April 3, 2020

Finding Connections in Altered Landscapes

by joeyphoenix

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by Ashley Nunez of Old Growth Alchemy
Originally posted on Salem Daughters of Darkness

It would be a romantic notion to think that with the current situation at hand, we are all finding ways to appreciate the small stuff and persevere through the hardships despite it all. It would be quaint to think This Too Shall Pass and reflect that we will all go about our normal lives after this has all blown over. Quaint and romantic though it would be, I don’t see it happening. That is not to say that everything will turn into a dystopian hellscape where our only chance of survival is a plucky young teen who will save us all…after she chooses between her two love interests. I am hopeful we won’t see that end, but who knows. No, I think most of us will come out the other side unscathed (relatively, anyway), but things will be different. It is up to us to right now actively choose just how different we want it all to be, and our actions will be the breadcrumb strewn path through the woods we follow to something brighter if altogether unusual.

We find ourselves now in altered landscapes, where we must make different decisions than ones we made before. It’s a little like Oz; everyone is the same (more or less), but the rules have changed. We are rediscovering our modes of connection and how we stay on this side of sane while it all happens. Many are hungering for the basics of human connection and casual camaraderie they experienced before but due to self-isolation or other circumstances can no longer enjoy. Even the most hermit-ish of us still need some form of connection (and in fact this is in some ways many an introvert’s dream). So how do we satisfy that basic need and human truth of connectivity?

I have always been a firm believer in post and parcels. Especially unexpected ones. I delight in nothing more than when I receive an excited text or photo from a friend after they have opened a letter with some odds and ends I found that I thought they would like—maybe a sticker or scrap of art. I think we all have a streak of magpie in us and delight in the odd shiny object. Maybe yours is comic strips or forgotten ephemera of old books or magazines. Maybe it is a truly obscene pin from your favorite maker or a posy of dried flowers. Find that small spark of joy in the world and share it.

An act I regularly engage with that brings me delight is to send out Random Acts of Poetry every few months. I see how many postcard stamps I have and send out social media statuses that the first X number of direct messages I receive with addresses will receive a poem in the mail. These little slivers of whimsy and oddity can do much more than they appear.

Not one for writing? Fear not, there is more than one way to bring a little extra wonder into this world. When was the last time someone read you a story? Or the last time you saw a live play? Stories are magic. Whether they are escapist fantasies to distract from harsh realities or windows into truths you would have never seen even through a glass darkly, they are gifts. They carry truths that are as old as breath and life itself. Books bind these to a form, but there is something to be said for a live rendition. Where you hear the pacing through the warmth of another’s voice. Where you can drift to a liminal state on the richness of the tale but also with the intangible tether and intimacy that such experiences bring.

If you find yourself at home with roommates or loved ones or others with whom the act of sharing quarters has offered some kinship, might I suggest picking up a book? If you need a little space from those you are cooped up with (and trust me, that is more than reasonable) then start a livestream with some of your friends from afar. You could even switch off who reads and the experience morphs as the voices do. If you are feeling particularly feisty and creative, why not start a round of story creation? It may seem a little daunting at first, but spinning yarns with your friends can be invigorating and opens up a tap into that great flow of stories.

Struggling for inspiration? Let’s look to Mary Shelley. The year 1816 was dubbed “the year without a summer” due to a huge climate shift with the eruption of Indonesia’s Mount Tambora. The ash and dust that stayed in the air for years to come created darkness even in daylight for surrounding areas and major global changes causing temperature drops up to 18 degrees across North America and Europe. This is the same year that our 19-year-old Mary Shelley took her infamous trip to Lake Geneva with her lover Percy Bysshe Shelley. The bleak, rainy landscapes and tumultuous weather patterns inspired dark tales for all entrapped in Lord Byron’s villa when one fateful night they were all instructed to write a ghost story. That request became the electricity of Frankenstein to his monster and birthed a genre: the Gothic.

There is a lesson in this tale from history. Even amidst life-changing chaos out of all human control, a 19 year old girl trapped in close quarters with other creative minds would give life to a genre that would sweep nations. A strange electric spark of light amidst the darkness. I would argue that we can take a leaf or two out of Shelley’s pages for our own uses and spark something of our own.

Explore, be bold, but most importantly take time for the things that fuel you. There are many ways to connect in these challenging times, and I wish you the best as we venture forth to new and uncertain horizons.

Ashley Nunez in this temporal iteration is a freelance writer, artist of dark and questionable intention, and creatrix of Old Growth Alchemy. Curious for more? Peruse her work at www.oldgrowthalchemy.com

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