What a time to be alive. For me covid days have meant looking longer and harder at things both outwards and inwards. The collective pause has brought a space to stand back into, to assess in ways one usually reserves for the change of year either annually or personally. When covid started, I was embarking on transitioning where I live, which has been put on pause with all the uncertainty. If anything, after this time, I am more rather than less certain than before of what is next.

During an earlier period of my life when I was moving around a lot I found some solace in journaling, books, translation and academic work, like shells I could pull in around myself and take refuge in from the glaring sense of freedom and infinite possibility, the bottom falling out, the loss of all things familiar, the overstimulation, leaves which helped me to filter the light, things which allowed me to extend my grip on the world and the things in it, to lend some gravity to my thoughts, to keep me warm when I shivered, or to tell me I wasn’t the only one who did. It seemed, in an illusory way, to provide some of the safety I so craved during that time.

After leaving grad school, I just stopped. Somehow I was no longer able to sustain my attention for long on the written page, and had nothing to say even on a private page. I couldn’t force myself to. Aside from little bits of streams of correspondence here or there which ended abruptly, or which erupted sporadically at times of hormonal flooding: a flammable whirlpool which even a little bit of alcohol could ignite into a violently ground-searing, all-consuming, bottomless conflagration, or simply trailed off, I stopped writing completely. I was no longer really sure of who I was or what I had to say. I felt trashed and voided, and the sense of a time out of joint that will never be put back into joint, and maybe that’s just how life is. I tried reading some, here and there, and did sometimes manage entire books in collaboration with book groups in a glancing sort of way, but it still sometimes feels like a bulb that’s blown a fuse, or that while reading I’ll miss out on something essential or important, or that I’ll be blinded from something that I need to see, or that the language is just not real or will betray me; it makes me nervous. Or that I’ve walked out past the end of myself and jumped alone into a void that nobody will ever find me in, or that I’ve climbed too high into the branches of a tree for safety and am now unable to get down again. Or that I will never really find the right words. Or that my words have pounded their fists against a brick wall to the point of collapse and nobody gave or will ever give a damn about them, about me, about the shatterings or the brokenness or the need to find a way out – and so maybe it was better to just ignore all of that and pretend it did not exist. I can do snippets, short articles, a pastische of news, things I can twirl around in my mind but it’s still really hard to get through anything that has the appearance of being a solid body, cohesive, situated, too provocative, the things I had sought and loved. It’s not the sort of thing one talks about but that trails around like a hidden broken limb.

Late last year and into the spring I took up journaling again, which has meant retracing some voids and sometimes finding other places to stand, digesting what might have been indigestible before, and looking more deeply. Just taking little walks into the void again where there is nothing to keep one from falling or flying. The nature writing group has been most helpful in connecting me more deeply to place and the transient nature of everything external and internal, in finding that there’s still blood in my veins and snap in my vines after all, in experiencing and trusting my own perceptions – and my pen – anew.