While out for a walk today I was surprised by these two painted stones lying along the sidewalk in my neighbourhood. Thank you, whoever made and placed these, for spreading a little cheer!

April, 2020

As I prepared to launch this author website this month (better late than never), I struggled with the timing of it all.

We are a month into the COVID-19 pandemic, and it seems trivial to be embarking on this next step as an author. There are so many more important things to focus and reflect on. As I write this, the worldwide death toll from the virus reached 100,000 today and the total number of COVID-19 cases surpassed two million. News feeds warn that our hospitals are running dangerously low on supplies of personal protective equipment.

Many of the writers and journals I follow have posted blogs or helpful articles on how everyone is the literary world is struggling to write at this time, and that's ok. The muse has fled. I've certainly had moments when I've watched my cursor tauntingly blink until I decide to get up and make yet another quarantine snack. There is that pull; to endlessly flip through news sites and to grieve on mass.

So I feel guilty for still finding the will to type here and there. For feeling the urge to keep trying to write. Yet while my sense of foreboding and fear fluctuates and flares by the day, I have also witnessed some joyful signs during our first few weeks of quarantine.

I've lived on this block for eighteen years and finally met several neighbors for the first time. Instead of being gone all day at work only to drive into their remote-controlled garages in secret in the evening, everyone is now working from home, or idle. They are out on their front lawns, finding excuses to clean the yard. To putter. They are out for walks, for bike rides, or to play with their children. They yell out "Hello!", "How are you?" or nod as my family and I walk by at the required two-meter distance. As someone who often initiated conversations with strangers or chatted up the clerk while running errands, it is nice to see others reaching out to connect.

I've had daily conversations with my parents and brother and online chats with friends, something we didn't do as often before this all began. I've cheered on and donated to online fundraisers for hospitals & food banks, and watched my children rise to the challenge of online education and supporting their younger peers. I've been touched by late-night show hosts and news anchors as they persist to deliver us not just the news, but also a positive attitude. I've laughed along with all of the individuals who have posted YouTube videos and viral clips to bring a little humor into the darkest of times. I’ve marveled as the dolphins and swans returned to Venice's canals, and rejoiced in the growth of the "caremongering" movement as communities across the country step up to help and support those who need it most, such as grocery shopping for their elderly neighbours or babysitting for essential workers.

So I guess, I can still write because I can still believe. I believe in the kindness of strangers and the resilience of the human spirit. I believe in the tireless efforts of our front-line medical and emergency professionals. Those who pick up our garbage, who courier our parcels. As my mother battles chemo for the third time, we have chatted with and given thanks to our online grocery shoppers who still bring food to our doorstep. The ‘safe distance’ between us seems small now that strangers are making eye contact and seeking connection.

As so many have said, we need to stay positive and be kind to one another. We will get through this. Perhaps, when the worst is finally behind us, we will all be a little more grateful for those around us and this home we share. Hopefully "caremongering" can persist in our communities long after this virus has been subdued.

Wishing you and yours the best of health, courage, patience and reasons to smile. May you all still find your muse.

Cheers.

Cheryl