Folks who attend BFM often want to share their writings with our meeting Friends. It might be research articles, personal writings or connections, as well as writings from outside of BFM that are personally meaningful to them (click here to see previous submissions).
Pandemic Silver Linings
It is mid-2022, and we've been asking whether the pandemic led to any surprising, helpful, delightful, or important personal discoveries.
Some positive responses are below. And if the question speaks to you, please consider sharing what you learned.
We hope this project gives you joy.
From Jan O.
I want to share two pandemic experiences that were the gift of an enemy. In this case, the virus was the enemy, and the gift was what it showed me. I want to say right away that the past few years have been the hardest of my life, but I’m not sharing that with you. I’m sharing what has been good, what has filled my heart with love and appreciation here in Portland, Oregon.
I would have been isolated if not for the TriMet bus system. No car and everything is closed. But the buses run. And the essential workers are working. After George Floyd was murdered May 25, 2020 there were protests all over Portland. And in June, I found a protest on Broadway. I’ve stood at 14th and Broadway daily from 12:00 to 1:00 for the first year, and on Wednesday and Sunday ever since.
We demonstrators self-select as far as values, but we are diverse: midwife, geneticist, hairdresser, IT person, nurse, gardener, professor, etc. And when you stand in the rain and snow and heat day after day, you forge real friendships. Every day is filled with surprises. We get cursing and worse sometimes. Spitting. One guy drove toward me as if to hit me. I just stood still and stared. A de-escalation fellow asked to meet with us by Zoom to coach us on how to handle threats. He did not want us to engage at all. Be safe! Get away!
God knows if it makes a difference, but to individuals it does. I had a young woman who was Black cross the street and come to me crying. She said, "I have been watching you for two years (same corner in front of 5 Star Cleaners), and I just had to stop and tell you how much it means to me that you’re always here."
And the bus drivers! They’re the most compassionate, happy, friendly people in town. I ride bus 17 regularly. I’m usually toting my dolly trolley (for groceries, or Goodwill finds) I took a 4-foot flamingo and a Scott’s push mower on bus 17. Gary said if I brought that mower on his bus, I’d have to mow his lawn. He loved it! Anything I can haul on the dolly I can bring on the bus. Anything I can’t, my friends will drive home for me.
There is one more thing, more COVID-related. I took a course on teaching English as a second language through the Library/Literacy Council by zoom. Now I have 10 Adult Literacy students from all over the world. Alexy had called from Dnipro, Ukraine, and I’m worried as he has stopped. I have a Japanese lady who calls in from Paris. I just marvel at the library staff who manage all the volunteers and English students.
Well, Friends, this is what I have. I miss you sooo much. Love and peace, Jan
From Frank G. Shirley Who?
Lots of accomplished writers re-read Shirley Hazzard’s novels every year, the New York Review of Books told me early in the pandemic. A month later, a Times reviewer declared Hazzard’s most celebrated title, The Transit of Venus, “one of the most important postwar novels.” A speaker at a Hazzard symposium hosted by the posh and gravely serious New York Society Library (founded in 1754) called Hazzard “a literary treasure of the world.”
So why had I, an English major ever keen to keep up, never heard of the late Australian-American winner of the 2003 National Book Award? The question begins to answer itself. But the pandemic led me to realize that blown-away Hazzard fans were on the money.
Granted, some of her work should be forgotten. (Case in point: short stories based on her days in the United Nations bureaucracy.) Yet, like the Girl with the Curl, when Hazzard’s good, she’s very, very good. Like a Joyce you’ve never heard of. Both are deep and difficult writers who demand something rare in readers: enough time to read slowly. Let’s say six pages an hour instead of 60.
Thank you, pandemic. You need serious time to appreciate Hazzard’s greatest gift: unique, complex sentences that she’s burnished by her famously tireless rewriting. Sounds grim, but listen to a medley of them, skimmed from The Transit of Venus.
The critic Alice Gregory writes of Venus: “The terms of the novel’s contract are clear: one must read it with unusually close attention; in exchange, astonishment will be granted.”
To publicly comment on one or more of these submissions, please send an email, with your comment, to our FORUM email (firstname.lastname@example.org). After moderation, your comment will be posted on this public page with only your first name and last initial.