Solitude is my natural state as writer and artist; I’m in this 3-year residency to do my work, so I’ve had plenty of it. Monday’s call from Trudeau made complete sense to me: Stay home. We can do this together by staying apart. Let’s help one another with the practicalities of our self isolation, and send love and gratitude to those of us on the front lines.

I’d just spent rich time with good friends and family and felt confident in my ability to function well without regular direct contact with other humans. Take a deep breath, get supplies, and then close the door.

It’s now five days since Trudeau’s initial call out to us, and my news informed gut tells me we’re not even close to the peak of this pandemic. Increasingly now, I feel a deep ache for people who feel solitude as nightmare, for whom alone-ness feels like punishment.

There are some whose life and survival revolves around contact, kindness and direct interaction with others – the elderly, the sick, the differently-abled, the stranded. My heart goes out – were I homeless, where would I find safety and nourishment? Were I struggling with my mental health, where would I find help? How could I stay safe as a prison inmate in Barton Jail, which is currently at three times its capacity?

It’s important that this is empathy, not anxiety. I feel a real sense of wonder that my heart opens more, as our isolation continues. I can see this in other people too – some I know, some I don’t.

I have great solitude muscles, yes, but my gut tells this is a new thing we are dealing with. I can’t get REM out of my head. It is certainly changing me in ways I could not have imagined. As I let go of things I can’t control feel my work harness relax I can feel spaces open up for other things I’d never had the time to consider, or do. Or feel. What if has become What is.

I live here in this lovely apartment with Mia the foster cat who loves that I’m always home. I draw, play cello, I write, read, cook, eat, sleep. Such a great longing in me, for human touch and warmth! I’m surprised by this, which also is surprising. Glad to feel human – ache and curiosity, confusion and shockingly deep love that is capable of flooring me completely. There’s nothing at all I can do about any of this but surrender to it.

Every once in a while I read too much news on the internet, and a little overwhelm creeps in. I’ve learned in this short time to close my laptop and turn off my phone. Draw something, play cello, read a book. Go outside, find an old tree to lean on, listen for the hum. Breathe, notice, expand and love what is. Cry, laugh, allow whatever it is to move on through.

Please reach out if you need someone to talk to. Even if it feels a little uncomfortable at times, keep your heart open. Know that you are loved.

I dig into the Brahms E minor cello this morning and find myself swimming strong in a strong river – a great deep and fast and roiling that collects and contains a watershed of stories as it carves it’s way through the land.

Why, Mr. Brahms.  It is good to meet you here from across the centuries, far far off the page.  Shall we immerse ourselves together?

His piece curves and bends around it’s internal themes, climbs great hills and tumbles from impossible heights.  Its landscape demands constant, intense commitment, even and especially in the pianissimo sections where the piano commands the melody line.

There are sections I have not internalized yet, where I am yanked back to the written notes, back into my technical head, back into training my fingers that “this is not contortion – this is easy…”.  It’s not easy, but it will be, once I’ve found the technical key and relaxed enough to repeat repeat repeat, repeat.  All the while the river flows on, steady and constant – I know I can immerse myself again.


These days on the brink of Spring 2013 seem to be deep with a tectonic level of unrest.  Old contracts that were seemingly set in stone are fracturing on their own, or being consciously, sometimes painfully re-negotiated to reflect a new set of boundaries, priorities and shared realities.

It’s both personal and political – US debates (!?!) over gay marriage and civil rights,  and indigenous peoples with the profoundly deep roots of Idle No More which support dignity, demand clarity and re-negotiation over native civil rights, and seek to work with respected settler allies to protect the land from the commodity boys in their banking suits.

This river we’re in right now is not like the Brahms’ E minor, no.  This river is clogged – with ice, with debris, with garbage collected over miles and years of mutual and self-perpetuated … abuse?  Is that the right word?


This is nothing that the natural cycles of the planet can’t handle.  It will pass, and this debris will be flushed downstream to the filtering grounds.  The spring floods will recede and the landscape will be different – perhaps shockingly so, but there will still be life.

But we humans, with our cultural and personal tectonic shifts – puny in some ways, when you look through say, Commander Chris Hadfield’s eyes.  It’s telling, isn’t it, that we need to use terms like ‘the environment’, or ‘our natural resources’ to describe the planet, as though it’s outside of our bodies?


There’s a southeast corner of my house where the fig tree grows new leaves, framed by two windows.  The easterly window hosts a christmas cactus with pale apricot blooms and the southerly window an amaryllis with eight deep red bells, just opening now.  I can see them unfold as I write.  Spring birds are busy outside; our two inside cats are glued to the windowseats, quivering with fascination.  A slight spring chill reminds me that my feet are bare.

Over all of this there’s a great, vast, pulsing stillness.  I drink it in through my pores, breathe it into my lungs, feel it quiver on my skin.