, who to include, how to look at the work of others--those kinds of books).

I read a lot of her work as I tried to teach myself the elements of formalism that I never learned very well in undergraduate or graduate school.  I came across an essay of hers where she talked about meter.  She said that when she sees a young woman bent over her notebook, counting syllables on her fingers, she feels a moment of connection, because she knows what the younger poet is trying to do.

I first came across that quote 20ish years ago.  I can't find it now, but every time I count syllables, I think of it.

As with many female poets, Eavan Boland is important to me because in her space as part of the generation just before me, she opened many a door and made sure to leave those doors open for those of us who were younger.

And it wasn't just younger poets, younger female poets.  She was always on the lookout for what we were losing as the poetry business became professionalized.  This essay gives a taste of that:  "Once I thought there was a broad tolerance for this [the poet who wanted a more private, internal life]. Now I’m not so sure. In Ireland, or the us or the uk, the tilt is towards the poet who can navigate the worlds of the university, the institution, the community, the reading series, the community workshop, the literary festival. There has been a gradual, perhaps calcifying professionalism which requires of  a poet a standard of  behavior and communality which poets were once exempted from. I was never uncritical of that exemption. But now, somehow, I wish I saw more of it."  (lack of capitalization of country names maintained from original source)

I also think of something that Eavan Boland said about our current time, an article which I can't find, but do remember. She said that we're losing the first book because it's so hard to get first books published. By the time we get a "first book" from a poet, it's what would have been their second or third book, had they had a publishing career that was more common to the 20th century.

Of course, many voices that are published today would have been lost then--never published at all.

I am grateful for all the ways that Eavan Boland worked to make sure that more voices from our time, and from past times, have been preserved.  And I'm grateful for her own words.  This poem, with it's stark presentation of love, seems appropriate for our pandemic time.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Vignettes and Sketches

Once again, let me capture some vignettes.  Will they hang together as a post or remain a collection of vignettes?

If you were hoping for a more sustained focus, you could go to this post on my theology blog and read about my third visit to my spiritual director.  I really like being able to say "my spiritual director."

--One of my students wrote me an e-mail thanking me for my compassion during this difficult time.  She said that I'm the only teacher who wrote to make sure students were doing O.K. and who gave encouragement.  Can that be true?

--My spouse, who teaches at more South Florida institutions, ones that serve many more students than the ones that I tend to see, has wondered if some teachers have just checked out.  It wouldn't surprise me. The sudden transition would be tough for many people, particularly adjuncts who don't have much in the way of institutional support.

--This week my online journaling class came to a close, but happily, on May 3, I'm beginning a new one with a different book, but some of the same classmates and the same leader.  When I signed up for the class, I couldn't have predicted the strange circumstances that would soon fall down on us, that was in the process of falling down on us even then.  We've been a good support network for each other. 

--I've also been pleased with the new directions of my sketching.  I'm pleased to do any sketching at all.  I've been doing a lot more with small marks to fill in spaces.  Here's an unfinished sketch from this morning:

--The blob came from bleed through from this sketch yesterday.

--This morning, I woke up with lines of my own poems in my head, specifically lines from a poem I wrote called "The Hollow Women."  You can read it here.

--I wasn't sleeping well, which is not unusual for me as Sunday moves into Monday.  But yesterday, I did have a perfect nap.  We watched Juliet Naked, which was a delight in many ways.  The afternoon had moved from cloudy to stormy as we watched and ate our homemade pizza and drank some wine.  And then, we took a nap with the windows open just a smidge so we could hear the rain and thunder.  That nap probably interfered with my sleep too, but it was so perfect that I have no regrets.  After the nap, we sat on the front porch in the newly cooled air.  My spouse worked on creating a final exam, while I read the next book in my spiritual director certificate program.

And now it's time to get back to the work week.  I am still going in to the office each week day.  We only have 5 people there regularly, with a few others who come and go.  Our offices are widely spaced out.  The cleaning crew sanitizes once a day.  It's strange how it feels normal and yet so different.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

A Week in the Life of a Pandemic Age

Let me capture some moments from the past week--I'm not sure I can make any of them into a sustained blog post, but they seem worth recording.

--This morning, I added some running bursts into sections of my morning walk.  I use the word "running" loosely.  You might call it a jog or if you're particularly unkind, a shuffle.  Once, I was a runner; I went out and covered 6 miles at a time, sometimes faster, sometimes slower.  I miss the endorphin high of a good run.  But the reason I did it this morning is that I wanted to get a bit more of a workout than my usual walk.  I know it may seem silly to worry about gaining weight in this pandemic time, but I do.  And I don't really have a good home scale, so I have no idea whether or not I need to worry.

--I am predicting that the Broward county library system will re-open May 3.  Why do I think this?  I discovered a book in a stack of magazines.  My first thought was shock and dismay about how overdue the book was.  Happily, because the library closed on March 19, I wasn't in as much trouble as I thought I was.  When I went to the website, my account showed that all of my materials are due May 3.  That's nowhere close to the original due date--thus my prediction.  Of course, May 3 is a Sunday, so in some ways, that opening date doesn't make sense.

--I spent some time this week trying to analyze the efficacy of online virtual simulations for health care students.  Once again, I am struck by how nothing in my training prepared me for this task.  Happily I do have common sense.  If students can access these materials for $2 or $3 a student, it makes sense to explore these materials, especially in a time where we're not sure when students can come back to do real life labs.

--Broward College, our county's community college (although it has several BA and BS degrees, so I'm not sure what to call them these days), has announced that classes will remain in a distance learning mode for all of summer.  I am not surprised, although each one of these announcements feels sobering.

--After reading this article by  Kristen Kuempel, the Lutheran (ELCA) bishop of the Northwest Intermountain synod, I begin to wonder if it will be wise to gather in larger groups (20+) until we have a cure or a vaccine.  I had already been thinking about what might be needed in terms of sanitizing.  I hadn't thought about insurance and liability issues, and not only for the immediate group but for all who use the facilities.

--Let me finish on a hopeful note.  While I didn't write any new poems this morning, I did send out some packets of poems to some journals.  I had worried that all of my old poems might seem irrelevant in our pandemic age, but that was not the case.  I don't know if I'll feel the same about the fiction I wrote before the pandemic.

--This week has also been a week of interesting sketching, work that took me in interesting new directions.

Here's a spiral that interested me, one of the first times I've intentionally tried to make my sketching denser by putting images over each other in this way.

But here's my all time favorite of the week:

Friday, April 24, 2020

Sketching Hope

My morning schedule got out of whack, but in good ways:

--I slept a bit later--until just before 5 a.m., which is unusual, especially these days.

--I did more with sketching this morning.

--We had some rain which disrupted my plans to walk.

--My spouse and I had coffee on the porch and watched the rain.

--And then, the rain cleared, and we took a short walk.

I will leave you with the sketch I did.  In case the quote isn't readable, here it is in a more accessible format:

"Hope is not something subjective due to an optimistic or sanguine temperament, . . .  .  It is a light force which radiates objectively and which directs creative evolution toward the world's future.  . . .
hope is what moves and directs spiritual evolution in the world."  Valentin Tomberg

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Link Love

I spent part of my writing morning composing an e-mail for a seminary student who wanted information about the Create in Me retreat.  That writing brought me joy, and I liked what I wrote so much that I used it as a post on my theology blog.

This morning, since my writing time is running out, I want to record some links to items that have been intriguing to me in the past day, items that I may want to find again.

This article is fairly short and full of good ideas for salvaging a day that's gone off the rails.  Some of these approaches I've done intuitively, but it's good to have a comprehensive approach.

This website lists every college and university that got money from the stimulus package, and it lists how much of it had to be distributed to students.  It's a staggering amount of money.

This article offered 15 ways we might return to campus this fall.  There will be follow up articles that explore each possibility in depth.  I thought the list was worth keeping, in case we need to make quick shifts as the next 2 years go by.  We won't have a vaccine, and we're not likely to have a cure, and we won't have her immunity, so we may need to shelter at home here and there. 

I will not link to the article in The Washington Post that talked about the record breaking heat in Southeast Florida, but it's good to know it's not my imagination.  We've had highs in the mid-90's for what feels like weeks now--and no, that's not normal, at least, it wasn't normal during the old climate.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The Last English Professor

This is not a corona virus death story.  I found out this morning that one of my undergraduate English professors, Dr. Gaillard Waterfall, had died.  I'm not sure of the cause of death, but he was 88 years old.  When I was there, he was head of the department, and I only took a few classes from him.

He had a second house in the mountains, two hours away from the campus.  He would take groups of students up to the mountains to see the houses of great American writers; both Carl Sandburg and Thomas Wolfe had houses in the Asheville area, which was where my professor had his house.  We'd stop at my professor's house and pick apples, if we made the trek in the fall.

What a different time that was--we rode in each other's cars, including my professors' cars.  We made a trip to a secluded mountain home.  We picked apples.

Here's what's more sobering:  now all of my undergraduate English professors are dead.  I realized I wasn't sure about one of them, but the miracles of the Internet supplied the information.  My Shakespeare professor, Dr. Steen Spove, died in 2008 of pancreatic cancer.

When my favorite English professor, Dr. Gayle Swanson died in 2014, I blogged about it here and here.  Much of what I wrote about her applies to the whole English department of Newberry College when I attended.

I learned to love literature in a variety of ways through the teaching of all of those faculty members in the English department.  I learned to love a variety of works of literature.  Granted, the reading lists were traditional, but they gave me a solid grounding.

And when I wanted to explore more, to examine the women that had been left out of our beloved Norton anthologies, not one professor discouraged me--no, that would come later in graduate school.  My undergraduate professors were interested to see what I would come up with, and they let me loose on the margins of the canon.

They also nurtured my writing skills and talents--of course, you'd expect English majors to be nurtured this way, but after shepherding students for decades, I'm more in awe of this now than I was then.

When I look back, I am astounded at how open our professors were, how they had us over to their houses (and their second houses).  I'm amazed at how many cultural opportunities they made possible, both by inviting authors to come to us and by taking us on field trips to see authors and other intellectuals.

Part of me will always want that kind of teaching life for myself, the joys of a small, liberal arts college.  Part of me has this sobering realization that many of those types of schools may not survive this time of pandemic, when this old-fashioned kind of teaching, learning, and living in close proximity may not be feasible.  I know that many of the small, liberal arts colleges weren't doing well before the pandemic, and they may not have the dexterity to survive into what will be the new reality.

I am still rather flabbergasted to realize that all of my undergraduate English professors are gone.  I realize that many of us have been wrestling with issues of mortality in this pestilence spring, but this variation feels a bit different.

I have been trying to live into all the ways/values/examples that my undergraduate professors gave me.  In some ways, nothing has changed.

In so many ways, it feels so very different knowing that the whole department has passed on.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Sketching with a Bit More Color

I continue to sketch almost every morning--sometimes it's brief, just a few minutes.  Other times, it stretches out.  We are in the final week of an online journaling class that's not only sketching but reading our way through Cynthia Bourgeault's Mystical Hope:  Trusting in the Mercy of God.

This morning, I decided I wanted to do something different than my usual sketching of swoops and swirls.  So I started with dots.  I ended by combining some of them into a sun or a star:

I've been using the same color markers for a month:  3 shades of gray and a violet.  This morning, I decided to add more, so I used 2 markers from a past journaling group, the blue and the gold. 

I had this Thomas Merton quote from the Bourgeault book on my brain:

"It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish altogether."  (quoted on p. 83)

This quote describes Merton's mystical experience on a Louisville street, the corner of 4th and Walnut, where he sees all the faces of his fellow humans and has insight into the nature of God by realizing how much he loves those humans (I'm oversimplifying, I know).

So I created a haiku-like thing out of Merton's words:

Points of light converge
Making meanness evaporate
Face and blaze of sun

I'd been having a few days of unsatisfying sketching.  It was a relief to have a morning that felt like a return to vital practices.

Monday, April 20, 2020

A Typical Week-end in the New Normal

This morning, I thought I'd write about our past week-end.  In some ways, it was like any other week-end where we didn't have plans.  In some ways, it was very different.

I did some grocery shopping on Friday before heading home, in the hopes that I wouldn't have to shop during the week-end.  So on Friday night, we were able to have hamburgers, what once would have been our Friday tradition.  It wasn't with the better quality beef we would ordinarily get from Doris' Italian Market, but it was delicious nonetheless.

On Saturday I baked cookies for the virtual tea at 10.  We were trying to make it similar to our crafting Saturdays of grad school times, when we would gather and combine treats and brew lovely pots of tea and splurge on gourmet coffee and work on our needle projects and talk and talk and talk.

Our virtual tea had some technical difficulties, but eventually we could gather.  It was good to see everyone, but I could only last for about an hour--very different from face to face grad school days.

I felt similarly about the group of Create in Me retreat participants on Saturday night.  It was great to see everyone, but exhausting after a bit.

On Saturday, I went into the pool for the first time.  I started reading Ann Patchett's The Dutch House--a wonderful book so far.  I had a batch of evaluation essays that needed to be graded, so I plowed through those.  I also had a wonderful phone conversation with a friend from my South Carolina community college days.

She said, "It's a shame it takes a pandemic for me to pick up the phone to see how you're doing."  I feel the same way.  We see each other far more sporadically than we once did, when we met yearly at Mepkin Abbey.  We may try to do a Zoom meeting with our other Mepkin friend in early May.

On Sunday, I ate all of the cookies that I made on Saturday.  In ordinary times, I would only make cookies if I had an event to attend.  I'd remember that I would eat all of the cookies if I didn't have a place to take them.

Yesterday we had even more phone calls.  Yesterday was family call day:  my spouse's dad, my spouse's brother, my mom, dad, and sister, who are together at my parents' house.  It was great to catch up with everyone.

And now, it's back to work.  It will be a day of meetings, of accreditation documents, of all the things that need to be done, regardless of the pandemic stalking the planet.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Emptying Out

Yesterday was the kind of day that both nourished and drained me.  I had several conversations, by Google Hangout, by old-fashioned phone, and by Zoom, with friends, and these are folks whom I love dearly but rarely communicate with in this way.

It made me realize that while we may be through the acute phase of this new reality, the season of huge change isn't finished with us yet.

We all reported sleep issues during the acute phase.  Many of us worked in a hyperdrive mode.  Now we are settling in.

But I can see glimmers of new grimness on the way. I see reports of impending furloughs.  I see people who once thought their jobs were secure who are now seeing that they may not be.  Yesterday, our governor, the one who has been so slow to act, announced that Florida K-12 schools would not be returning to onground classrooms this school year.

I am also realizing how my life has changed, but it's been more of an emptying out than a retreat to my house.  I still go to the office, where far fewer people are working.  In part, that's because they're working from home, and in part, it's because we furloughed people and moved classes online meaning that we no longer employed non-Program faculty at the individual campus level.  I still go to church, but it's much more similar to our previous church than different--a far smaller in-person congregation, but we didn't have a huge congregation to begin with.

Yesterday was my first day in the pool.  It's been unseasonably warm.  It makes me worry about the hurricane season ahead.  But I'm trying to train myself to focus on the next hour or two, not the next month or season or year or decade.  It's not a practice that comes naturally to me.

As we write the history of this time, I hope historians capture all the ways this time has been different for each of us--and the wide variety of ways that difference made itself manifest.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

How We Live Virtually Now

I'm intrigued with the idea of "virtual," as most of us are meaning it these days:  using technology to bring us together while we stay apart.  There's the older meaning of virtual, which often has a whiff of dismissal--something virtual is not quite as good as.

I'm thinking of the virtual community I discovered when I started blogging.  And then, as people stopped long-form blogging, I felt I had lost that community--and once, that community felt almost as close as the communities I was part of in the face-to-face world, and in some cases, more so.  And then, poof, it seemed to be gone.

And now, I'm seeing some of those elements returned.  This morning, I thought about how tough this quarantine would be without that technology.  If we had had this kind of pandemic that drove us all apart from each other in the early 80's, when long distance phone calls were so expensive and it took much longer to get information out, it would be tougher in some aspects, and perhaps easier in others.  Maybe there would have been less wrong information disseminated.  But we'd have certainly been more isolated.

I've found it very comforting to check in with people virtually to compare notes.  I've found it all marvelous at how we've all managed to move so much to online environments.  I do worry about people who don't have the technology at home.

I've written a blog post about virtual church, which many of us have been experiencing and experimenting with for the first time ever.  I've been teaching online since 2013.  But I haven't done as much with other virtual communities.  About a year ago, Mepkin Abbey rolled out a program for retreatents to meet when they're not at the Abbey; groups were organized by zip code.   Because there are so few Floridians, we've been meeting virtually to journal together.  It's worked out far better than I thought it would, and I was receptive to the idea.

Today, I'm meeting virtually several times.  This morning, I'll meet with some grad school friends.  Long ago, in grad school, we met every Saturday to have tea and goodies and to work on our various stitching projects.  Then one friend moved back to England, and then, later, I moved to Florida.  Today we'll meet online to have tea and goodies.  Perhaps we'll stitch.

I'm surprised we haven't done this before.

Tonight, a group of us who would be at the Create in Me retreat if we hadn't had a global pandemic, will meet.  If I wasn't doing tea, I could meet with some of those retreat folks at a yoga session.

I'm hoping that we remember the possibilities that virtual connections give us, even as we eventually move back to whatever normal will be then.

Friday, April 17, 2020

A Sketch Exploring Pouring and Holding

One of my online journaling groups has been reading Cynthia Bourgeault's Mystical Hope:  Trusting in the Mercy of God.  This week, my thoughts kept coming back to this idea:

"IF only we could understand this more deeply!  If only we could see and trust that all our ways of getting there, all our courses over time--our good deeds, our evil deeds, our regrets, our compulsive choosings and the fallout from those choosings, our things left undone and paths never actualized--are quietly held in an exquisite fullness that simply poises in itself, then pours itself out in a single glance of the heart.  If we could only glimpse that, even for an instant, we would be able to sens the immensity of the love that seeks to meet us at the crossroads of the Now, when we yield ourselves entirely into it" (p. 64-65).

As I thought about what to sketch, my brain kept coming back to the idea of pouring and holding.  I began with this kind of flowing line:

I added to the sketch on Wednesday.  I first began with the idea of a braided basket, but I like that it can also look like cut glass or crystal or even, perhps, wood:

And last night I added an edited version of the quote, so that in later years, I'd be sure to have it:

I thought about adding more to the sketch, about making a list of all the good deeds, the evil deeds, the opportunities missed, the choosings and the things left undone--but I didn't want to depress myself, and I wanted to leave the sketch with some room for mystery.

Unlike the last time I sketched with this Grunewald Guild group, I'm not creating a new sketch every day, although I am sketching every day.  Unlike last time, I don't have as many chunks of undistracted time in my schedule.  But it's good to do what I can--and these sketches remind me that it doesn't take huge swaths of time.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Non-Pandemic Poem and Other Signs of Settling In

This morning, I was listening to an archived interview on Fresh Air; back in 1992, Terry Gross interviewed Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, who just died.  Martin and Lyon are famous for founding Daughters of Bilitis, one of the first lesbian activist groups in the 1970's.

They talked about gay and lesbian life in the pre-activist days, the days of deep closets.  I thought of my college days in the 1980's, in South Carolina, where even in the larger cities of the state, people weren't really "out," the way they are now.  I remembered a lesbian bar called Traxx (or was it Tracks?) because it was just this side of a railroad track.  From the outside, it looked like a house in a working class neighborhood. 

I thought about the 1980's in the U.S. south, which wasn't quite the do-it-for-ourselves 1970's, but it also wasn't the information age explosion either.  And then, I wrote a poem, a poem that had nothing to do with our current pandemic!

In the years to come, how will I look back on these days?  Will I be amazed at my sketching productivity?  Will I wonder why my progress sending out poems and manuscripts ground to a halt?  Perhaps I will say, "My life was not so very different once the virus got to the U.S.  Why did I stop sending out my work?"

Let me remember that March (and so far, most of April) was more like the days leading up to an accreditation visit than like my normal work life--not any down time in the office (in fact, lots of panicked demands from a variety of people), sleep disruptions, lots of intense tasks that left me unable to do much in my off-hours time.

A few weeks ago, I got a poetry acceptance--2 poems, in fact, accepted by the journal Adanna.  Hurrah.  Usually I'd send the response to the journal right away.  This year, it took me a week.  And then it took me even longer to withdraw the poems from other journals.

Let me remember that this slowness was common, at least amongst the writers that I know from Facebook and Twitter.  I had a goal to submit a book length manuscript to two places a month.  I missed out on March.  Let me forgive myself for that.

My sleep disruptions seem to be settling a bit.  Let me also hope that my work patterns will settle soon.  So far, I've done more work with spreadsheets (and redoing spreadsheets) than I ever thought possible for this English major.

Today is the day that I would have gone to the Create in Me retreat, if these were normal times.  I feel some sadness about that canceled retreat, but the thought of traveling right now is just unfathomable to me.  I'm glad that we had no choice in the matter.

Let me be happy that I can still be creative on my own.  Let me rest in the assurance that there will come a time again when travel and retreats will be possible.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Season of a Sketchbook

Monday, I started a new sketchbook.  As I closed the last one, I realized that the last sketch was done on Easter.  I started the sketchbook on Transfiguration Sunday.  I don't usually have a sketchbook that begins and ends this way, perfectly synced with the season.

Here's the Feb. 23, 2020 sketch that opens the sketchbook:

I also wrote some haiku.  The last one leapt out at me:

Tale of two mountains
Stay here in God's presence.
Golgotha summons.

Little did I know--even then, the new virus was making its way into new parts of our country.

When I got to the last page of the sketchbook, it was the Saturday before Easter.  On Saturday, I created this sketch:

I have experimented with small dots and dashes in the past, but never crosses.  I had Good Friday on my brain.

On Easter Sunday, I added a bit of color.

I'm taking an online journaling class, and we're working with a limited palette, so that's why I don't have the kinds of colors that my sketches usually have.

I have not been writing much haiku in these past weeks.  Maybe I'll start doing that again.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Before, and a Long Way from After

It is hard to believe that 6 weeks ago, I was about to get on a plane to San Antonio to go to the AWP convention.  I remember commenting on the few masks that I saw, but for the most part, I didn't see much alarm in my fellow passengers. 

I might not have even thought there should be much cause for alarm, if I hadn't been reading tweets and posts from people who were deciding whether or not to go to the convention.  Off I went, mingling in huge groups, even though the conference was sparsely enough attended that I rarely sat near anyone.  But in restaurants, we didn't do social distancing.

Ah, the good ole days 6 weeks ago when most of us didn't know we should do social distancing.

Back then I was trying to think about all the tasks I had to balance in between spring and summer travel.  And now, I wonder when we'll travel again--on darker days, I wonder if we'll travel again.  I suspect that we will, although some people will be sanitizing every surface as they go along.  Some will wear masks.  I will not.

It's easy for me to think that now.  Who knows what our neuroses will be when we emerge on the other side?  I'm already more conscious of everything my fingers touch, especially for items that aren't stationary.  At Total Wine on Saturday, the checkout clerk and I tried to keep our safe distance, but in the end, we each touched every bottle of wine, bottles which had been touched before (but probably so long ago there was no virus on them).

My spouse and I take our temperatures more regularly these days.  We both have vague aches and pains which we'd have never thought much about before, but in these days, we ask, "Is it a headache or a symptom?  Is my cough dry or wet?"

I know we are not even remotely close to the beginning of what's coming after.  It's bizarre to me to think about how much life has changed in just 6 weeks.  Where will we be 6 weeks from now?

Monday, April 13, 2020

Settling Into Self-Isolation of a Sort

Let me be sure to collect some recollections from last week before we get too far away from last week.

--A week ago, I'd have been almost sick with anxiety as I waited to see how the first day of synchronous distant classes would go.  I have been happily surprised.  There have been some glitches, but overall, classes seem to be going well.

--I should clarify--synchronous distant learning classes are going well.  I am less sure about the online classes.  For most of our students, the synchronous classes are their Program classes, and we usually have better attendance in those.

--I am still going to the office each day.  Fewer and fewer people are.  It reminds me of the nuclear war movie Testament, where at first, it looks like the tiny town hasn't been affected by the nuclear blast that was far away, but at the end of the movie, a careful viewer realizes how the town has been hollowed out.

--Of course, we expect to have a more normal kind of operations in May, so its nothing at all like the nuclear war movie Testament.

--On Monday, I made this Facebook post:  "There's a tree crew (I use the term crew loosely) cutting down every tree in the parking lot outside my office building. That's at least 5 full grown trees gone. I realize it's a small loss in the face of the bigger losses of the world, but it feels particularly grievous this week. Sigh."

--On Monday, I was stitching masks just to see if I could do it.  By the end of the week, I was stitching masks because new county rules required face coverings.

--On Thursday, I made this blog post: "I dropped a Tootsie Roll on the floor, and I asked, "Are we in the chapter of the apocalyptic novel where we need to wash the candy we've dropped on the floor?" We agreed that although that chapter may be coming, we are not there yet, because we have more candy, and the stores are still selling candy."

--Yesterday as we drove to church, I realized I felt so very tired, and I wondered why.  It hadn't been the kind of rigorous Holy Week we often have had.  But then I realized that it was almost as time consuming:  choir rehearsal and live streamed evening prayer on Monday, Maundy Thursday services on Thursday, and Easter, plus various online activities along the way.

--We had a fairly good Easter, although it was very unusual.  Of course, we don't have a usual Easter, so every Easter feels unusual in different ways.  For more, see this post on my theology blog.

--I have several favorite memories from yesterday.  One is the bunny bread that we made. 

But even more is the moment in the afternoon when my spouse came inside to tell me that he'd seen caterpillars on the milkweed.

--We had moved them from the front porch to the back yard.  We hadn't seen a caterpillar in days, so we assumed they were all lost.   And now we have 2.

One of them is a more intrepid explorer.  He keeps making his way to the neighboring pineapple plants.

--It was a better week overall than I was expecting.  And yet, just when I think I've settled into a new normal, something unsettling happens:  new job cuts, new requirements, new technology, new possibilities.  Some nights I sleep more soundly than others.

--Onward to week 2 of our Spring quarter.  Onward to week x of our physical distancing. 

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Easter in a Time of Plague

The Gospel of Matthew tells us that the Easter story begins now, "towards dawn, on the first day of the week." I have been awake since 4:45 a.m. EDT, keeping watch for the mystical, staying alert for signs of resurrection.

For most of us, this will be an Easter unlike any other.  Most of us have never experienced Easter under stay at home orders.  Most of us have never been isolated the way we are now.

For some of us, this particular Easter may feel more like the tomb than like resurrection.  We are still waiting.  We don't know what the outcome will be:  will this new virus mutate and become worse?  Will our favorite schools, businesses, social institutions survive?  What will the new normal look like?  Can we bring some of our favorite aspects of the old normal with us to the new normal?

In many ways, these questions are the essential Easter questions.  Life changes, and often faster than we can process the information.  We're left struggling, grasping for meaning, refusing to believe the good news that's embodied right before our eyes.  We don't recognize the answer to our prayers, our desperate longings, even when it's right before our eyes.  We're stuck grieving in the pre-dawn dark.

The situation of this Easter may lead us to see the story in new ways.  What does resurrection demand of us?  How can we fulfill the promise of our lives?  How can we help transform the world we live in to be more like the world God envisions for us?

Something new is being born, and we are here to help shape it.  Alleluia!

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Wearing the Mask for Its First Trip to a Store

I am glad that I stitched some masks this past week.  South Florida is now under a mask order.  We must wear masks in stores.  Here I am, wearing one of mine, hand stitched, with a cloth of a butterfly pattern so appropriate for Easter:

I am also glad that I did the majority of my big shopping trips before the mask requirement.  I went shopping today to restock at Total Wine, and it was the first time wearing the mask.  I found it a bit claustrophobic.

I am one of those people touching her mask and adjusting it all the time.  Maybe as I get more used to it, I won't.

I will also pull my hair out of my face and clip it whenever I go out.  I had shanks of hair falling in my eyes, since I couldn't push anything behind my ears.

Now to see how it holds up when it's washed!

Friday, April 10, 2020

I Have Heard the Roosters Crowing

If you came here hoping for a more theological approach to Good Friday, see this post on my theology blog.

Yesterday was bound to be a strange day.  Maundy Thursday has never been my favorite day of the Christian calendar, although there have been some memorable experiences, so that I'm usually open to the idea of Maundy Thursday meaning.

As a child, I loved seeing the altar stripped.  In the 70's churches of my childhood, the altar was always--always--hidden underneath paraments.  It was always a shock to see the naked altar.  I've been to foot washing events and Maundy Thursday worship experiences that resembled a meal more than a church service.

I knew that last night would be different, but that it would be similar to the live stream of our Sunday service:  our pastor, a smaller version of the choir sitting very far apart, and me, the person who changes camera angles from an iPad.

We got to church early so that my spouse could rehearse with the choir.  Since we're now under a face mask order, I brought some cloth with me.  I transformed cloth that I had originally bought for baby quilts.  I stitched by hand as the choir rehearsed songs that took them from Maundy Thursday to Good Friday to Easter.

It was surreal in so many ways.  Part of me is still aghast that I am stitching masks; has society really come to this? I felt both like a 19th century seamstress and a character in some strange apocalyptic novel.  I thought about shrouds and grave cloths and masks of all sorts.  One of my friends in the choir suggested bringing the sides together to make the mask more puffy and less claustrophobic:

This morning was strange too, as I moved through the streets before dawn.  Usually lots of folks are walking their dogs.  Today I saw no one walking dogs.  It's like some strange rapture:  the dogs go to Heaven, all the toilet paper disappears, I look out my office window to see no traffic, no sign of any kind of human life.

Could I make some sort of poem out of it all?  Perhaps. 

I've had a strange roughness in my throat.  If I talk too much I want to cough.  It's sort of a dry cough, but it comes and goes and some hours, I feel perfectly normal.  I took my temperature the other night, when the dry cough first showed up, just to be sure, and I have no fever.

Some days, a cough is just a cough caused by allergies or too much cleaning product or a voice that's tired of performing.

The other day I came up with some lines, a la Eliot's Prufrock, that seem like a perfect way of closing a Good Friday blog post:

I have heard the roosters crowing, each to each.
They crow for all of us.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Stitch Meditations in a Time of Plague

And now, my city of Hollywood, Florida has declared that we all must wear masks.  Or more specifically:

"The City of Hollywood has issued an Emergency Order effective tomorrow, Thursday, April 9, 2020 at 12:01 a.m.ordering that all persons outside their homes and within a public place such as a grocery store, hardware store, pharmacy, restaurant, or other deemed essential business, are mandated to wear a cloth facial covering consistent with the current CDC guidelines. All individuals providing delivery services shall wear a form of covering over their noses and mouths while making deliveries."

My first thought:  thank goodness we have plenty of cloth and know how to sew.

My next thought:  I bought that fabric to make quilts for pregnant friends.  Interesting symbolism, the fabric for baby quilts repurposed into masks.

On Saturday, I tried a no-sew version, with cloth and ponytail holders:

I'd been seeing various videos about how to make a mask without sewing--a length of cloth, 2 ponytail holders, fold, fold, flip, flip done. I experimented. Maybe I have weird ears, but I couldn't get the ponytail holders to stay on my ears. Or maybe it's the ponytail holders. 

I think I'll switch to ribbons; I also have a stash of ribbons. I do like the butterfly cloth that I've been hoarding--neat symbolism, both for the pandemic and for the season of Easter.

I need to go to the CDC website to see if we're allowed to use scarves or bandanas as a covering.  I went to the grocery store Tuesday, and it looked like bandits were taking over the store, everyone with bandanas around their noses and mouths.  About a third of the patrons wore bandanas, a third wore some version of a mask (more construction masks than surgical masks).

On Sunday, I stitched a prototype mask.  I had a flannel panel, flannel also bought for a baby quilt.  It needs some modifying still.  I made it much too big.  Before I make more, I'll look up some patterns.  But it's not too hard.  One of my friends from South Carolina community college days is using these measurements:  9 1/2 x 61/2. 18 inch straps or 7 inch elastic.  If you want much more information, this article in The Washington Post should give you everything you need.

It's not the stitch meditation practice that I thought I would adopt.  But the season has changed radically from 6 weeks ago, when I first started thinking about stitch meditations.


Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Farewell to Musical Majesty

--Usually when I hear of a death of a musical legend or a musician who has been important to me, I grab a CD to play in the car.  That statement alone tells you something about my age:  that music has once mattered to me like that, that I still own CDs, that I have a car that's old enough to have come with a CD player, that I still play music on CD.  If I had a record player in the car, I might not have moved away from vinyl.

--Lately the deaths are coming quickly.  This morning, I heard about the death of John Prine, who for a few weeks had been sick with the new virus. Last week, it was the founder of the group Fountains of Wayne.  There was the death of Ellis Marsalis.  I didn't think of Bill Withers as being a musician who was important to me, but "Ain't No Sunshine" is one of those songs that always seemed to be on the radio of my 70's childhood, as was his song "Lean on Me."

--Others have written more beautiful tributes to these artists.  Here's a great analysis of Prine's genius, while this tribute looks at all the ways that Adam Schlesinger was so much more than just the founder of Fountains of Wayne.

--Of course, one of the reasons why these deaths hit me hard is that I remember the friends who loved the music right there with me.  Most of those friends aren't physically near, the way we were long ago when we would ride for hours in the car as we listened to music on cassette tape and talked and talked and talked.

--A side note:  I remember how miraculous it seemed when it first became possible to install cassette players in cars.  We didn't have to just listen to whatever the radio stations played!

--As I've been thinking about the loss of musicians, I've been thinking about past concerts I've attended. I'm fairly sure I saw Ellis Marsalis and the whole Marsalis family long ago, in the early 90's, at the Jacksonville Jazz Festival--back when that festival was free.  One of my friends created a Facebook quiz asking us to guess which concert he had not attended--and I was reminded that once I went to concerts, all sorts of concerts, concerts I almost forgot that I went to (REM), until seeing my friend's Facebook post.

I have now spent several hours trying to come up with both a title for this post and to figure out a way to conclude.   The title is less difficult, although I'm not happy with it.  But what to say in conclusion, in the face of these grievous losses, with the knowledge that more grievous losses are on the way?

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Successful Day One of Spring Quarter

The first day of our new approach to classes for Spring quarter went really well.  We have a two-pronged approach to distance learning:  if our online division already had an online class, we put students registered for the onground version into those classes.  But that left lots and lots of classes, and we didn't have time to create all those classes for the online division.

Those classes are being taught in a synchronous distance learning environment--a fancy way of saying that they're set up like a phone conference call.  Each class has its own Go to Meeting recurring call, with the idea that the faculty member will do some combination of lecturing, presenting material, and assisting students with the flipped classroom materials.  In the intervening time between calls, students will read, work on projects, view videos, and work their way through material.

In some ways, it's cool:  these sessions can be recorded, which means that students can go back to review.  Students can tune in from a variety of locations, a help when we're not allowed to assemble. 

I am aware of all the limitations:  we don't all have the same access to the same technology, and even the best technology can fail us.  But it's better than shutting down the school.

Yesterday morning, I hopped from class to class.  Most of them seemed to be going well.  We had a few technology glitches, but we solved them.  We only had 5 students absent, so the attendance rate was 91%, which is remarkable for any first day of any quarter, but really remarkable in difficult times like our current one.

There are questions that shimmer in the distance:  when can we come back to school to do the lab portions of these classes?  If we can do flipped classrooms in a time of pandemic, why are some administrators so opposed to them in "normal" times?  Will there ever be "normal" times again?

Going from class to class did exhaust me.  I find the conference call environment challenging:  there's always one person who forgets/refuses to mute, and there are times when everyone wants to talk at once and then no one can remember what they wanted/needed to say.  In terms of online/distance education, I much prefer asynchronous classes--give me modules that I can do on my own terms and my own timeline.  But I understand why we didn't go that route.

Now it's time to transition from my home computer to my work computer.  Let me go forth in hope that today will be as successful as yesterday!

Monday, April 6, 2020

Different States of Sheltering in Place

I've heard reports that water sports fall under the shelter in place regulations in Maryland--no boating under the governor's regulations.

The governor of Maryland is stricter than the governor of Florida.  Most governors are stricter than the governor of my state.

My city of Hollywood has stricter shelter in place guidelines.  I've been taking a walk in the predawn hours most mornings, but under the strictest interpretation of the city's ordinance, I'm not supposed to be on the streets or sidewalks.

Yesterday afternoon, we went for a walk.  It's been months since we went for a Sunday walk.  There was a fierce police presence, but we weren't stopped.  There were several cars at the bridge across the Intracoastal to the beach, several parked at points at the marina, several others at one point in the road, and several others further west.  Some of the officers were out of their cars.  They were not practicing safe distancing.  Some wore masks; some didn't.

I speculated that they were doing some sort of drug bust--waiting for some intrepid mariners to come ashore.  My spouse thought they were just pulling overtime duty, but since so many of us are sheltering at home, there's less crime to take care of.

Today I will go to the office.  It's the first day of classes, and I will be surprised if we don't have some students show up in person.  To let them know about our distance approach to spring term, we've texted, we've e-mailed, we've phoned--but I'm still expecting a few students.  I'm also expecting some grumpiness.  I may or may not say, "We did everything we know how to do, except going to houses in person to deliver the message--and the Broward county ordinance is very clear about how we need not to do that."

Lots of us will be using the Go to Meeting platform to conduct our classes.  I tell myself that businesses around the world use this platform at the same time to conduct a variety of meetings, so my expectation of tech troubles is misplaced.  I hope to have my expectations dashed.

This morning, as I walked and thought about the day ahead, I had a vision of Cassandra at the workplace.  Some of her predictions have come true, although the means of delivery are different. 

Cassandra, Noah's wife--it's interesting how my brain is returning to these archetypes.  O.K. Noah's wife may not be an archetype.

I will come home to a dinner of homemade turkey soup with dumplings, and then I'll observe the evening classes via my computer.  These are very interesting times.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Perils and Palm Sunday

Yesterday, I decided to make a trek to the WalMart Neighborhood Market, which is open earlier than other places.  I knew that we would be out of both coffee and wine in a few days, and I thought there might be a chance that toilet paper had been restocked.  We also need mosquito repellent rather desperately.

Off I went.  More people were wearing masks than when I went 2 weeks ago.  Did they really look more terrified or did I just imagine it because the mask obscured so much of the face?  We all kept our distance from each other.  I continued to smile at everyone.

Some of the workers wore a mask and gloves, some wore just gloves, and most wore nothing at all.  I, too, wore nothing, and I didn't wash my hands until I got home.  We had talked about washing all the groceries, but in the end, we didn't, a decision made more out of laziness/exhaustion than anything else.

Some people in the parking lot drove like they were preparing for the wrong apocalypse, as if nuclear bombs were on the way, not a plague.

Yesterday afternoon I did some grading and then I read the next book for my certificate program.    I hope that this pandemic won't be the death knell for both the program and the seminary.  Like many educational institutions, I suspect it wouldn't take much for the institution to go under.

It is a strange situation, with the economy imploding, and yet, the sunrises have been beautiful.

And now it is time to go to church to assist with the streaming of the Palm Sunday service.  We are likely going to experience one of the strangest Holy Weeks that any of us have ever had.  Hopefully we can find the unexpected bauty there too.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

The Longest Week

And now, the wisdom/advice/guidance comes for all of us to wear masks when we're out in public.  Of course, the nation faces a shortage of medical grade masks that might actually block the virus, but there's some thought that a cloth mask might help.

I do have a lot of cloth that I could use to create masks.  If only I had time to sew.

I see various types of posts from people who are holed up in quarantine who have made thousands of masks or written the definitive biography of Julian of Norwich or made their thirty-sixth loaf of homemade bread with sourdough starter that they created with native yeasts that they captured in their back yard.  I have spent this past work week in the office.  Even though we are only there from 9 to 5, I feel like every day both lasts an eternity while also zooming right by.

Getting our classes/teachers/students ready for 2 types of online learning is even more exhausting than getting ready for an accreditation visit.

I've got a lot of grading for my online classes.  The stories of loss that I hear from my students break my heart:  laying off 150 employees, losing a place to live, having to work more hours in dangerous conditions.

And then there's the other sadness.  Yesterday I was grading my students' evaluation essays.  Many of them were writing about restaurants that will likely not be there when we're allowed to go out again. 

I wrote this Facebook post that seems worth recording here so that I can find it again:

"2:41 a.m. EDT: a bird sings riotously under half a moon. I should grade papers.

Two hours later: It is so strange to read my students' evaluation essays--reviews of restaurants and other places that may not make it through this virus crisis.

The bird still sings riotously. The moon has set. I still have papers to grade, while trying not to weep at the thought of what may have been lost in the past month.

Perhaps I have just written a rough draft of a poem . . ."

Friday, April 3, 2020

Drained, Not Drowned

Here is how I am feeling today:

I am trying to believe that if I'm drained, it means I'm not drowned, not flooded.  But goodness I am tired.

Yesterday was one of those trying days that helps me understand why ancient people might believe in evil spirits:  each hour brought a new piece of bad news, from the emergency surgery of a faculty member to people who were locked out of accounts to an online new student orientation with technical difficulties and mid-afternoon, my campus lost internet/server connection.

Some days, I just want to give up and go home.  I try to channel my inner Winston Churchill, but refusing to surrender doesn't mean I feel like I'm winning--or making any progress at all.

I continue to sketch each day as part of the Morning Watch broadcast that I'm doing for my church.  I am sketching as part of an online journaling group; some days I am staggered to think at how much our lives have changed since I signed up for this class.

Here's my favorite sketch of the week:

One of my co-journalers posted her picture of a tree with a knot on the trunk, which put me in mind of children's Easter eggs, where you look in a hole and you see a whole other world. That's what I tried to capture here, a mystical world in the knot hole of a tree.

I know that at some point I'll look back and see gifts from this time period.  Some of those gifts, like the sketching, I recognize right now.  Some I won't know for years.  Let me stay open to the gifts and the graces.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Summer Cancellations

And now, the summer cancellations have begun.  The Wimbleton tennis tournament will get more publicity, but today I read the email that told me of the cancellation of June onground intensive for my certificate in spiritual direction.  We will meet again in January of 2021, and we will keep reading our way through the book list.

Part of me is not surprised.  I am surprised that the decision was made this early, but I know that there may be some larger issues of which I would be unaware.  Or maybe it's out of an abundance of caution.  There was also going to be a shift in oversight of the program, as the director was going to retire in July. 

Now I guess we may not see him again.  Or maybe he'll come back in January to say good-bye.

In the realms of losses, mine is a small one.  It's a delay, after all, not an outright cancellation.  I can wait an extra 6 months to get the certificate.  I can keep doing the reading and stay connected in all the virtual ways we're creating/using now.  I was not depending on this certificate to make a pivot to a new job.

I think of all the other gatherings this summer:  what will be cancelled?  Political conventions?  Synod Assemblies?  Church-wide gatherings?  Summer camps?  Conferences?

These are strange times we live in.  I know that, but every so often, that knowledge hits me in the soft parts of my body, and I can scarcely breathe.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Life Continues, in the Midst of Global Pandemic

A week ago, we needed to move the school butterfly garden inside because the parking garage was being pressure washed and repaired.  We moved the plants into the student break room; on Monday, we noticed one caterpillar.

By the end of the week, we had several caterpillars.  Someone asked me if I had brought them in.  I said, "No, they hatched from eggs that some mother Monarch laid."

I've really enjoyed seeing them each day as I filled my tea kettle or rinsed dishes or just made a trip to the break room to see the caterpillars.  But I also kept an eye to the leaves; I didn't want them to run out of food.  I didn't want them to starve in real time, before our eyes.  The skeleton crew of school staff doesn't need that unpleasantness.

Yesterday, I made a trip to my favorite nursery to buy some more milkweed plants.  I knew they were about out of leaves to eat.  And then I decided to take them home.  As they've gotten bigger and bigger, I knew they would be moving to the chrysalis stage soon.  I didn't want them to emerge as butterflies in the building.

I do realize they might be more likely to live in the building.  I know how vulnerable they are to predators at every stage.

I put a few of the plants with caterpillars on them into a box and put the box on the floorboard of the front passenger seat.  Having caterpillars as passengers proved a bit distracting.  I didn't want them to fall/crawl off the plants and into the car.  At least one of them had crawled away earlier in the day.

We put the pots on the porch where I'm hoping the caterpillars will be a bit safer from bird predators.  They will have plenty of places to create their chrysalis, plenty of surfaces from which to hang.

These caterpillars don't understand social distancing!

I also bought 2 hanging baskets of flowers, not for the caterpillars but for me.  Plus, they were on sale!

It's good to remember that even though we're in a time of great challenge, there are still delights to behold.