Toughing it out in Paradise
Ever since this pandemic blew up, I’ve been wondering how artists, musicians and film makers will document this whole crazy time. Just like after 9/11, when films and documentaries started coming out, I wonder what this generation’s artists will have to say or film or paint about the Covid-19 pandemic.
Personally, it didn’t have a great effect upon my life, despite having to spend the entire time teaching online because my school didn’t want me teaching face to face due to my, (hrumph) advanced years. Come on, I’m only 61! 61 is the new 51, as they say these days. Nevertheless, I can’t complain, having spent most of the time out at my Turkish family’s summer place on the Sea of Marmara. Well, it used to be just for summer but we got gas heating installed a couple of years ago and my son and I had been coming here regularly, almost every weekend, even before the pandemic started. Since then, I’ve been here almost constantly, while he’s been coming and going about every 3 weeks to a month. I can’t say it has been painful for us, and for that I feel blessed. There are worse things in life than waking up in the morning and going out on the balcony to gaze at the sea, before starting online lessons for a few hours. Long walks along the beach after work, delicious dinners, a fire in the fireplace most winter evenings, and then Netflix or a downloaded film to round out the day. We never lost any close relatives, my job continued so I continued to earn money, and neither me, my family, nor hardly any of my friends were infected – and none of them seriously. Knock on wood.
But in one respect, I suppose I’m similar to many people who’ve lived through this time: I took my life online with Messenger and Zoom. Finally, the promise of the Jetsons from my childhood came true as video calls, meetings, and conferences became the norm. We caught up with all our friends and family and spent lots of time talking for free on the internet. What a change from when I first arrived in Turkey way back in 1994. Originally I couldn’t afford to make more than one call a month, but fortunately, I had a lot of friends who kept in touch by writing letters. I still have a couple satchels of them that I keep out of sentimentality. It wasn’t until the late 90s that I was able to keep up with people more quickly through email, and not until much later that Facebook allowed us to follow our friends’ lives, while Messenger and Whatsapp enabled us to direct message people in real time.
Enter the Muse
Which is how I met a muse and possible soul mate during my time online. Also a writer, she’s the younger sister of an old friend, who helped open up my creative channels and has so far inspired several poems and a short story that deal with the theme of love online and whether or not such relationships are real. It’s hard to know what’s real when you’ve never met the person and you only have your words and some photos to go by. But what started as a mild curiosity for me later developed into a full blown obsession which I am only now starting to come down from. Meeting online like that, two writers, with only our words to represent us, led to an intensely personal, deep relationship. It was like we were floating in space together, sharing our thoughts, finishing each other’s sentences, joking, inspiring, causing flights of imaginative whimsey. Things are complicated, of course, but in 10 months we have never run out of things to say and I’m convinced we will remain close for the rest of our lives. Years from now, when I think back to this period, to the 16 months when we were hunkered down waiting for the world to reopen, there are two memories I will cherish the most: the time I’ve spent here with my son and the time I spent online with my muse. The poems and story that she helped inspire will be my own small contribution to the art of this whole difficult period.