Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Pandemic Meditations: In the golden time between sleeping and awake by Felix Morgan

Editor's Note: On the Origin of Pandemic Meditations, A Series

Found at the edges of a golf course during the pandemic
photo by Erin Pringle
There are a number of articles, probably whole books, and interview question-answers about Writer's Block--how it occurs, what it feels like, and what tips, tricks, recipes, or spells writers use to make it disappear. Outside of grieving someone fallen by death, I haven't had much trouble writing, hacking out time for it, or moving my thoughts into words and shapes.

And then the pandemic came.

And now I have trouble connecting thoughts, or seeing the connections, or remembering that there should be relationships between them. I have trouble creating time and space to work within. Now and then I'll have an interview about my new novel, and I'm asked what I'm currently working on. I wave vaguely. I try to remember. A novel, I think. Stories, too, maybe. Whereas, before the pandemic, I not only knew what I was working on, but I also knew its trajectory--from about how many pages it would take before reaching The End--to how many months or years it would take to formulate those pages. 

What am I working on? 

I don't know. I mean, I'm running a lot. I run and run and run. I take pictures while I run. 

But writing? 

I don't know.

The other day, I bought a journal at Target during one of my first visits there in months. It used to be that having a new journal--all that blank space--would inevitably lead to my writing in it, in the same way a ripe fruit calls to the tongue. 

So far, I've written on one page, and I don't think it's a full page. Nothing about the page calls me. Not its blankness, not the smooth feeling of a fast pen, not even thoughts (because I'm not having them). I carry the journal around in my bag. It's so heavy with guilt I can feel my shoulder ache.

A month or so into the pandemic and into Washington state's stay-home/stay-safe order, I stopped teaching at the preschool-kindergarten where I spend my days in the art room, on the playground, and at the lunch table with my small friends. Instead, I walked for hours on trails by the river. I walked and walked, not at all noticing that after my sister died, I walked and walked. After my best friend died, I walked and walked. After my father? I walked and walked. 

Several months passed of my walking but not teaching. Then one day I went to the school on an errand, and I saw all the children.

There they were!

They yelled out Miss Erin! and we stood at a distance in the doorway, admiring each other and talking about our lives. I commented on their new heights, for certainly they'd continued to grow despite the pandemic. They told me they were now in first grade. They told me of projects. One was reading chapter books now. One had done the hundreds board all by herself. They told me and told me, and I heard under all their words how much we needed to be together. When I left the building a handful of minutes later, I felt full the brightness of our reunion and the utter loss from having been apart; and I realized I'd been living the way I do when someone I love has died: I'd distanced myself, cut off all emotions and memories, severed all of that part of myself so that I could daily undertake my life. 

Spokane river near sunset, during pandemic
by Erin Pringle
And all that severing and floating away from myself and them, upon seeing them, returned me to the flat, hard ground of earth and to the feelings I'd avoided having as I walked long hours along the river trails thinking of everything that wasn't worldwide disease, that wasn't fears of death, that wasn't the personal devastation of losing not only routine but also all the connections to people and community that were required for having thoughts that connected to each other and allowed the artful self to reflect, think, remember, and create.  

In sum, I'd disconnected my emotions and thoughts of them so that I could cope. 

In sum, I'd not realized I'd done any of this until I saw them.

In sum, I had started doing what I do when I'm mourning.

I'm in a state of mourning. Of course. Why didn't I realize it sooner? 

That's when I wondered if other artists were feeling similarly disoriented by the pandemic. Early in the pandemic, I saw that writers were responding to the pandemic in the local weekly. But then the responses stopped but the pandemic continued. 

And continued. 

And continues. 

On social media, there are arguments and wishful reminders of kindness. There's a mudslide of memes and fewer photographs of ourselves doing what we love because so much of what we love is closed, is unsafe, is full of uncertain possibility.

Now and then, the news returns us to scene of the pandemic--from the Italian doctor who had slept at his hospital for months before momentarily returning to his family--to the mobile morgues--to the new cases of children--to the denials and stories of why the pandemic isn't a pandemic, why masks are useless or necessary or awful or just-wear-it-for-gods'sake. The scene of the pandemic, despite our living in it, is no place to stay for very long without undergoing national, worldwide, and personal sadness all at once. It's a place of stasis, confusion, and only fleeting clarity. 

Which, to me, means that we need artists the most when we find ourselves in such a state. Because it has always been the artists' task to communicate the world in a way that helps us better situate ourselves and others within it.

Because I need artists right now, I imagine that you do too.

So I wrote to my friends who are writers and artists. And I asked them to send me meditations on the pandemic. I said I'm blocked and maybe you are too, so let's try a series of essays or meditations or moments in which we are writing at the pandemic. 

And I received replies. So many replies. The result is that this will likely be the longest, continuous running series I've done here. There are pandemic meditations booked from now through March, and I continue to receive more confirmations. Perhaps there is some comfort in knowing that, despite not knowing when the pandemic will end, I don't know when the artists will stop sending me meditations. I think it's comforting.  

Observation during a pandemic by Erin Pringle
As such, once or twice a week, from now on, I'll be publishing creative responses to the pandemic, from poets, book editors, musicians, actors, photographers, painters, rap artists, and illustrators. I gave no guidelines on form, on length, on style. If I've learned anything from mourning and that inability to write that comes with it, guidelines are the opposite of helpful. No one is required to share hope, though some might. No one is required to reach great wisdom about this new way of living, though some might. Everyone has been asked to respond honestly in the way good art always asks of us.

There will be fiction writers who share short films, and photographers who share poetry. When the world has lost clear form, genre will too--which is exciting in the way of sitting in a box on a new roller coaster.

Today, the series begins with a pandemic meditation from writer Felix Morgan. I first met her when the both of us contributed to a chapbook series through Awst Press. Felix lives in Austin, Texas, and you can learn more about her at the end of her piece. 

It's my hope that the meditations will help us connect words to thoughts and us to each other, if even for a moment.

~ Erin Pringle

September 7, 2020

Spokane, WA

While walking in a pandemic
by Erin Pringle


In the golden time between sleeping and awake 

by Felix Morgan 

These are excerpts from my journal since March. When life gets overwhelming, I make lists or write poems (or poems that are lists, or lists that are poems) but mostly this year I have blank pages. I create an entry, in my digital closet, and then I don’t know what to say, and it just stays there in the cloud, with only a date. I have maybe a hundred of these. And even while trying to string a few entries together here, I worry. About all the negative space, that these are too many words or not enough. That they are too much about me and not all the tragedy in the world. That I sound too serious or not serious enough. For me, these past few months have been a constant pendulum of feeling that I am always either over or under-reacting. But this is what I have, these are the words I have, and this is the space I’ve left--for when there are no words, for when I can only feel, and for when I need to listen. 


Things I don’t worry have to worry about 

Charging my phone 

because I’m never out of the house long enough for it to matter 

Makeup or non-comfortable shoes 

Wondering if a different job might be more fulfilling 

Spring fashion trends (high waisted shorts, ugh, and big leafy tiki florals, and denim. Can you even call denim a trend) 

Having too many streaming subscriptions 

Waking up early 

How much gas is in my car 

Dating, babysitters, social things I should go to but don’t want to 

or things I wish I could go to but can’t 

FOMO, in general, we’re all MO now 


My weight 

Travel plans for work, spending money on vacations and summer camp 

Bras. Like ever. Maybe never again 


I can’t bake because I don’t know how to need


Sometimes when I lay down I want to move but I don’t 

Sometimes it’s because there’s a dog or a kid asleep near me 

And if I move they’ll wake up or I’ll have to do something for them 

But sometimes I’m alone 

And I wish I could roll over 

I need one more pillow or one less

But I can’t move and I don’t know what’s keeping me in place 

If I move someone will need something from me 

If I move I’ll need something 


What do I really actually for real need to do today 

Change sheets

A kid or two of laundry 

A lot of rest 


Eat a vegetable

Clean car? Not urgent 

Go to target? For what? Really tho?

Why is this list so overwhelming. Just try and take a shower. What is Target going to do for you


“Reflect on your week” prompt.  Spent too much time working but also too much time not working while worrying that I should be working more. I watched TV, passively not even with energy, not even something I loved or that would interest or intrigue me. I slept too much and not enough.

I washed my hair more than once and used lotion on my legs at least once. I took time to be with my brother on zoom and we didn’t do that thing where we feel we have to give a report on our lives or say something profound, we just looked at memes and watched youtube videos. I think I wrote two paragraphs, maybe, last week but I sure thought about not writing for at least an hour every day. 

A single yoga session, half-assed. I wrestled with so many questions and I still don’t have answers. I look old. 


I used to wake up and I’d think about what I wanted, and I used to want things so bad it ached. I thought that if I could imagine them perfectly in the golden time between sleeping and awake where my consciousness is a runny egg, then I could bring them with me into the day. I can’t remember what that feels like, I can’t remember the things I tried to manifest. What were the things I thought I’d die if I didn’t achieve? What if I never remember them? What if the world comes back but I don’t?

List: What do I want?  

Dinner plates with lemons on them

What do I want? 

A life making stuff. Or do I even anymore, why am I so mad at myself for not writing what if I just

What if I did every day just what I wanted and nothing more

Would I be a monster 

What if my life was the book instead of the book being the book

And that could be writing but it could also be learning about plants 

Or dancing 

Where can I go dancing 

Does anyone even like dancing if there’s no people to dance with 

I should write


Recipe for crispy chickpeas from Seth 

Drain, rinse, pat dry,

Let them air dry in a single

Layer  (in the fridge uncovered if possible) for about 15-20

Heat some Oil in a non stick pan. 2-3 TBS on med-high (6 or 7) 

Fry chickpeas in oil moving around every 1.5-2 mins by swishing the Pan (or being gentle with a wooden spoon or spatula)

Should take 10-15 mins 

Don’t add too much oil bc it tends to pop

Season with salt and pepper at the end 

I also sprinkle the garam masala but any spice blend is nice



  1. The color of the sky just after the sunset that Ray Bradbury says is between iron and blue 

  2. Ray Bradbury 

  3. My dad (my whole family) 

  4. Johnny Karate’s weird moody facial expressions 

  5. Cold green water 

  6. The shape of a lover’s mouth

  7. Skin serums 

  8. Red toenails 

  9. Cool sheets, a good night's sleep

  10. Reconnecting with old friends even as I worry about what friends I’ve forgotten to check on, and why am I not being a ray of sunshine writing longhand letters to wonderful people instead of watching another season of a show where the Devil solves murders with a model

  11. Big towels 

  12. Twinkle lights 

  13. Mysteries 

  14. Spell check

  15. Knowing I can make a change at any moment, any day, every day, even when I can’t leave the house


Selfie of woman sitting in driver seat. She has dark-rimmed glasses and long, dark wavy hair. She smiles with her lips closed and she has a tattoo on her left shoulder that seems to be the astrology chart.
Felix Morgan
Felix Morgan is a writer, filmmaker, journalist, and content marketer. Her fiction and poetry have been published by Harbinger Quarterly, Awst Press, Tallow Eider Quarterly, and Peach Fuzz Magazine.

She lives in Austin, Texas with two warrior-princess-ninja-superhero daughters and some other wild animals. Learn more about her work at her website: https://www.felixmorgan.net/

❤ As the series grows, you can find more Pandemic Meditations here: http://www.erinpringle.com/p/pandemic-meditations-series.html