Writing for the Soul -.1 A collection of stories, poems, musings and more from our collective isolation Creative Spaces Co.
Just breathe and the springtime will arrive anyway. This is difficult, though the light is growing now, To not shake your hand when we meet, Or wrap our arms around each other, let alone kiss. In a land without leaders or steady advice. But we’ve made our own way before, And we will do again, won’t we? ‘Together Alone’ like the song we once sang. We’ll make our own way, you and I. Just breathing, While the springtime arrives anyway. - Ronnie Hughes, Just breathe and the springtime will arrive anyway
Welcome to our creative space to share stories, poems and musings from our collective isolation as covid19 shuts the world down in a way very few of us could have ever imagined. As we socially distance not only from our friends and families but life as we knew it, we wanted to help bring people closer together through the written word, providing a space for people to share their thoughts, worries and hopes in these unprecedented and strange times. In March 2020 we asked people to submit writing of any style, to share their reflections and thoughts on the coronavirus global pandemic, just as the UK government announced a nation-wide lockdown. We hope you find comfort in these pages of writing from the soul and that you know youâ€™re not alone in your loneliness. And maybe youâ€™ll want to write something yourself...
- Rachael Oâ€™Byrne
If you would like to contribute to Writing for the Soul, weâ€™re looking for 500 words or less on any subject using any style of writing. Weâ€™re also accepting illustrations to accompany a piece of writing or as a stand-alone submission. Send your submissions to email@example.com
I've been in self-isolation for six days now.Â Alone. Pensive. Sad. I'm four days from the first anniversary of the sudden and devastating death of the love of my life, Craig. It is not a good time to be alone. It's strange. For five months last year I was almost totally housebound, isolated by choice from the world; I left only for medical or counselling appointments, with the occasional tiny walk to the end of the road and back. My world had been torn off its axis, yet it kept turning for everybody else. I wished it would stop. I wished everybody would just stop. Stop and realise that the world had lost Craig. And now it has. Well, almost. And I don't like it. Having become accustomed to being confined to 'four walls' for such a long time last year, you'd have thought I'd be used to it, be comfortable with being shut off, hidden - safe from the outside world and all of its painful reminders that 'nothing will ever be the same'. That Craig is gone. That our old lives are over. But I'm not. Back then, despite my searing grief and anxiety, I was mostly the master of my own puppet,
shaper of my shifts. And now the strings have snapped and I feel Completely. Out. Of. Control.Â For people like me - young widows - we already know that abhorrent things can and do happen to us. On a normal day. In a normal week. I'd kidded myself for years that I would remain a fully paid-up member of the 'It won't happen to me' club. I certainly felt my membership would last longer than the 40 years it did, before mine and Craig's world was ripped from under us within the blink of an eye. Or a heart attack as it turned out. In isolation, my mind has been working overtime. Catastrophising. Predicting. Panicking. I have no one here to buffer these spinnings-off into the terrifying myriad possibilities; there's no one here to reassure me that everything's going to be okay. The worst has happened. The man I planned to spend the rest of my life with has gone. He left for work and never came home. I made it to the hospital to hold his hand in his last ten minutes of precious life. See? Bad things do happen. The next worst thing can happen. In my mind, it's a done deal. The foundations of my new life, in this unpredictable world, were shaky and skewed before. Now they've lost all solidity. In the widow world I live in, my counterparts and I share love and support, but we are 'the ones the worst has happened to'. Seeing the steady flow of new widows, with each of their stories - all with tragic endings: cancer, choking, sepsis, accidents, falls - makes death seem like the natural outcome to any narrative. I can't see a picture of a couple without wondering 'which one of
them is dead' or 'which one might die'. The macabre is manifesting itself in my new version of normal. Isolation has exacerbated and mutated this further. Trying desperately to grapple with my racing thoughts, I've managed to set myself some challenges whilst being alone. I've learned a new piece on the piano: 'The Winner Takes it All'. No hint of irony there. I've started reading again: 'Little Women' is the first book of the many I plan to read over the coming weeks and months. Subconsciously I think I've gone harking back to a simpler era, yet still a time of war and struggle. A time when everyone did what they could to look after everyone else, triumphing against a colossal evil. Perhaps I'm looking for lessons to learn or words or wisdom to drench the dry throat of my fear. I can't say it's working just yet. I've stopped looking at the news every five minutes; it's not helping. Something inside me is awakening, ever so slightly: some glimmer of hope I suppose. It has to or I'll go mad. I force myself to think 'what would Craig do?' He'd tell me we can get through this. He'd tell me we can help others. He'd tell me it's all going to be okay. And I'd believe him. So I'm listening to 'him' now, as I sit here in my isolation, with my beautiful cat, Jinxy, as my only company, and I set myself some more challenges. The first is to say 'we will get through this' and the second is to believe it. - Chell da Silva Willis, Isolation
I brace myself for your embrace Knowing it will swallow me Taking blissful time to taste My tender rarity Hold my body, grope my heart Take a feather to my insides Heartbeats milliseconds apart Footing lost in landslide Embrace envelops my torso Leaving me de-spined Makes me love you more so Enthrals my wandering mind Sometimes I forget to breathe ‘cause I’m free of concentration Senses absent without leave In mutual levitation
- Amy Collins, Embrace
Read War and Peace… Again. From start to finish, Learned a little Finnish. Ate M and Ms, Listened to Eminem, Thought about Man At C&A And the days you could fly KLM and BA. Looked at the clock And it was still Only 9:15. Went for a walk To the microwave And back again, Circumventing
The dog licking the hole Of his body. Watched Marr. Fell asleep (Marr does that Every time). Checked my temperature. 98.4 Then realised that was Celsius! Panicked! Then realised, no, That was Fahrenheit. Phew! Counted sheep Till I didn’t fall asleep. Went to the window. I looked at the world And the world Looked at me. The world said: “Remember when we were An item?” And I said, “No.”
- Alan Gibbons, Self Isolation
Said we were ready We weren’t Said shaking hands With patients was good It wasn’t Said herd immunity Was the way It wasn’t Said we didn’t need Lockdown We did Said we were doing Enough testing We weren’t Said we had enough Equipment We didn’t Said they were Leading by example They weren’t Is this what they mean By small government?
- Alan Gibbons, Small Government
Some years ago my late wife restored The Ringers Rhyme in St Endellion Church tower. I was her assistant during the work. This poem I wrote to commemorate that restoration and conservation. Uncovered now, you stand with arms aloft; pendant on your bells with hempen chords while we below may, finally, in soft acclaim, hang on your varnished words. We see you then in breeches, shirt and hose, perhaps all six of you were neighbours, kith or kin; we cannot know, but idly would suppose ‘twas Brychan’s maid enticed you in. At last, in colours true are you revealed. Our healing hands made good the grime of years. Ah! --was that your thanks that mutely pealed? Or, may I dare to think - - - Endellion’s tears? You, Sir, on the left, whate’er your name, are you the one who penned the Ringer’ Rhyme? And are you foot up-lifted for a game - or merely making point in sinister time? Beloved Saint—Endellion, now, I feel that you no longer shed a lonely tear for, when the Ringing Rhymers ring their peal the simple sound of Cow-Bells ‘tis you hear. - John Cynddylan, The Ringers Rhyme
I don’t see your face Through a computer screen. You are mismatched, repurposed, manmade And far from homegrown. I miss your freckles I miss the sleep in your eye I miss your crows’ feet When you smile That smile, just for me And a server or two. But Your hair is glowing It is fire. You are still the light Peeking in through the window. So I bite my tongue, (It nips at my throat, Scrabbles deep in my gut) Because one click And that’s still my heart, Struggling through the pixels And the crackle of the sweetest lips. - Laura Jane Round, Call Dropping And Other Love Languages
The Indian elephant is on its way to extinction And western man now seeks to save it. At Eastern mam he points a self-righteous finger. And says it is so cruel, the way that you tame it. With starvation, and beating, and fire and flames. So save the elephant, is Western mans anguished cry! But hold, the Eastern man will say in return, This animal is our means of transportation. How dare you criticise, pointing a finger in this way? With your fossil fuels and your guzzling of gas, Your crocodile shoes and your snakeskin bags This very earth you lay to waste. So save our rain forest, is eastern mans anguished cry! Global temperatures and seas are rising. And daily THEY continue to sell us this, The means to wreak havoc upon ourselves. Bringing mother earth toward terrible destruction. Buy me, sell one, sell me and buy one. For this is the pace that the human race Pursues with poisonous pointless passion. Yet still we procrastinate and delay delay. Western man devouring Eastern mans world. Destroying his forests for consumerisms sake. Continuously burning a hole in the sky, Running this reckless race, that cannot be won. Hurtlingly greedy mankind, swiftly, On their way to species extinction!
We speak more to please Seeking approval Leaving truth by the wayside. We would rather drink The sparkling bubbles of desire, Than taste the truth, Or stand with the majority In public display. Seeking always for authority In uniformed state, Or otherwise. To think well of us. This is the philosophy of Capitalism. That creates, within the race, Of our world of consumerism. The poorest of the poor. To be controlled, And consumed, while the humanities lay Lay dying!
I hesitate once more Afraid and apprehensive Of things I cannot see. Comedy, humour, laughter. Smirking, grinning, smiling How funny we can be
- M. Soto No Remission From Emissions, Philosophically Speaking, Isolation
the streets no longer sing the pitter patter of tiny feet the tread of giants they're all anti-social distant resting for the new way fear saturates the air panic claws its way over naked aisles and metal shopping baskets in between non perishable goods and toilet paper elbows sharp but that's the only place we're allowed to touch i miss hugs seeing my loves that newborn smell the music from the lungs of a little one but i toil where sick souls go to heal so i have to keep away what gets me through is the temporary nature of everything the sun will still shine the birds will still gift their music and through laughter through spirit through each other the streets will sing again a new song - Natalie Denny, A New Song
It was her lifeline that handbag, - a treasury of tack within. That’s what she called it, - ‘Tack.’ Crocodile leather it was, so she said anyway. I wasn’t going to disappoint her disputing that! ‘Where did you get it from?’ I asked wondering why she hallowed the cumbersome thing with its roughish brown sides that snagged my nylons whenever I walked Gran Bon Bons to the corner shop. No use offering to get her the usual two sausages, a rasher of bacon, a small Hovis loaf, a carton of U.H.T. milk and four ounces of bon bons. ‘I’m coming with you,got to catch the breeze now and again Rose or I’ll turn to stone like Medusa.’ Trudging down the street on our way back, Gran would always open her hefty handbag and offer me a bon bon. ‘They keep you from catching germs you know. Can’t get in you see when you’re chewing all the time!’ I smiled and kissed her craggy cheek.
The one time Gran dropped her handbag on the shop floor was a revelation. The impact must have opened the clasp because there it was, all her tack strewn over a couple of boxes of bananas,- a cracked compact with a silver lid embossed with a rose,‘Present from Gramps,’ she said beaming at me with those playful eyes. A couple of safety pins ,- ‘Incase I become undone,’- she joked. A packet of Woodies, a box of Swan Vesta, an embroidered hankie, a bottle of 4711 Eau de Cologne, her maroon tapestry purse with two ten bob notes separately folded,- ‘Incase I make a mistake and hand over two at once you know,’ a tortoise shell comb for her wispy white curls and of course a bag of bon bons. Gran’s handbag’s been lying at the bottom of my wardrobe wrapped in pink tissue paper for three months now, that is, until this morning. I felt the warmth of her words while stroking it. Placing her things in my memory box, I brushed away the bon bon dust from the inside and placed my purse at the bottom. It felt so empty. Energised by tracing Gran’s footsteps, I reached the corner shop. ‘A tin of salmon, and half a pound of butter please.’ ‘Anything else?’ ‘Oh yes, and four ounces of bon bons.’ I said making sure I didn’t hand over two ten bob notes . Gran Bon Bons would have been very proud of me, I know. - Eryl Lloyd Chitty, Gran Bon Bons
For nearly all of my life I’ve loved music, virtually all music. Vast amounts of it have defined whole periods of my life. After the obvious Beatles there was Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue to Héjira’ period, succeeded by David Bowie’s ‘Berlin Trilogy’ then a noisy amalgam ‘Heaven up here’ period of Blondie, Chic and, yes, Echo and the Bunnymen while I was constantly out with my housing friends in the early 1980s. But none of these periods were ever classical music, until now. When several hours of it most days, has started to help me think, write and generally colour in my life with what I’ve decided to call ‘The sounds that heaven makes,’ as a title for this piece of reflection. So I thought you might like to find the sounds of heaven for yourself right now? Here’s how. From your radio, your phone or whatever you search on, enter ‘BBC Radio 3.’ And any hour of the day or night the music will be there waiting for you. And once you’ve found it, let it play. There won’t be as many announcements or interruptions as you’re used to, and the pieces played might be longer than you expect. But leave it be, if you can. And if you don’t like the first piece you might like the next or the one after. Or by then be thinking, like I did for the first while, that “this is like silence but better.”
Three years later and still listening I think it’s better than even that now. I have my own tastes and opinions and I don’t call it classical music any more, because it seems to live outside of specific time periods. So that some 16th century Thomas Tallis (say, ‘Spem in Allium’) might be perfectly followed by some 21st century music from, say, Caroline Shaw (anything off her ‘Orange’ album), and sound heavenly. Being a lifelong music compiler, growing up with compilation cassettes, I now have eight playlists, and counting, of all this heaven. All of them about two and a half hours long, and each one being a thinking and breathing space for me. To play while I’m writing my ‘Looking for Utopia’ PhD and now, while I’m writing this as Aaron Copland’s sublime ‘Quiet City’ accompanies me. Sublime. And all found while listening to the radio. Where you can find and make your own playlists if you want. Or maybe just leave the radio on and let it surprise you. Like you’ve been given the key to unlock a secret garden called BBC Radio 3. Where the lark and other sounds of heaven are always ascending. Good starting places are the programmes of Elizabeth Alker, Petroc Trelawny (what a name) or Sarah Walker. But really any programme at any time will do, on BBC Radio 3, a national treasure. - Ronnie Hughes, The Sounds That Heaven Makes
People in at home Bored, scared, afraid-but inside Think of me at work
- Mim Oldershaw
When nothing you say or do Can make a difference To friends in need When thereâ€™s nothing Within your power Can cure a friend in pain When all you can do Is wish and hope And send all the love In the world Thatâ€™s what you do
- Alan Gibbons, When
Thanks to all our contributors for sharing their work with us all... Eryl Lloyd Chitty Amy Collins John Cynddylan Natalie Denny Alan Gibbons Ronnie Hughes Rachael Oâ€™Byrne Mim Oldershaw Laura Jane Round M. Soto Louis Tuckman Chell da Silva Willis Special thanks to Ronnie Hughes and Louis Tuckman for their patience and conversation in making this idea a reality. Keep in touch with us... Twitter: @createspacesco Instagram: @createspacesco Facebook.com/CreativeSpacesCo wemakecreativespaces.org
A collection of stories, poems, musings and more from our collective isolation