19 March 2020

Love in the Time of the Corona Virus

So first and foremost, let's check in. How is everyone doing?

(And seriously, if you read this, I really am most definitely talking to you. Please give us all an update in the comments below).

Times are "interesting" here at Casa Thornton. My wife has been working from home for a couple of weeks. In fact her company (she works for a gaming company) has mandated that no one come in. The entire workforce is working from home, except for maintenance, etc.

Last week the governor of our state (Washington) closed down every school district in King, Pierce, and Snohomish-the three most populous counties in the state (he quickly expanded that closure to the entire state). This included the district where I work, and the one where our son attends school (two different districts, same county). Our last day in building was Thursday. After today (March 18th) no one is allowed in any of our buildings aside from security and maintenance until at least April 24th.

So we're all three in the house together and doing the "social distancing" thing and taking every precaution laid out by the CDC here. We're stocked up, safe, and settled in. And so far we've managed to avoid getting on each other's nerves.

There have been some funny moments, though.

For example, just this afternoon Robyn was on a conference call via Slack on her laptop, and our son thought it would be funny to crawl under the table and tickle her feet while she was trying to run her meeting. He apparently made a couple of cameo appearances in early calls during the day.

He knows he's not supposed to interrupt while she's working, and he's a good kid, but he's seven. Even the nicest kid likes to color outside of the lines sometimes.

Mo Willems – a Mr. Rogers For Our Time
And speaking of our son, he's a big fan of the work of writer/illustrator Mo Willems (of Don't Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus! fame). The Kennedy Center is hosting daily video of "Lunch Doodles" with the prolific and vastly creative Willems, who is currently their "Education Artist in Residence." They post new video every day here at 1 PM EST.

Our son loves it, and has spent hours and hours happily drawing both with Mo Willems and on his own, since the series launched Monday afternoon. You can also find them daily on YouTube. Mr. Willems for me calls to mind Mr. Rogers from when I was young. He takes time to explain things to young people who are there to create with him, he's never condescending, and he clearly does what he does out of love for kids.

As for me, I've been checking in with my day gig and working away on a couple of writing projects I've been trying to wrap up for a while. As I've mentioned elsewhere on this blog, 2020 has been my year to finish a whole lot of long-term projects. I've wrapped three, and it's not even the end of March.

I keep reading about how Sir Isaac Newton invented Calculus during a pandemic (and began his ground-breaking work with optics, experimenting with prisms in his bedroom), and Shakespeare produced Venus and Adonis during a plague outbreak which shut down the theatres in 1593, and then King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra, all in a single year during another outbreak in 1606.

I for one cannot wait to see what the current age of COVID-19 produces amongst our creatives across the arts and sciences in the weeks and months to come. Because if ever a society needed a silver lining to the dark cloud hanging over it, it's Planet Earth in the Spring of 2020.

Three timeless works of literature in just one year? Quoth the Bard, "No prob..."
To quote that Great American, Walt Whitman:

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

And to further quote another Great American, Robin Williams, riffing on the above sentiment in the film Dead Poets Society:

"What will your verse be?"

I include myself in the challenge inherent in this question. I'm looking forward to finding out! And I'll be chronicling that creative journey right here. I can say right off the bat that my long-term goals are to show my wife and son every day how much I love them, make sure we're all getting our needs met, and get a lot of writing done. 

Anything past that, and I'll have to let you know in a later post.

And what of you?

What are you working on? What do you want to work on? What challenges are holding you back? What or who inspires you? Let's hear your ideas, and if there's a way we, as a community of creatives can help (from a distance, of course), speak out. Tell us below!

"What will your verse be?"


  1. Shakespeare and Newton- you are setting the bar awfully high for productivity during the virus! On the other hand, I love the title, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus- small children get all the great books and great titles!
    Stay safe.

  2. I've been anxious for days, unable to get much done. But you have inspired me.
    I'm going to try to get back to work today. It's editing for someone else, but it's still being productive, so I'll take it.

  3. Checking in! We're here, staying in, navigating work, and making lesson plans for our son. Oh, and Lego. Lots of Lego.
    Thanks for the Mo Willems Doodle thing! We'll check it out.

  4. Brian, with all that uplifting inspiration how can I now plead writer's block?

  5. (Not a writer of much of anything...former college professor.) The joys of retirement have lessened somewhat. We have been staying home (except for grocery stores), walking more (good outdoor space with no pedestrians), watching videos. My only creative activity is to try to write a daily haiku, of which today's product is:

    The rain has ended
    And the birds are very happy--
    Earthworms everywhere!


  6. Brian, stealing and posting the Walt Whitman quote on Facebook.
    Meanwhile, Allan and I are socially distancing here at home, and so far well. I went to the store a couple of days ago to get potatoes (we were out), and bought the last 5 pound sack in the Hy-Vee. People are hoarding, even here in Sioux Falls. On the other hand, we are expecting a spring snowstorm, so, it's kind of the usual. In fact, living in South Dakota preps you for isolation, because hey, just another bunch of blizzard days.
    As for what I'm working on - reading (I got the new Hilary Mantel book! Huzzah!), and working on a new story. And I have a couple of ideas that I've jotted down in these strange days.
    Please, everyone, stay safe, stay warm, stay well. And stay in touch!

  7. It is fascinating to me to read about what everyone is doing right now. It sounds as if you are doing a great job of keeping safe and sane. I'm within a few thousand words of finishing another novel first draft, and I have read, now, three blog posts about finishing projects. I have quite a few short stories that need to have "the end" at the end of them. I imagine this will be a good time to do that. Continue to be safe and sane. And I'll do the same.

  8. Great post, Brian. I forgot how much Shakespeare wrote during the theater closings in the 1590s. He also wrote Romeo & Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, King John, and (I think) Love's Labour's Lost. Talk about killing time by working it to death!

    Barb and I are seeing a lot more of each other since we can't get to the health club (is that now an oxymoron?) and her part-time job is closed. She was also rehearsing for two productions, and one of those is cancelled, too. The other has been moved to September.

    I should be practicing guitar and piano, but all the open mic venues are closed. Ernie, our Maine Coon, seems to sense that things are not normal, too. He's always been affectionate, but now he seems to want more cuddle time, which is fine with us.

    I'm vaguely working on a novella and a couple of short stories, and I keep telling myself that there's a silver lining to this very dark cloud. All my work is available digitally, so I'm wondering if those sales will show a spike over the next month or two.

    I'm supposed to have outpatient surgery next week, which was still on as of this morning, but I won't be shocked if it's cancelled.

    The good news is that we live in a large condo complex, so we can go outside and walk for exercise without violating social distancing norms.

    Stay safe and healthy, people. This, too, shall pass, and think of the material we're gathering by living through it.

  9. We are 90 miles from you, Brian, which means 90 miles from the US center. We are just fine. Being retired, this doesn't feel crazily different from my everyday. I still bicycle everyday but I avoid the Taylor Docks because I know it will be crowded with strollers in the fresh air. I don't stop for a cup of tea when I'm out because the restaurants are take-out only (if that).

    I bought gift certificates from three o my favorite restaurants, because I want them to survive this mess. Terri and I have both learned to use Zoom for meetings, and we a very fun one yesterday.

    I have written first draft of three short stories in the last sizx weeks (unusually productive for me).

    Muddling through...

  10. Good post, Brian.

    Carolyn and I have been staying in and I've been writing like a wild man. Doing some FaceTiming with grandchildren now and then, and a lot of reading and moviewatching too. We have a big yard and it's been in the 70s here most of the week so we've been outside a lot, and I walk every day and eat lunch in our backyard swing. One of our sons is a physician at a local hospital and he has instructed us to hunker down and let him run errands for us when needed. At first we thought he was overreacting, but now we see that being cautious is probably the right way to go.

    Everybody stay safe!

  11. I'm glad you and yours are doing well, Brian.

    As or me, neighbors can't tell if I'm self-quarantining, or just being my normal, isolated, troglodyte, self.

  12. Became a full-time writer a few months ago, so I'm trying to remind myself to write every day. My husband and I largely were staying home and watching TV all the time anyway so we are not really displaced by all this!

  13. When you’re feeling most anxious or panicked, that isn’t the time to talk to your kids about what’s happening with the coronavirus. Know more about anxiety during covid-19.


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