Notes from a Pandemic: The Beginning

It’s day 7 of the national ‘lockdown’ here in Andalucía, Spain. Life changed overnight as the rise in cases of the Covid-19 virus caused the government to act quickly and announce legislation for new national measures to protect citizens and residents.

Even typing that sentence feels surreal. I’ve lived in Andalucía for nearly seven years and I’m lucky enough to call the city of Córdoba my home; yet, I would never have imagined that I would be sat here, having been sent home from my teaching job with all my books and equipment, waiting with my partner to listen to the President’s speech.

A week earlier, my students had been regaling me with stories about the virus. The teen groups were especially scandalous and no sooner would they sit down in the classroom than they’d all want to start talking about the latest news they’d read or heard. They were excited, something was happening somewhere and they’d all had new mobile for Christmas so now they could follow the news; but at that point it was still far away enough for it to be the kind of threat they were so used to seeing in films and series, one that wouldn’t touch them. How did we all get so naive?  A capitalist system of growth, growth, sell, sell, pushes us all on and gives this false idea that if we all have things, if we all have work, if we can all have all the conveniences that we desire, if we are all productive and striving then – what could touch us? Now we have the answer.

And we are all at once so human that we are forced to recognise our fragility and for most of us this is terrifying.

The mood here in Spain is one of social responsibility, #quedateencasa was quick to appear on social networks. The President talked of solidarity, unity and collaboration. There is a large police and military resource here to enforce the new legislations should it be needed, although generally people are scared and seem happy enough to be at home if they can (People who aren’t able to work at home and frontline workers are still going to work) I’m very ‘happy’ to be at home and lucky to be able to continue teaching online for the moment at least. No one knows where this crisis will lead us but there is a definite mood here which is – we’re all in it together – and that is reassuring.

We’re all learning things each day as the quarantine continues; whether it’s how to navigate your family relationships, hearing birds in the city for the first time or deciding what is the difference between needing and wanting something. There are lots of online posts about the earth needing this break, Venice’s canals are running clear, people are finding time to switch off and reconnect. We use stories to make meaning and we need some meaning right now.

I thought I’d start this blog series #notesfromapandemic to reflect on being here in a flat in Córdoba with my partner and two cats in the middle of a pandemic; of being scared and yet at the same time having normality and more quiet time; and all the thoughts and feelings that this throws up. I’d love for it to become a conversation with other people about what we are all feeling and thinking; what we are afraid of and how we’re dealing with it; what’s different and what’s the same and what this means on a human level for us all.  If you feel like talking  – leave a comment – write a response – what we have at the moment is connection.

Wishing you all good health,

Stay safe and calm.

Carys x

Listening
I’m Listening A Case for Empathy by Carys Shannon 2013

Notes From the Past

 

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These are my notebooks, if the building was burning I’d go back for them, they are years of pouring heart out onto pages, ideas, reflections, sketches, poems and writing. I return to them regularly, it’s a beautiful act of time travel to go back into your head before you knew what you know now.

I love reading them they are raw and inspired, honest, sometimes uncomfortable but always great tools for reflection, and the purest memories of feelings, sensations and moments that needed to be written. I’ve only every thrown one away… into the fire, an act of spiritual exorcism at the time, the first part of a chronicle of a mad, passionate and unhealthy love affair that nearly took me out, I’ve got the second part, and often wish I could re-read the first. Not for the memories, I’ve got those to work with but for the words, the choice of the words is everything, the shape of them, the way they were thrown onto the page, exhaled or bleeding, the form they naturally took, line breaks, space the gaps between things happening.

I couldn’t sleep last night so I got these out looking for a specific poem that I wrote and used to perform at readings, I didn’t find it but got lost in another dream of things written when life was all sea walks, music and night fires. I wrote another one looking from here to there and knowing a lot more, a blank page was filled, a little more expressed, and I found one, a recent one about dreaming of rain and I breathed some space into it on the pages. It feels full of something, a notion that’ll come clear reading it back years later, and so I write my truths, and for that life is good today.

 

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© Carys Shannon, September 2020. 

a new story

With all the changes happening in the world, I feel like I’m constantly unlearning my whole life; as a woman, as a vegan, as a slow lifer. It has never been more necessary to slow down and consciously undo and un-learn a lot of the assumptions and knowledge that most of us have been fed since birth. Things that we have absorbed, imbibed and let live in our minds and bodies without really knowing how toxic they are.  Awareness is the first step and we seem to be entering an age of awareness where things that have been long suppressed are rising up; torches are being held to the ugly underbellies of the ideas we have been fed under the prevalent ideals of capitalism, white privilege, convenience, patriarchy and permanent growth .

Humans learn through stories and we need a new story to help us; not just a story of hope but a story of action. It is that act itself that contains the power, the power to rage, to protest, to refuse, to reject, to give voice, to shed light, to take power back, to unite, to undo, to help and most importantly to re-learn or newly discover what the alternative could look like.

Action is a beautiful thing, it can start on an individual level with the smallest of steps and travel in ever increasing circles to global levels. Take Greta Thunberg or Extinction Rebellion as examples.

I’m trying to take action in my life and choices everyday. Imperfect but constant action. Not only do I feel better, but I also feel fiercely connected to others who are also taking action. Joining together where I can and feeling a sense of unity does give hope, not empty hope, but hope built on people standing up and saying, ‘no’, I am doing this differently.

The actions I take are; being vegan, recycling, re-using wherever possible, donating to charity, swapping with friends, reducing plastic waste as much as possible, spending money in places that are committed to sustainability and commercial justice, calling out conversations or comments that I don’t agree with, supporting artists directly via Patreon, sharing information on social media and in person, cycling and walking, protesting peacefully, being a member of animals rights groups, writing, talking and reading about it, respecting nature and respecting myself.

It’s not an exhaustive list and in no way am I the perfect example. It is also a personal process. I often feel lost, angry, hopeless, frustrated, guilty, tired etc. But I’m trying. And by trying and talking, connecting and sharing with other people who are also trying, I feel hopeful, connected, lifted, active, fulfilled and brave.

Individually we don’t have the whole story, but if we live out our actions consistently, we can join our patchwork of words and lines together until we have a new and beautiful story for humanity.

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#amwriting

I’m a writer. I write. I have always written since the day I learnt how to thread words together, casting lines on and off with full stops and commas. Before that I was a storyteller. Sometimes I still am. 

 

Current Writing Projects 2019 – 

Short Stories: Four short stories loosely themed around animals and our connection with nature. This is exploratory writing with the aim of giving voice to the values and choices that are hugely important in my life now –  veganism, slow and conscious living and connection to nature.

NaNoWriMo Novel: I started a new project last November, partly to get away from my first novel and remember that I could write about something else. I loved writing without editing and although I didn’t make the 50k target, I’ve got a multi-narrator novel in the making that I care about, which is more than I thought I’d come out with.

On the shelf / in the drawer

My first novel Truth Like Water which I wrote and submitted as the creative project for my MPhil in Writing is currently shelved. The novel has been long-listed twice, once for the Bath Novel Award and later for the Mslexia Novel Award, but never made it to the shortlist. I was always in a hurry to get the novel finished and out into the world. Now, after some positive and constructive agent/editor feedback I can see clearly that I’ve only just begun the real work. It needs a re-write and I’m slowly building up to that. I’ve always been unsure if this book will be the one that will stay in the bottom drawer, it was cathartic and I cut my teeth on it in terms of process, yet I feel that the bones of something worth telling are there, I just need to start again…

 

 

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