Lockdown Fatigue

8 of swords

It’s a real thing, a recognised phenomenum. We are so over the restrictions of staying in our 5km zone and here in Ireland we are waiting, waiting and waiting for our vaccination notification. But, even those who have been vaccinated have few places to go; only essential travel – work (which has been mostly at home for a year), medical, pharmacy and grocery. That’s it! I live in a very beautiful place and have a garden. I feel a bit ashamed to make this admission given that I am privileged to have pretty fine technology -phone, internet, devices – and natural beauty. But we want to reach out and actually touch the far flung loved ones. We keep hoping to see one another and the dates recede and recede. Maybe summer. Maybe in late summer, outdoors, we will be able to give a masked pandemic hug.

Also, I am fortunate in having Zoom students where we can air our experiences and compare how things are being handled in Canada as opposed to Ireland. It is thanks to one of those students that I have taken up the challenge to build a poem around some quotes from our conversation last Saturday. The second poem also reflects a telephone conversation with another friend. She cares for her 94 year old mother who has pronounced that this pandemic is worse than World War 2. Sure, they faced death. But living didn’t threaten your life. “We could go to dances. If we were down in the dumps we went next door and had a cuppa tea with a neighbour and had a moan.” Peggy fell in love and married 75 years ago at the end of the war. She has a point. The Guardian newspaper writes articles with headlines such as “How the Whole World Lost Its Libido.”

We compare anecdotes from England and the USA , where the vaccine roll out has been gaining traction, and feel like we are living in corsets. They hope to have all the kids back into in-person schooling by 12th April, but…the numbers of infection dictate everything. The week after Mother’s Day weekend and St. Patrick’s Day saw a jump in reported cases. Easter weekend, four days of no where to go, will be the final temptation.

Safe to say that the phrase ‘stir crazy’ has taken on layers and layers of texture. It’s more a cri de cœur.

Thanks to Susan for stating this challenge.

We are so over Covid

"We are so over Covid". "But it's not over us!"
Life is slow as treacle in a January
freeze. Framed in a five kilometre square. It's messed
up. In my head it's a convention of fairies'
wishes washed up ashore after a hurricane.
How is it that days inch by at warp speed? Because
I'm taking my reality cues, hemmed by routine.
But everything is always strange. It's collaged.
We have taken scissors to what used to pass as
society. Some days I feel as if I hold
a beating heart, lifted up, out, by blood soaked hands
during transplant surgery. I want to be told
"It's time. It's done. Close her up. Let her live again."
However we repair, or process, will we transcend
what is lost? We count the cost, regretting offence.
But have we built a world with more walls and fences?

Telephone conversations that crossed oceans, seas or just down the road a piece inspired the next poem.

Truly

Truly, I am glad that my sister can drive out
to a mountain cabin in another state now.
But here, we dream more modestly.
My friend, connected by telephone, and I
we dream of when we might venture forth, ranging
into the county, say.  Or maybe even ten kilometres wide.
That would take us both to separate forest parks, larger sky.
My friend's 94-year old mother, now fully vaccinated, perked up
after twelve weeks (more!) feeling incarcerated.
"I can go out in two weeks!" Said triumphantly.
"But where?" countered her carer.
The fleshpots of Tesco beckon, her prospect
of living the high life now.
In England, my friend reports they can sedately
cluster in groups of six outdoors
in the fresh air from this week. Where
we remain locked up and downcast within
our prescribed five kilometre zone.
Even a trip to the dentist is welcome excuse
to travel passed scenery not seen for months past.

So I am feeling a little bit green, in all its varying shades
from this Emerald Isle, from nausea to envy,
and dream of Blue Ridge hills or the ocean waves that break
upon a shimmering sandy strand , 
but not viewed in video clip.

Copyright ©Bee Smith, 2021, All rights reserved.

The featured image comes from Biddy Tarot. https://www.biddytarot.com.

It’s the 8 of swords and that pretty much sums it up!

Hibernation Recuperation

I last posted twenty days ago. That was probably the last time I put my fingers to the laptop keyboard. In the interval I have made do with the the finger stabbing at the tablet’s keyboard. I briefly flirted with the dictation facility, but that was just annoying. For this past twenty days I have been in both hiberation and recuperation. I am only just emerging from my bear’s cave.

On 5th January I made the very bad decision of trying to preempt a fight between the two warring tom cats in our household. For my trouble I had over twenty pounds of angry cat hurl himself at me. My forearm was badly bruised, the wrist sprained and there were a number of scratches. Over the night of 6th/7th January as I watched the storming of Capital Hill my right hand swelled to double of the left. By dawn my husband was driving me to Sligo General A&E.

No one wants to go to a hospital in the middle of a pandemic, especially when your country has suddenly ranked first in the world for the number of infections per capita. Also, no one wants to be Cat Scratch Woman on a snowy day when A&E is suddenly flooded with falls, fractures and heart attacks who all are definitely higher in the triage pecking order. By the time Cat Scratch Woman got seen I needed IV antibiotics. There were mutterings about sending me to Galway, three hours away, to see the plastic surgery team there. There were dire mutterings of losing some of the hand’s use. In the end, eight hours after I registered at reception, it was decided I needed to be admitted to hospital for regular antibiotic infusions. They thought I would be there for three days. In the end it was overnight and then home with antiobiotics the size of horse pills.

I am now home fifteen days and do not seem to have have any symptoms of hospital acquired plague. My Covid test at the hospital was negative (Of course! I have been no where and only seen my husband and grocery store staff and had shouted conversations with neighbours from sixty paces away for the past three months!)

A&E Departments are their own little universes at the best of times. In a pandemic they take on a certain surreality. No one spoke to each other. We were all hunched into ourselves, masked behind our masks. The hospital porters seem congenitally, relentlessly cheerful and postive. The hospital cleaning staff toss their banter about like it is street theatre. But those of us waiting were as silent as a church before a funeral Mass.

Once I finally was seen and could find a sandwich to buy I did not want to eat it in A&E. I paused on a bench outside it in the foyer that was the pre-Covid19 entrance to the hospital. A&E is to the right. To the left was once upon a time the Oncology Ward and is now the Covid19 ward. As I chomped on my egg and mayo sandwich a small woman in full protective gear, looking like a back to front elephant, trundled past on her way into that ward. Or was she more like the Caterpillar in the Tenniel drawings of Alice in Wonderland and the hose not an elephant’s trunk, but the Caterpillar’s hookah. Her locomotion was more caterpillar than elephant. Or, as my brother said to me a couple days later, perhaps I was a tad feverish at that point.

They made me Bed 7 in a six bed ward and they kept pumping me full of antiobiotics. My husband had sent out a Facebook request for prayers on my behalf. Between them, and the IV antibiotics, the Orthopoedic bods were happy to send me home by 2pm the next day. Besides, there is pressure for beds. I was released home on the tenth anniversary of my mother’s death.

Compounding that sense of not quite reality were some synchronicities. First, the Malaysian A&E doctor shared my father’s forename. On the ward, one of the nurses was Julian; I say the Julian of Norwich mantra daily. Then came the challenge to get blood from my deep veins. They called in their own Sure Shot, a Polish man originally from the hometown of the Black Madonna, who had a ‘shaman trick’ to finding the vein for the required sample. I wasn’t aware of my small army of well-wishers since I keep social media off my mobile phone, but I felt very ‘held’ all the while nonetheless.

Home has been a slow process of medication and gradual rehabilitation of the hand and wrist. I have managed to keep up the haiku/senryu/tanka a day journal. Though I did have to compose 7th January’s in my head while I was sitting in A&E. My handwriting was very shaky those first days back, but you try writing with your hand in splint!

It has also meant that I have had to let go of certain January projects. There are limits and I have had to humbly accept them. Though I did have a real bargaining phase where I thought I might adapt things. So no 30 day e-course is available for the Season of Imbolc. It was a worthy project, but it will have to be for another year. I especially wanted to do it as this is the tenth anniversary of my leading a Brigid Pilgrimage in Ireland for Celtic Women International. The blandishments of many loving friends, as well as the dearly beloved husband, talked me down from those overzealous ambitions…eventually. I am truly indebted to one of my students for helping me see clearly and to let go of any lingering guilt about not trying to do it all. Once I stopped trying to push the river, the healing began to flow.

I have also had to delay plans to get back to my Zoom classes. This is because I do have a very large project, Mapping the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark Poem by Poem, in the works. That is going to need a lot of energy, which I do not have an infinite supply of at the moment. More about that in another post.

My fingers may be dancing over the keyboard, but the wrist tires out far sooner than I would like. Domestic chores are my physio therapy and each day I do a little bit more. I am having to treat my body like a temple.

Here are a couple haiku/senryu/micropoems from my journal while I have been in hibernation/recuperation mode.

7th January 2021, Sligo General A&E

Stolid faces gaze
Waiting for their name to be called
Quiet stoicism
21st January 2021

Remorseless toil
Perpetual do over
Sisyphus' housework
23 January 2021

Outside my window
Icing sugar coated world
Birds' chirruping spring

It is good to be back at the keyboard again.

Have Yourself A Happy Covid Christmas

As my brother in Brooklyn emailed in response to the featured photo, “Nothing says Happy Holidays like hand sanitizer!” But I implore everyone to stay put and mingle with no more than a handful, outdoors, over the upcoming holidays. The post-Thanksgiving statistics coming from the USA are terrifying. I know this enforced staying apart from people can be hard, especially for the extroverts among us. But with more than 100,000 new cases PER DAY in the USA, with a projection of 200,000+ by Christmas, the hospitals simply cannot cope. The explosion of cases is, in part, due to the one million who travelled to visit family over the Thanksgiving holiday. According to data released by MSNBC journalist Rachel Maddow a couple days ago, the White House Covid Taskforce reckons that if you travelled over the Thanksgiving holiday then assume you have been infected and are infectious right now, whether you feel fine or not.

Here is the link on YouTube of Maddow’s Report. Watch right to the end. https://youtu.be/VlWoEBpfGj0

A cautionary tale for Europeans where Christmas is the big family celebration of the year.

I have been practicing writing sonnets recently, so this Tuesday’s Weekly Poem is a sonnet. And given the news it has a distinctly Covid19 Christmas theme.

Covid Christmas

Tell me what says Christmas cinematically
to you?  Maybe "It's a Wonderful Life?" Or
"Die Hard?" Perhaps you crave  "Love, Actually?"
"Home Alone?" Given we have had much more
than a cameo from He Who Shall Not Be Named,
who can take credit for our solitary,
Covid Christmas scenario....Hmmm. An enraged
Grinch stole it, along with many thousands of souls.

Empty chairs. Even some empty tables.
Masked, visored, in full battledress PPE,
our medics cannot stem the tide of truth. Fables
are the stuff of children's bedtime fairy tales.
Those cautioning you not to let the wolf loose
in the chicken coop. Or becoming one yourself.

Take you joy safely this holiday season. Make your happy where you can, but with very few. Stock up on you favourite films. Buy a silly Christmas mask to match you silly Santa hat. Remember that all those hospital staff valiantly trying to save the lives of those who became infected will not be spending the day with their families. They might be trying to save a member of your family.

Which is love in action, actually.

Enter Winter

It has been a week where rain has been turning into sleet. We have had hoar frost for a couple mornings this week and a distinctly unbalmy -1C at dawn today. Which is blooming cold for Ireland! The Light in the Window: 21 Days Journey through December’s Dark Days e-course started winging into email inboxes last Tuesday. We have our first Zoom fireside chat in a couple hours.

And yet, what I want to report on is the amazing play of light and cloud at both dawn and sunset this week. Also, fog banks hovering on the horizon. As I tap out this blog outdoors is a white mist. We have an orange alert fog warning tonight. But it is also very beautiful. I am wont to say we live in Tir na nÓg, and weeks like this tend to prove my supposition.

Most days I have been running around with a camera to capture some of the gorgeousness on display. I like winter since moving to Ireland. Or maybe it comes from living out in the country. Either way I have been seriously excited about it many days this week.

At dawn I was looking out at the frost and fog and felt some tanka coming on. So you get a bonus weekly poem.

8:30 AM, St. Nicholas Day, -1C

Each twig is outlined
Trace tree's bare bones with the frost
Backlit by pale sun
Fog freezeframes this whitened world
The blackbird looks in at me.
10AM, St. Nicholas Day, -1C

Gold light glimmering
Frost crystals shiver teardrops
Eyewatering cold
A good day to be alive
If you have a place inside

Which leads into a segue regarding this Christmas. Spare some cash for whatever local charities who are supporting the homeless. This is what one organisation is doing to provide support with Virtual Santa Boxes during this time of Covid19. https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2770392549878979. The pandemic has done one good thing. It has really made people think creatively and laterally to achieve what is needed. I hope we keep it up once the virus is under control by spring.

An E-course to Light December’s Dark Days

A Light in the Window: A 21 Day Journey Together Through December’s Dark Days

How are you? Are you okay? It’s dark outside most of the day. Most of us are staying inside, working at home, cocooning from the corona virus, shielding, trying to maintain and sustain life in a new, strange and inconvenient normal. Isolation can feel lonely even with the internet, telephones, Zoom and FaceTime. The dark days of December beckon us into silence and contemplation. This has always been so. But it has also been the time for storytelling beside the hearth and sharing experiences with those who gathered around.

This e-course is both a guide and companion. Each day you will receive an email with a short piece of writing for reflection. From that lit candlewick you can journal around the topic. You may spend twenty minutes or two hours. You may choose to write a poem, or write a memory, or make some visual art inspired by the prompt.

That is your journey.

But journeys benefit from companions, so this e-course is supported by the option to Zoom over the evenings of December 6th (St. Nicholas Day), December 13th (Day 4 of Hanukkah), and 20th (Winter Solstice Eve)  with me and any fellow traveller who choose to check in and share their light with one another.  It is not compulsory, but for those of you who may not be seeing or speaking to others often, you are welcome to my virtual fireside on those evenings.  We will light our stove and tune in via Zoom 6-8pm Irish Time on those days. That will mean North Americans can brunch or lunch with us while continental Europeans can sip their evening cocoa as we swap tales like 21st century Canterbury Tale travellers. Zoom invitations will go out with the Sunday email.

If I ask my husband very nicely I am sure he might be persuaded to give us a tune.

December marks the celebration of light festivals in three religious traditions. Christians will light the first candle on their Advent wreaths on Sunday, 30th November on a day that is a full moon, as well as a lunar eclipse. Jewish families will light the first of eight candles on their menorah on December 8th. Pagans will celebrate the shortest day of winter solstice on 21st December (depending upon where you live in the world) as the rebirth of the sun.

Photo by Olena Sergienko on Unsplash

Treat each daily email as a kind of window to open on an Advent calendar.  Treat it as some daily  low-cal, hi-inspiration. We are waiting for the return of the light – physical and metaphorical. Darkness can be frightening for some, but we can befriend it. We all grew out of the darkness of our mother’s womb to emerge into the bright lights of a delivery suite or the softer lighting of a bedroom. Most of us started life with our eyes shut tight, but gradually we adjusted to this new brightness and clarity.

We are in a time of change and uncertainty. Yet, this autumn the whooper swans flew over 800 miles from Iceland and made their winter home once again in local Lough Moneen. They honk overhead daily, just as they have done each year we have lived in our little home in West Cavan that  has a view of hills in County Leitrim and the wind turbines on Corry Mountain in Roscommon.

This e-course requires the most rudimentary of tools. You need a notebook of some sort to journal. You will need a pen. Crayons or coloured pens and pencils might appeal to some of you.  You may decide on some days to use craft materials that you already have around the house.  What you may not have is a candle. This could be a tea light or something fancier and scented; in the interests of home safety you may use a battery charged candle.  Keep it simple and safe and work with the requirements of your household.

No matter what you spiritual or religious tradition or upbringing, celebrate the light during these dark days this December. You are invited to reflect and contemplate as you wait for personal and collective epiphanies. We have the means in our hands and hearts. You are welcome to my virtual fireside each Sunday to share what is sparking within you.

The e-course will cost you 21 $/£/€ – or whatever is your local currency – for all twenty-one days.  You can register for the e-course using the form or by emailing bee@sojourningsmith.blog. You will receive an email to direct you to the Paypal account that will ensure that you receive your daily emailed ray of light during the dark days of December.

Featured image Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash.

Breathing

Where I live, in one of the counties in the Republic of Ireland bordering Northern Ireland, we have been put on Covid19 Level 4. Basically, we can move freely, so long as we stay in our own county, but only essential businesses remain open. No one is meant to visit our home. Restaurants are takeaway only and pubs are shut. Worship is back online, though churches remain open for private prayer. Third level, further education is online, too, though primary and secondary schools, as well as creches, remain open. For the time being. Unless things get worse.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given home developments and the fright shows in the motherland, my usually very well-controlled asthma has flaired up in the past fortnight. The past week has seen me getting a flu jab for the first time in years and mailing my Federal Backup Ballot vote, tracking its progress by registered post. (The Federal Backup vote is available to voters abroad; my ballot, requested last August and marked as issued on the Board of Elections system, still has not arrived.) It also involved a trip to my GP to see the practice nurse, Audrey, who assessed the asthma, tinkered with my medication and listened sympathetically to my underlying anxiety.

While we can still venture beyond five kilometres of home, we took advantage of the sunshiney Sunday to visit the Cavan Burren, one of the UNESCO Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark sites close to home. We walked into the woods, away from the established trails, to my favourite megalith. It is signposted as the Cairn Dolmen, but I call it the Fairy Cairn. Cairns, essentially a high pile of stones, were the first kind of spiritual or burial sites built eons ago. Dolmens were the next technological advance. In the Cavan Burren woods you can see how they plopped a dolmen on top of an established cairn. It is probably fair to say that it is a unique example of megalithic building, at least in Ireland.

Moss and heather covered dolmen on top of a grasses over cairn in Cavan Burren woodland, October 2020

I stood before my favourite megalith in the whole world and sang to it. Choir singing used to help regulate my asthma, but regular choir practice fell away in the past couple of years for a variety of reasons. But that deep diaphragmatic breathing was the best medicine. Deep in the wood’s green lung I sang to the stones and the trees.

Breathing

Standing with the trees
before the piled stones,
I lift my voice
in tones of AH -EE-OH
over and over.
I-EE, I-EE sung sharply, 
is yipped into the crack in the sky,
straight through the dappled light.
Spruce megaliths surround
the dolmen slouching
into the ground, resting
on the greened cairn, and just
for that moment
in their embrace
I was uncorked,
uncontained,
breathing.


Copyright ©Bee Smith, 2020. All rights reserved
Trees encircling the Fairy Cairn, Cavan Burren Woods, October 2020.

Walking back along the path I stopped to notice the mushrooms forest critters had been nibbling. Mushrooms grow in the dark, underground. They create enormous mycelium fields that stretch and connect over great distances, out of our sight.

Humans have their own version of mycelium fields. We are all connected. We all want to breathe freely. If this virus teaches us nothing else, as its pathogen robs its host of oxygen, it is that we all need to breathe, that we must allow everyone breathing space.

I am writing this post on Monday because I have plans for Tuesday. Tomorrow I will be participating in a free Zoom Art Therapy Play Day for artists, sponsored by Cavan Arts Office. Self-care is essential these days. Grab it with both hands whenever and wherever it is safely offered. It is another kind of breathing space.

Finding Comfort in Small Joys

I am typing this blog sitting on a hot water bottle. Blessings upon the inventor and patenter of this rubber vessel of comfort to those aches and pains that assail the body. Blessings upon all their descendants, too, for that matter! I have two furry muses close by me – the little dog and Felix, the ex-brawler feral turned lover (most of the time – he’s not completely lost the brawl in his nature, but it is most often incited by a protectiveness toward the smallest critter in the house, the feline princess.)

We are digesting the news that the second wave of Covid19 is well and truly begun in Ireland. Dublin is on Level 3. No ‘wet’ pubs for them, though elsewhere in the Republic they opened. (Madness!) Northern Ireland has also introduced new restrictions. Just don’t visit people at home; well, only one other household allowed to mix with another. Domestic transmission seems to be the one getting the blame this go round. The rationale is that there is more control of potentially infective behaviour in public spaces. Yet the two potential cases I have heard of anecdotally are in schools. Judging by the rugby scrum of teenagers queueing outside a supermarket in Carrick on Shannon during their lunch break last week this is hardly surprising. Young ones crave connection as much as any human; teenagers, however, have much less impulse control. One wonders what the long term behavioural effect of Covid 19 will be on the next generation.

Today is equinox, the equal length of night and day, here in Ireland. It was this day in 2001 that I arrived in Ireland and pitched up in Dowra, the first village on the river Shannon. Which was the sole fact I could glean on Google about the place where we had found a house to rent as our initial disembarkation point in the Republic. Little could I have guessed that this small village – yes, the first one on the River Shannon – would become the place where I have lived the longest in my lifetime.

There was a brief flutter of months in Queens, NYC, when I was born. Then the next longest stay was spent in a small town in Pennsylvania. University took me to Washington, DC for some six years in total. London in England equalled that span before we moved north to Leeds for fifteen years.

During the pandemic I am especially grateful that we took the risk of moving country and also, crucially, moving into the countryside. I cannot imagine not having the ability to get outdoors, to not have a garden to get away from the four walls, or a lonely lane to pace up and down with the dogs during Lockdown. No wonder urban dwellers are so keen to get out and about despite the risks.

No one who knew me in that former life would have ever guessed the deep contentment in living so off the beaten track would give me. But there is the fact of it as we sit outdoors looking at the landscape stretching from Cavan through Leitrim to the heights of Arigna in County Roscommon. “A fine mess you got me into, ” my husband often quotes fondly, since I was the one who lobbied hard to move to Ireland in the first place. The Belfast Treaty and his eldest sister’s death at age 54 dissolved his objections.

Nature has been the great comfort during this trying year. (Also, baking!) In my Zoom Creative Writing workshop this past week we touched on Creative Nonfiction. The ‘homework’ assignment took inspiration from a chapter heading in M.F. K. Fisher’s book How to Cook a Wolf ; write an essay on how to give comfort. The alternative is to write on Ten Essential Things to Do Before You Die.

The year is dying, even if the virus is not yet. I woke at 6am to darkness. I watched the last shaft of sunlight pierce through cloud last night around 7:30pm. We ate our lunch and supper outdoors on Sunday and had a socially distanced cup of tea with a friend outdoors yesterday. This morning felt like autumn had arrived right on schedule. It is time for warm, fuzzy, woolen socks. I walked on the beach in sandals last Friday. That will be their last outing until summer 2021.

I did not plan to have a poem for this post. I thought that it would be strictly prose, which is the focus of the next five weeks for me as we move into Short Story in our Zoom creative writing workshops. But then…Surprise! Like joy, a poem randomly turned up.

Comfort/Joy

This morning
I sense the wind is singing,
catch its joy
as it blows past in the breeze.

Hold it - briefly -
to my breast, swaddled
in the soft wool nest
of my oldest sweater. 

Some images spotted this week that gave me joy.

Pace, pace, pace

The Sunday Weekly is a bit later than usual. And there are good reasons for that. Since I started my Zoom Creative Writing workshops on Thursday nights and Saturday midday, the rhythm of my working life has changed. There are also the other considerations of living in a world riddled with Covid-19. Everything takes longer. Also, a lot of people are complaining of fatigue, myself included. My husband reminded me that I need to not ‘over do’ things and to cherish my back. Living with sciatica during a time when I am unwilling to visit my gifted masseuse means I need to balance walking around time with sitting down time, monitoring how much I stretch when doing simple household tasks.

So something had to give. And for me it means I really do need to rest on a Sunday. I sit a lot on Thursdays and Saturdays; on a Sunday I need to gently move around. And sometimes do some of my own creative work.

While I am working to this teaching schedule I plan on blogging on a Tuesday for the foreseeable future. So look out for a new ‘weekly’ post each Tuesday.

If you like to read it on Sunday, I will be sure to put out social media reminders on that day.

Balance seems like a worthy intention in the week when we will experience the autumn equinox – or equilux as I like to call it. A time of equal light and darkness. We will be sinking into the darkness of winter soon enough here in the Northern Hemisphere. Sitting in that silence and stillness is the friend of creation. Perhaps the intention for everyone in these Covid-19 times is to do less and focus more. It is not the quantity, but the quality we should be considering in all spheres of our lives.

So I shall follow the example of some of the furry members of our household and rest on Sunday for the next few months.

A sleepy Sunday last winter, the late lamented Ellie and her special feline friend Sparkle

Until Tuesday, may all your own intentions for balance and temperance be made manifest.

Creative Writing Workshops on Zoom

Zoom creative writing workshops

There are just a couple spaces left available on the introductory creative writing workshops I will be facilitating on Zoom from 1st September. With Covid19 cases rising and our Taoiséach announcing further restrictions, I am hoping that creating literary art in a group will lift spirits and keep everyone safe through the autumn and winter months as medical science grapples with this new phenomenum.

Make a little nest for your feelings about being alive, nurture them that they may fledge and fly.

Grayson Perry, Guardian Weekend, 15 August 2020

Even if writing is not your thing, find some art form to practice – dance, drama, a musical instrument, photography, fabric art, sculpture, painting – ANYTHING! It is good for you head and excellent for your heart. You don’t need to be perfect. You can dabble. You can be downright awful, but you sure may have some fun doing whatever art form you tackle. I seriously practice the craft of writing, but I have loads of fun making collages and doing plain knitting. Nothing fancy, just playing like I did when I was a kid and trying various things out when I was working on my Girl Scout badges.

Why try creative writing? Because you may surprise yourself with what you can imagine. You may also gain useful insights into your own life and motivation. You may entertain others, inspire them, move them with your bravery at saying the things only you can say. Before you actually say those words out loud, you practice by putting them down on paper or tapping those words across the screen in the safety of your own room.

Word Alchemy creative workshops are another safe place where you can explore expressing yourself with the written word in a safely held group. And, as Grayson Perry also observes, making art in a group is good for our mental health. And this new virus is hammering the mental health of many. Given that fact, I want to give a shout out to the Covid19 Project, a free counselling service that is available to those living on the island of Ireland thatis being run by My Mind. https://mymind.org/covid-19-project.

All art helps us comprehend our world, both the outer and inner variety. If you would like to learn more about the introductory course I am running this September, check out my previous blog, which also includes the registration form. Only two more places left!

Be sure to check out the details at https://sojourningsmith.blog/2020/07/31/zoom-into-creative-writing-this-september/. I hope to see you on the Zoom screen soon. And we will have lots of opportunity to collaborate with others in making art with words.

Zoom into Creative Writing this September

Zoom creative writing workshops

Regular readers of this blog will know that in late June and early July I asked for volunteers to help me learn how to run a creative writing workshop on Zoom. With Covid19, we are having to reinvent our world. Writing is a solitary pursuit, but it does not have to be done in isolation. Writers need feedback. Writers need encouragement. Writers need to find new approaches to help us construct our poems or paragraphs. Mostly, we need to communicate and express ourselves through the glory of the written word.

I loved teaching creative writing – even to reluctant writers. Under the trading name of Word Alchemy, over the past seven years I have worked with kids from ages 9 to 14. I have worked with adults in all women and all men groups and mixed gender groups. I have worked in schools, community halls, arts centres, outdoors and in prisons. It’s a bit of a vocation for me. I have conducted workshops outdoors at sites in Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark, usually ones that combine haiku writing with walking in all of nature’s splendour.

Cavan Youth Arts Lab
After a walk on the Cavan Burren, teens create a renga poem
haiku poetree walkers
Ready to ginko down Claddagh Glen at Marble Arch Caves Visitor Centre

Covid19 made me sit down and have a really hard re-think about how or if I could continue. My husband is 70 and I will soon be 64. We have cocooned quite contentedly, but I am aware that others found it hard. We have to keep our social distance and I will shield for as long as necessary because I really want to keep both of us fit and in good fettle for another couple decades. In winter it can be hard to get out on icy roads in our rural area anyway. I generally worked in person in spring and autumn time. But neither am I in denial and think that Covid19 will be magically disappear anytime soon.

We need to keep ourselves occupied and motivated. We need each other, but we also need to keep our distance. These seminars are my response to the challenges of our current circumstances.

Besides, this is what creatives do…we create.

To be clear, I plan to kick off from September when the schools, at least in Ireland, will go back in session. So far, I have three courses planned. In September I will welcome beginners and improvers, those you may not have had a go at writing for some time. While I have a number of faithful students who are used to my methods, I felt that it was important to start with a taster course. Then I will offer month long courses that will focus on short fiction in October and poetry in November.

Because so many of us are working in unfamiliar patterns – working at home, working new and varying shift patterns, on different days alternate weeks, etc.– I have decided to offer two Zoom slots a week to adapt  and include as many who want to nurture themselves  with some creative expression. So long as no session has more than eight participants we can cope! One will be on a Thursday evening and the second will be Saturday at noon.  The time slots can even concievably include people who do not live in my own time zone! (Some have already asked!) If you cannot make your preferred regular slot on any particular week, then you can join the other meeting and not miss out on any unit.

These online weekly workshops include some in-session writing exercises, as well as group sharing of homework and ongoing work.  We will explore these forms over the course of September, a different form each week. You will receive emailed course reading material, inspirational video resources at the beginning of each unit, some weekly homework, and a weekend motivator email to help you keep on track with your writing practice.

Word Alchemy creative writing workshops are held spaces where we can inspire, encourage, and share ideas with one another.  We collaborate in the process of beginning with raw ideas and support the magic as they are transformed into something meaningful for both writer and reader.

I am calling the initial course “Pick n Mix’ because you get to try out a number of kinds of writing and get a feel for what may be your metier. Or, you might even surprise yourself and find out that even though you thought you were a memoirist that actually you have a wicked sense of humour that romps in short story or creative non-fiction forms.

So here is the plan for openers:

Week 1 – September 1st -8th – Short fiction

Week 2 – September 9th -15th – Poetry

Week 3 – September 16th -22nd – Creative Nonfiction

Week 4 – – September 23rd – 30th – Memoir

The course format includes:

  • One weekly emailed assignment
  • 2hr  weekly Zoom seminar from 8pm-10pm  Dublin time on Thursdays, September 3rd, 10th, 17th, and 24th And/or 2 hr Zoom seminar from 12noon – 2pm Dublin time on Saturdays, 5th, 12th,19th and 26th September
  • One weekly writing motivational email

Block book the four weekly sessions for a cost of €45/£41 payable by Paypal. Alternatively, Residents of Republic of Ireland and UK may pay by cheque if they prefer.

I hope to meet new students,even as I welcome past participants who live in Cavan, Fermanagh, Tyrone and Leitrim here in Northwest Ireland. It would be great to have some international students in the mix! The Irish are always hospitable. Even if we won’t be able to lay on the tea and barm brack, we will always have plenty good craíc!

Class begins with the first email to you on 1st September! Want to Join?

Send in this Registration Form!

Bee Smith
Bee Smith invites you to join with other creative colleagues in her Word Alchemy workshops on Zoom

Featured image is Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash