Tag Archives: COVID-19

Main Street Melancholy

When I was a kid in 1960s small-town Nova Scotia, going “uptown” was a big deal. Oh, the wonders to be seen at Woolworth’s, the hardware store and the Metropolitan store in those simpler times!

Tanks full of innocent goldfish, waiting to be bagged up and taken home to a guaranteed short life; the lunch counters with their super-salty gravy-soaked french-fries, milkshakes, and cherry cokes. And, of course the toys. We had so few in those days, making do with our dolls and our imaginations – my sister and I were never hard-pressed to find something fun to do. We played endless games of store, library, school, and house. We didn’t even have TV at home until the middle of elementary school, but we always had library books. I figure that’s a big part of why I grew up to become a writer.

In those days, the main street (Prince and Inglis (pictured above, circa 1965) in my hometown of Truro) was the beating heart of the town. The same families owned the same shops for decades, and it was all so familiar, but exciting at the same time since we didn’t consume stuff so voraciously then as we do today. Most things we did buy we kept for a long time, and they were produced in North America – how that has changed! As I found out when busy with my Masks for the Food Banks project when I couldn’t find elastic produced anywhere in Canada.

I’ve been spending some time in Kingston, Ontario, lately, visiting my daughter (who’s a grade one teacher) and husband (and their new puppy, Winnie!) and I was sad to see so many empty storefronts on Kingston’s busy main street, Princess. University towns and cities are missing the annual September in-flow of students. Driving through other small towns in southern Ontario, the economic effects of this pandemic are bleakly visible in the “For Lease” signs in empty shop windows.

Everybody I talk to mentions how little they’ve been spending during Covid times (and a lot of the spending people are doing is online, judging by the fleets of UPS and FedEx trucks everywhere), and I’m starting to wonder if that’ll become the new reality, permanently. Lots of people are still cautious about venturing into stores or restaurants, even though we all know we should be supporting local as much as possible in these hard times. Nobody wants to get sick, so we continue to “stay the blazes home,” as instructed by Premier Stephen McNeil in the pandemic’s early days.

Small business owners pour their hearts and souls into their enterprises, but they can only stay afloat for so long with mortgage/rent payments looming and diminishing revenue. Meanwhile, the big-box stores seem to be doing just fine, one-stop shopping and all that. I’ve driven past the Costco in Kingston several times, and there are always dozens of people lined up to get inside.

How’s your Main Street looking seven months into this pandemic? I’m busy writing and drawing (thanks for the grant, Arts Nova Scotia!) and looking for the silver lining, as we prepare to nestle in for a long, lonely winter…

Important Books in my Life

I’ve been having fun thinking of seven books that have been influential in my life, yet another Face Book tagging game. I’m sure there could have been others, but these are the ones that came to my mind first.

the book I re-read at least once a year, while occasionally wishing I was Kate DiCamillo (because she’s funny, wise, and such a good writer of middle grade novels)

one of the few “adult” novels I’ve read a few times (although I’ve never wished to be John Irving:)

the picture book that made me wonder if I couldn’t try writing my own picture books

one of my favorites from childhood; this is the 1958 edition I still have, although it was printed a couple of years before my birth. I’ve been sewing for a lot of my adult life, and maybe this story had something to do with that, and my obsession with making something of nothing.

during my English degree, I began noticing that certain authors were really good. I do wish Dickens had been a little less wordy, since all his books take a very long time to read, but I admire his artistry.

I got to live for a month in iconic Canadian artist Doris McCarthy’s Scarborough Bluffs home, Fool’s Paradise, in 2015, and I decided to start playing around with art the following year. I continue to seek  a publisher for a young person’s book about this amazing, gutsy, forthright woman, who was ahead of her time in a lot of ways.

and the novel that really set my course for the ten years since it was first published. Inspired by a man I know, this story of the Lost Boys of Sudan took almost five years to research and write; not sure I have that kind of energy for a writing project anymore, but if the right topic comes my way, who knows?

Thoughts? What books have been influential in your life? Like me, I’m sure you’re all doing more reading during these Covid times (and more Netflix watching, but that’s another topic…) Cheers!

Masks, Grandparents, and Tragedy: Nova Scotia in the Times of Covid

I’ve been making masks, about 50/day for the past ten days, and raising lots of money for the Food Bank. I know many kids get a good chunk of their nutrition at school, when there is school, and I wanted to find a way to help them. I didn’t know the demand would be so great, and I suppose before long it will become mandatory to wear a mask whenever we’re out in public, buying groceries, etc. Oh, well. It’s good busy work during these strange times. Friends donated lots of sheets and t-shirts, which I’m ripping up for the ear loops as there’s a worldwide elastic shortage, not surprisingly.

 

The other day, I found myself dipping into my rag bag for mask-makings, and ended up using some pieces of sheets that I’m pretty sure my grandparents gave us for a wedding gift 33 years ago. It was from Nana and Gramps Mingo that I learned to sew. Nana had a turquoise Singer sewing machine, and I remember her patiently showing me how to thread it, etc., and how thrilled I was with the idea that you could actually make something useful from a sheet of fabric. I’ve always loved visiting fabric stores, looking at the array of prints, and for 15 years, before I got into the crazy writing business, I made toddlers’ clothing, cuddle duds, which gave me a chance to stay home with my kids. I wonder what Nana and Gramps, who were born in the first decade of the 20th century, would think of our Covid-infested world. Maybe they’d like the idea that the entire world has slowed down and become quieter, since they’d no doubt find our usual hectic pace a bit odd. I’m sure they did lots of scavenging during the Great Depression, another time when nothing went to waste. They were composting before composting was even a thing.

And one week ago, Nova Scotia was attacked violently and senselessly by a fiend impersonating an RCMP officer, driving a fully-marked car and wearing a uniform. Twenty-three innocent people lost their lives; countless family members, friends and community people are left devastated; all of this in very rural parts of our tiny province, areas previously most well-known for their peaceful, quiet beauty and friendly people. So many children and grandchildren left without parents and grandparents; there are no words for their kind of sadness. Support and messages of hope have flooded in from around the world, and Nova Scotians stand strong and united, but this is not the way those precious lives were supposed to end.(poignant art: Bruce MacKinnon,THE CHRONICLE HERALD)

Nature, Picasso and other ramblings…

  1. As we’re all trying to keep up with the COVID-19 news, I’ve been spending lots of time by the ocean. I’ve been thinking about Nature, the essential part of our world we have so little control over. I wonder what lessons we’ll all take away from this pandemic. Will we travel less? Buy more locally-produced goods? Feel more or less friendly towards people around the world?

2. Totally unconnected, but I love this, sadly, very true Picasso quote:

3. And on the topic of nature, a little video produced by RUNNING THE GOAT PRESS, the publisher of DANCING WITH DAISY:

4. Otherwise, I’ve been taking a few pictures here on beautiful Saint Simons Island, Georgia (as we begin to prepare ourselves that we may have to leave early… Charlie would be devastated. But of course, there are worse things that could happen.)

Thanks for putting up with my rambling. Stay safe out there, and stock up on soap!