Thursday, September 24, 2020

Pandemic Meditations: Crucial Connections by Freesia McKee

This week's Pandemic Meditations continues with words from writer Freesia McKee. In today's post, McKee covers the pandemic, her life, and how those interact when place in two different parts of the United States. Learn more about McKee and her work at the end of the essay.

Please share this series with friends and neighbors. You can do this by copy/pasting the link into your social media, or by way of the old fashioned method of printing it out and sending it via postal mail.

~ E. P.


Crucial Connections

by Freesia McKee

In the first six months of the pandemic, I watched Miami become one of the COVID-19 epicenters of the world. My present to myself for my thirtieth birthday was a digital subscription to the Miami Herald. My morning ritual of checking the website for virus updates involved bracing myself for bad news. 

I could joke that as a third-year graduate student, I was already used to not having a life in South Florida. But seriously, I already spent a lot of time at home. You learn to make do when you don’t own a car in Miami. I used to take the bus and ride my bicycle to get around, but the idea of bussing during COVID terrifies me. And one bicycle ride through a nature preserve teeming with people experiencing cabin fever induced by the stay-at-home-order put a stop to most of my perambulation. Instead, I took masked runs and walked the dog near our apartment. That was about all I did.

When I turned thirty in April, I hosted a birthday party on Zoom. I graduated later that month without much fanfare and embarked upon the post-grad life I’d been looking forward to. 

Many of us tell our own particular versions of COVID fear stories. Mine involve the fact that I’m a lifelong asthmatic. The profound stress of grad school spurred severe eczema and other skin conditions that are autoimmune-related, and I’ve been struggling with these on a daily basis for a few years. COVID interacts with pre-existing conditions in all sorts of ways. I have no interest in seeing how it would interact with mine.

My neighbor Dmitri was workout buddies with the first person in Miami-Dade County to die of the virus, Israel Carrera. Israel also lived in North Miami and, like Dmitri, was gay, young, and very fit and muscular. Dmitri told me of his connection to this death when we crossed paths walking our dogs one early morning. Dmitri seemed distraught, in disbelief. According to the news, COVID was just reaching South Florida, and I’d read of Israel’s death in the newspaper. But a couple months later, Dmitri said that COVID wasn’t a big deal because his family kept “getting it over and over again” and they were all fine. I never saw Dmitri wear a mask. 

Besides the neighbors on our street, my partner Jade and I socialized with only one friend, Rebecca, kayaking together three times. Rebecca brought her own kayak. We chatted through our masks across the water. And I felt a high every time we did this socially distanced, in-person activity. Seeing Rebecca was the feeling of drinking ice water after being parched.

Because many of us were isolated, Jade and I became extremely close with the neighbors on our street. We all helped each other, a true demonstration of mutual aid. Jade assisted a neighbor who didn’t have internet with all sorts of online tasks, including applying for unemployment through Florida’s famously defective system. Others helped this neighbor move from one building on our block to another after the first landlord kept pressuring her to let him enter for non-essential tasks like painting a wall. 

Neighbors shared food, money, moral support, and flowers. Meanwhile, the South Florida Mutual Aid Network of which I was briefly a part got inundated with requests before they were even off the ground. This has been one of my biggest lessons of the pandemic: that there are always ways to help. It’s up to us to build crucial connections our government has decided to ignore.

The first six months of the pandemic held their share of loss for Jade and me. The death of my aunt and uncle, the loss of our beloved cat, job loss, and the persistent feeling that something in our immediate sphere was about to go terribly wrong. I am still brought to tears thinking about what my students faced during the spring semester. Society still tends to think of college students as young people supported by financially stable parents, but this generalization leaves many of our students dangerously behind. 

All along, there were horrific daily headlines in the Herald, refrigerator trucks full of bodies, elected officials concocting bold-faced lies, worried phone calls from my mom, and not-worried-enough phone calls from my dad.

And then there is the other hand. At moments, the first six months of my pandemic felt like a retreat. I suppose I should be ashamed to admit this. Part of it was that after the finale of my graduate program, a huge source of stress evaporated from my life. I felt my trajectory could return to a manageable pace with a new, useful credential, better critical thinking skills, and a more informed perspective. And I gained a profound vocational clarity that writing and teaching is what I was put here to do. Another positive effect of hardly leaving my apartment was that I no longer worried whether an early bedtime was uncool. I didn’t care about missing out. I got a lot of writing done through assigning myself daily prompts and tricking myself to do creative work through journaling. 

For a few months, I cooked elaborate meals every day. Vegan paella on a Wednesday, that kind of thing. I’ve loved cooking since I was a teenager, not just the food, but the act of cooking itself. In 2020, I comfort-cooked until I burnt out and it felt like a chore to clean up after baking a frozen pizza. It’s hard to describe, but I feel I have now ventured to the farthest islands of my culinary abilities and interests. I have felt out the entire coast of what I am capable of in the kitchen. I know my edge.

Part of burning out was the realization that I could have spent all that time writing. A worse realization was that I didn’t know how long it would be until I could cook for my friends and my family. Jade is vocally appreciative of my food, but as any happy home cook knows, it’s satisfying to feed a crowd. During grad school, I’d cook when we’d occasionally have friends over and sometimes, I’d get comments about how long it had been since someone had eaten anything homemade. Cooking for friends is another act of building community and mutual aid. 

Sometime after I stopped cooking and moved to the boxed pasta version of dinner, Jade got a job in the library at Purdue-Fort Wayne in Indiana. The leaving-Florida part of the pandemic is blurry in my mind, and because I didn’t journal during that time, perhaps it will always be. I wonder in general about delayed grief. Maybe I am not done mourning my aunt and uncle even though I have stopped crying. I wonder if the death of our dear cat will hit me once all of this is over. Leaving Florida was both a sadness and a relief, something I still need to unpack. As fascinating and beautiful as I found Miami, I never thought it was an easy place to live. 

The day we left, our friend Rebecca and another friend, Rachel, came to our place to pick up some odds and ends to take to Goodwill in Rebecca’s pickup truck (such good friends!). Roller derby person they are, Rachel arrived on roller skates. I’m not quite sure what the symbolism of the skates is in my telling of this story, but I love this detail. Before we pulled away, the neighbor without internet gave Jade six pairs of synthetic, decorative socks because, she said, they were too small. This neighbor is barely higher than five feet and Jade and I are both tall, but somehow, this act of sharing seemed like the perfect sendoff. 

Before our drive across the country, I’d gone weeks at a time without riding in the car. We hadn’t driven far from Miami in over six months, so it was nourishing to move through various landscapes. I was disturbed by the things I always notice travelling cross-country: anti-choice propaganda, deeply troubling bumper stickers, and a South Georgia plantation site billing itself as a wedding venue with the tagline, “Where dreams come true!” 

Photo by Filipe Fortes
, used under CC license

It took us a few days to get to Indiana. I suppose because we’re sheltering in place here, we’re also sheltered from a lot of Indiana’s pro-Trump vitriol because we barely interact with anyone. The move has been good for both of us. Instead of a tiny one-bedroom apartment so full of stuff that we could barely unfurl a yoga mat, the rent prices here allow for a spacious-to-us rented house.

Though we’d love to make new friends, we can’t go to poetry readings, music shows, bars, or other gathering places. But we’ve tried to be optimistic and look at this limitation as an opportunity. I take long walks through the neighborhood every morning, memorizing tree species and watching birds. We have a backyard and spend hours out there each day with the dog. I’m reading books I’ve owned for years but never looked at. I took social media off of my phone.

There is, admittedly, also a bit of culture shock.

As I walked the dog our first week here, a woman screamed at me out of a car window for wearing a mask.

On a drive to buy something off of Craigslist, we saw a group of twenty or so adults, many of them senior citizens, standing in a church parking lot preparing for some kind of demonstration. From the car, I could see that the theme of the protest was “Pray for America!” I don’t know what crisis in particular they were praying for, though I have some suspicions. 

Many, many homes in this city sport American flags. Stars and stripes seem to be our new neighborhood’s most popular decorating motif, and I wonder in how many cases this is a coded symbol for racism and anti-BLM sentiment. 

As in South Florida, the restaurants are now full of people, though we know this only from driving by the full patios and parking lots.

We continue to witness so many outdoor youth football practices hosting hundreds of kids and dozens of adults, none of them taking COVID safety precautions. 

One of the few indoor places we’ve gone in our new neighborhood is the coffee shop, but only before we were fully moved in and had the ability to make coffee in our own kitchen. After a few visits, part of me still wanted to sneak in every day because I’d been chatty with the barista (he’s friendly, I know, because he accepts tips). It still feels like he is my only new “friend” here. But after we unpacked our boxes, we never visited the coffee shop again. Why take an unnecessary risk?

The most worthwhile activity Jade and I have taken on during COVID was a joint meditation regime we dutifully practiced every day for a few months. The recorded meditations were verbally facilitated against soundtracks of croaking frogs and crickets or rushing water. Eventually, I did feel different, calmer, a noticeable shift somewhere in my body that provided relief to the other anxious parts of me. When my subscription to the meditation app expired this summer, we moved onto other things. Here in Indiana, the sounds of crickets and tree frogs are tremendous. We fall asleep to them each night. I used to turn to my phone for this bedtime soundtrack, but now, it’s part of our natural environment. 

On Zoom, our new yoga teacher said that he’s started to host in-person classes again. I tried to maintain a neutral expression, though I guess I should have asked him why he’s doing such a thing since the COVID numbers in the state are going up every day. Later, I researched community acupuncture as an affordable treatment for my skin conditions but ditched the idea when I read on the website that masks are optional, even though many patients are being treated in the same room! Jade and I have visited the ReStore several times for second-hand furniture. There are always people, usually white men, who walk around bald-faced, and I fantasize about saying something about masks, but I also don’t want to get shot. 

I don’t want to get shot. I take part in a poetry reading online. Afterwards, I realize that I no longer have the fear I had every day in the classroom and at crowded literary readings that someone with a vendetta would march in and pull out a gun. Here, I start to write that staying at home, we are safe from that danger, but I realize it’s just my white privilege speaking when I remember Breonna Taylor. 

When we venture out—and oh, I want so badly to venture out and build community face-to-face in this new home—I most often think about two risks: the virus and its strongest engine, those who deny its reality. Plenty of virus-deniers say, “I don’t want to live in fear,” even though fear is a perfectly appropriate emotion. Fear is a companion, a roommate, a neighbor, an item on the menu everyone receives. I’ve accepted that my charge during COVID is to learn to live with a new-to-me fear. Each day, I try to thrive as much as I can and support the people I love.


Freesia McKee
Freesia McKee is a poet and essayist who writes about apathy, empathy, and power. Headmistress Press published Freesia’s first chapbook How Distant the City in 2017. Her series of post-election poems is called For the Immediate Aftermath.

Freesia’s words have appeared in So to Speak, Bone Bouquet, CALYX, cream city review, and more. She won the 2018 Patricia Goedicke Prize in Poetry.

Freesia lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She serves as an adjunct professor, a book reviewer for South Florida Poetry Journal, a writing coach, and a freelancer. She is working on a collection of poems about Florida and a series of essays about walls. Freesia has an MFA in poetry from Florida International University and a BA in Gender & Women’s Studies from Warren Wilson College.

Learn more about her and her work at


Thursday, September 17, 2020

Pandemic Meditations: Disapproving Corgis by Ellen Welcker

For those of you just joining Pandemic Meditations, welcome. Once or twice a week for the next many months, poets, writers, actors, artists, illustrators, and perhaps a juggler or two will share creative works in response to the pandemic that we all find ourselves in. 

Today, poet Ellen Welcker joins the series. I'm not sure where I first met Ellen because she's simply just here in the way that trees are just here and one doesn't know when an acquaintanceship was forged. But I do remember her remembering me, and me remembering her, at an annual autumn run in which, at the end of the Sekani Trail in Spokane, each runner gets to choose a pumpkin. Ellen was there, and so was I. The annual run will not be held this year, but luckily, I recognize Ellen in her words, here.


Disapproving Corgis

by Ellen Welcker

Once upon a time a kid said, “can someone tell us a story?” A mother began telling one, though everyone wondered where it would go from here, and in truth so did the mother telling it. 

“Once upon a time a kid said, ‘can someone tell us a story?” the mother began, though everyone wondered where it would go, and in truth so did the mother telling it. 

One kid gave a little laugh, and the mother documented it, saying, “One kid gave a little laugh,” which made another kid laugh just to see if she herself would be written in, as it were. 

“This made the other kid laugh just to see if she herself would be written in, as it were,” said the mother. 

How long would this go on? Could anyone stand even one more minute? This the mother said aloud, and no one knew whether the mother was telling the story, or whether she had stopped. 

Was it even possible to stop? 

Disapproving Corgis is a Facebook group I have asked to be a part of, for obvious reasons. There are several pertinent questions, my responses to which their administrators are now weighing. I like their pants, the sassy little fluffernutters, and I like their spunk. When I lived on an island, every day I watched two very fast dogs, built for speed, sprint gleefully down the beach and tear back toward their humans, back and forth, back and forth, the way dogs do. There was a corgi, undeterred by stumpy legs and quintessential fluffiness that would race down the boardwalk and leap the five feet to the beach below--hit the sand with a thud. His legs moved faster than the dogs that ran faster, his body carving divots in the sand as he flew this way and that.

People on my block are done chalking the walks with messages of solidarity. You can’t help but see how done they are. The chalk messages, when they were new, made me love people but also flared an anger in me. The desire to positive-think it. To tell oneself a story, and one’s children. It feels like willful ignorance, something I am (too late) starting to recognize as whiteness. Something I see in myself. It’s hard to write about. I guess that’s why I put corgis in here. 

Corgis and bald eagles are both animals made symbolic by countries used to the sound of their own power. Corgis are historically inbred and royalty is too. Eagles are not bald but white-headed sky kings. One was shot in the beak and couldn’t hunt or eat. She should’ve died, but scientists 3-D printed her a prosthetic one and it worked; they named her Beauty. Now Beauty sits in old-growth branches, preening, keenly eagling with her yellow eyes. Beauty’s nests are the biggest nests. You can’t help but think of the money she’s on. It isn’t Beauty’s fault she’s grown synonymous with us. Our opportunistic natures, our white-headedness. 

This year almost none by the river, and why? We have no one to ask but our phones. 

Back and forth we run, back and forth. 

Is it even possible to stop?


Ellen Welcker
Ellen Welcker’s aesthetic inclinations range from engagement of the lyric to narrative and prose poems. Her work is concerned with ecological desperation, boundaries and borders, the parent-child relationship, and the concept of ‘deep humanity’ as an animal state. 

Her books include Ram Hands (Scablands Books, 2016), The Botanical Garden (2009 Astrophil Poetry Prize, Astrophil Press, 2010), and several chapbooks. She collaborates with artists across the spectrum and lives in Spokane, where she works for the Bagley Wright Lecture Series on Poetry and is a cofounder of Scablands Lit, an organization that supports writers and readers in the Inland Northwest. Learn more about her and her work at

❤ Find more Pandemic Meditations here:

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Pandemic Meditations: The Beauty within the Ugly by D.S. SENSE

There is, of course, the act of meditating--of clearing one's thoughts and finding a space within the body to dwell. There is also the act of focusing on a single object: a leaf, a shoelace, an image, a thought, a moment. 

No doubt, the dictionary has a numbered list of possible meanings for the word meditation. But I think, a dwelling, seems right. To dwell, in mind, in space. The pandemic seems to be meditating on us, having burrowed into our breaths in a way that it can exist without us feeling it there, much less knowing it. It can pass into others' breath without anyone knowing--the virus itself or the experience of living amid the virus. And, like this, we live within the pandemic only aware of it when someone else brings it up, when the streets go empty, or when we can't hear ourselves through or masks--or, in those moments we wake briefly from having lapsed into that former state of mind that existed before Covid-19.

Today, the Pandemic Meditations series continues, in dwelling, thanks to hip-hop artist Deidre D.S. SENSE Smith. I met Deidre in Detroit when I shared the stage with her and, from then on, her words have never let go and so I haven't either.  ~E.P.


The Beauty within the Ugly



A blue surgical mask trimmed in white adorns the archway of my bedroom door. There are seventeen windows opened on my smartphone screen as I try to meet today's demands remotely. I lay naked in bed in eighty-degree heat, with my right leg atop my left while cicadas sing a song that keeps prey at bay. My bedroom window is opened and the afternoon breeze ushers in a scent of freshly mowed lawns and the occasional cicada or mosquito. My cat, Eastside Gidget, is in a state of bliss as she chases the flying insects and snags my sheer curtains in the process. She takes a break and joins me on my bed for her afternoon nap. I envy the way she can rest anywhere in any space without a care in the world. I think to myself "how wonderful it must be" to only be concerned with how many snuggles one could fit into a day and how many trips to a saucer filled with kibble one should take. Why am I so entertained by this? I guess when your days merge into one big immeasurably timeless void . . . you find ways to fill it. COVID-19 has made us all so reflective, observant, and cautious. As someone who has aired on the side of caution for most of my life, I find myself being freer with my thoughts, hopes, dreams, and opinions. I am a "Rigid Bohemian" who has been contradictory in my desire to go with the flow while attempting to control the wave. Right now something is outside of my window out of my control, and I think that I'm okay with that. For once, I have been able to sit still, not know, know for sure, and not care to know anything . . .  it is the beauty within the ugly of the current state of the world. So I'm going to human and patient with the beauty and ugly within me while Mother Nature balances hers. 


Deidre D.S. SENSE Smith
eidre D.S. SENSE Smith is a hip-hop artist living and working in Detroit. She's the creator of the community project and brand #OnMyDetroitEverything, is deeply involved in the Detroit arts community (listen to an interview with her here), and served as an ambassador MC to Brazil as part of the Next Level program run by the Department of Agriculture and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has four albums to her name, Start Up Money, her self-titled album, and Space Audissey. Her newest album, Cooper St. Chrysalis, was recently released on all major platforms. Find it at Deidre also took part in the Summer Library Series; read her essay here

❤ Find more Pandemic Meditations here:

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Pandemic Meditations: Let's Play and Nights in a Pandemic by Grace June

For the next many weeks, at least through March, artists of all ilks will be sharing creative work that was done and/or responds to the pandemic in some way. To learn more about the Pandemic Meditation series--its background, impetus, and purpose, please read the Editor's Note in the first piece in the series.

Today, Spokane photographer Grace June shares a new poem and a new photograph series. I met Grace during her creation of the Survive Project, which you can learn more about in her bio, at the end.

As always, please share this work and the series with your friends and family by clicking on the web link at the top of your browser, copying it, and sharing it through email or social media. I hope that the series is one way that we can find each other during these new times. -EP


Let's Play

by Grace June

Pretend I’m a camera and look at me like

I just want to see you

Not you the voter

Not you the parent

Not you the Christian

Not you the artist

Not you my family

Not you, someone I love who thinks people I also love are verifiable terrorists or totally ignorant and hateful piles of misguidance due to a single letter. 

Pretend I’m a camera and I want to completely see you

Not you protesting

Not you protesting protesters

Not you protesting protesters who protest protesters

Not you and your red hat 

Not you and your hateful or loving (perspective pending) funeral signage

Not you and your loudspeaker 

Not you and your crowd shouting over the loudspeaker

Not you or your great hair and nails stepping out of your Benz

Not your shoes with holes with your sun worn fingers clutching a crumpled sign

Not you listening to me for hours and years as I heal

Not you and your status as a business owning entrepreneurial badass

Not your conspiracies that maybe offer the comfort of certainty

Not a post of an avocado toast smoothie graphic on a cat sweater

Our collective 300 bites of sushi over lunchtime therapy. With dessert.

Pretend I’m a camera and none of that makes a difference to me,

Other than appreciating the gift of your time and existence.

Pretend I’m a camera and I see us as something somewhat infrared

Extremely nonphysical and not at all Newtonian

Pretend I’m a camera and I want you to look at me like I’m a mirror

Or a blank wall

Or your child 

Or best friend

Or favorite movie.

Pretend I’m a camera and if you could show only me or maybe the entire universe

This one thing

Your face without light as you lie awake in bed

What would you look like? 

Pretend I’m a camera without a memory card and we both have just an instant to see your face or better still what your face isn’t, what face would you make? 

Pretend I’m a camera and I can’t hear you, what would you say? Would you still stand by your side?

Pretend there are no cameras. Pretend no one knows your name. Pretend you never had one. Pretend there is no mirror and no single reflective surface. Would you still be aware of yourself? 

Pretend I’m a camera that needs no performance. 

Pretend I’m not wearing a mask. Pretend the mask isn’t a physical and emotional barrier. Pretend that a global pandemic isn’t spreading both coronavirus and violence. Or the flu caused by 5G. Cameras really aren’t experts. 

Pretend for a moment that you don’t give a damn how I vote.

Pretend I’m your granddaughter who you took on walks with fluffy little dogs along pastures in the rain. 

Pretend I’m your daughter whose hand you held while my chubby legs tried to wobble on their own in long damp grass, springtime in springtime. 

Pretend I’m your sister who would do anything for you. Pretend it doesn’t and can’t matter that something as trivial and unimportant as beliefs make us any different than two kids playing hide and seek outside in the forest with dense ferns and branches letting us surprise each other. 

For solace or simple curiosity, as a camera I wander in empty parking lots at night looking at pretty multicolored lights, so empty and cold, silent with no news playing on anything anywhere. I don’t even wear a mask, because I’m alone. And because I’m a camera. 

Pretend you’re a camera and you live in the United States in 2020 in the Pacific Northwest in a town that’s not too big or too small, pretend that your friends are all on the right side and most of your family is also on the right side, it’s just a different right side from your friends’ right side and pretend that to be honest with any of them would have severe consequences exacerbated by under-medicated paranoia so no matter what you say to whomever you’re convinced actual loss could happen if you share how you really feel about just wanting to love and exist and drink in the most spare moments we get less and less of together. 

And sides just detract from the actual problems. Like systemic prejudice and injustice.

Pretend I’m a camera who didn’t realize neutral isn’t an actual setting. 

Pretend I’m a camera, pick me up and flip the screen so you can look at yourself. Maybe you’re a flower. Maybe you’re a house. Maybe you’re a Labrador. Maybe you’re a child of God. Maybe you’re very, very, serious. 

Pretend I’m a camera and I wanted to write something for you that would be impactful. Something that would matter even though I’m a camera who for a living questions what matters. The existential wonderment of being raised to an eye and triggered with a finger. 

I’m just a camera without a photographer. 

And I want. 


Nights in a Pandemic

Grace June

(Note: Please contact Grace June for permission before using any of the above photographs.)


Grace June
photo by Phil June

Grace June grew up in Alaska and now lives in Spokane where she works as writer, visual artist, and insurance professional. 

For the past seven years, Grace has been creating self-portraits both for enjoyment and as an approach to mental-health recovery. In 2018, she received a grant through Spokane Arts that funded Survive, a photo and book project about suicide survivors in Spokane. Thirty of 100 books were donated to Spokane Public Schools. 

Grace and her husband Phil have two cats, and although the four of them are deeply introspective and philosophical, the whole family absolutely loves binging TV pretty much on a nightly basis, mostly as escapist anesthetization in order to maintain a semblance of sanity. Learn more about her work at

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:

❤ As the series grows, you can find more Pandemic Meditations here: