This is the true story of some random acts of kindness during COVID-19.
Out of the blue, a woman gave a friend $50, to be used however she wanted or needed.
The friend was surprised and grateful. Finances had been a concern during the COVID-19 pandemic, but her work and income had picked up recently, much to her relief. She didn’t really need the $50, and she kept this in mind as she pondered what to do with it.
One day, she decided to go for a walk and stop by her local pub to pick up some takeout along the way—mindful that it’s important to support local businesses, especially during the pandemic and subsequent recovery. As she waited outside the pub for her order to come out, she noticed two people sitting outside the drug store a few doors away. One was a young woman with a dog; the other a man of about 50-60—they weren’t together. She let the pub server know she’d be right back and walked over to them.
She gave the young woman $20 and chatted with her briefly. The young woman and her dog were camping out in a tent in a ravine with her boyfriend. She asked the young woman if the place was shaded and safe—the young woman said yes, and also mentioned that the money would come in handy, as it was going to be her birthday the next day. She wished the young woman happy birthday.
She moved on to the man and gave him $20, and asked him if he was doing okay in the heat and staying hydrated. He said he was doing okay. He didn’t seem to want to chat, so she wished him well and walked back to the pub to pick up her takeout order.
Because of a friend’s unexpected gift, she was able to treat herself to a cider with her meal, include a generous tip, and help out a couple of fellow human beings (and a dog). That first random act of kindness grew—and may have grown since then.
Acts of kindness don’t have to be about giving money. It can be about helping a neighbour with errands. Actively listening to someone’s troubles. Smiling at a stranger. And these seemingly small moments of kindness and connection have a way of rippling outward. And while you may never know if or how your kindness was passed on, you can be sure that you brightened at least one person’s day.
When I was a kid, I used to lay in the summertime grass in front of our house and look at the sky, watching clouds go by, and finding shapes and images up there.
As an adult, I still appreciate the beauty of the sky, especially during the golden time as the sun prepares to set, the colours as the sun goes down, and that deep blue before the sky goes dark. I’ve found a renewed appreciation—and even a state of grace and calm—looking up there these days; sometimes from my living room window, sometimes during a walk. It doesn’t always have to be about making out the shapes. But just being there, present, watching them go by. Like thoughts during meditation.
Here are some photos of clouds, taken during the pandemic. And a song by Joni Mitchell.
As we gradually begin to emerge from “stay at home” to a world of increased contact with others—including mask wearing and physical distancing—we may have come to know and appreciate our own surroundings with renewed hearts and minds.
While waiting for the green light to safely visit a museum or attend a performance event, many of us been engaging with the arts at home, through the pages of books or on a screen of some sort. And maybe you have some art on your walls that you’ve come to view with refreshed eyes.
In the spirit of sharing and engaging with art, here’s a little tour of the art that hangs in my apartment—in alphabetical order, by artist (with links, as available). These are not professional photos, and they’ve been taken where the pieces live, in their natural habitat—so there will be some glare and reflection in the glass.
Little Cruiser Lake (canvass-mounted print)—Cecilia Booth. A gift from the artist, who is also a friend. I love the peaceful calm of nature in this piece. There’s also a magical, fairy tale-like quality—of emerging from a dark forest, into the light.
Drowning Girls (poster print)—Suzanne Courtney. Suzanne is an Alumnae Theatre friend/colleague; and I had the pleasure of working on this production (on set painting, with designer Ed Rosing). I love how she combined the beautiful with the macabre, giving the design a haunting Gothic vibe. You can check out her art here and graphic design work here.
Celtic Camille—Laurie Fredheim. Another friend and gift from the artist, who drew this from a photograph, then added the traditional Celtic costume in a personalized, whimsical touch.
Angel Over the City—Jennifer Hosein. I first saw this multi-media collage/painting on a tour of Jennifer’s apartment during a party she hosted. While still a work in progress, I asked her to put a hold on it for me. There is comfort in this guardian angel image—and I’m drawn to the blues.
Heart Comes Alive, from the animated short Labyrinth—Patrick Jenkins. I met Patrick through his partner, photographer Pamela Williams (see below). When I lived in Little Portugal, Patrick had an exhibit at (former) loop, a local gallery. I was already a fan of the film and love this image of the awakened heart.
Guardian cats quilt—Martha Leonard. A gift from the artist’s daughter, my friend Kat Leonard. It reminds me of the Celtic faerie cats knot design. The cat is the guardian of the underworld.
Multimedia text piece—Steve Rockwell. Can’t recall the exact name of this piece, but I saw it at an exhibit at the (former) Fran Hill Gallery and loved it. The text comes from an actual conversation he had with a gallery owner; hilarious in its dry humour. Also love the colour and design; it reminds me of a heraldic banner—and is meant to hang from the space where its mounted.
My love is like a red, red rose—Leon Rooke. I brought a bouquet of roses to a salon that Leon and Fran Hill were hosting at home in the Annex, prompting Fran to request that Leon gift me this painting. It evokes the lyrics of the famous Robert Burns poem in a whimsical way.
On Some Faraway Beach #20—the late Blair Sharpe. I met/befriended Blair, the partner of friend/Environics Research colleague Brenda Sharpe, at an Environics winter holiday party and we hit it off immediately. This painting is another Fran Hill Gallery exhibit find; it makes me think of Adirondack chairs, and the brilliance of colour in the spaces where beach, water and sky meet. Sadly, Blair passed away a year ago; I’ll miss his creative spirit, his edgy sense of humour and his sharp, questioning mind.
Party for One—Andrea Stokes. I saw this hanging in an exhibit 10 years ago at (former) Ottawa restaurant ZenKitchen, where friend of a friend Caroline Ishii was cofounder and chef; I never met Andrea in person, but we chatted over email as I arranged for shipment. I love the sharp colouring and melancholy whimsy in this piece—especially pointed right now during these times of isolation.
Cemetery sculpture photographs; clockwise, left to right: Water Nymph (Buenos Aires), Siren (Italy) & Dove (Italy)—Pamela Williams. I met Pamela years ago, at the Toronto Outdoor Art Fair. I’d seen an image of Siren in a NOW Magazine promo piece for the show and made a point to visit her booth. We became friends; and since then I’ve taken a digital photography workshop with her, and attended a lecture and exhibits at her home gallery.
What art do you love? What’s hanging in your home?
As we head into week 17 of public health measures to protect ourselves, others and our health care system during the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s hope for a shift into stage 3, being reunited with loved ones, and looking forward—with both trepidation and excitement—to what the world will be like when we come out of this.
Right now, many of us are also dealing with a prolonged heat wave and dry spell—and, if like me, you don’t have a yard, balcony or air conditioning, it can be particularly oppressive. And my fridge is now on the fritz; luckily, the apartment next to me is vacant, so my super gave me the keys and I’m using that fridge. Building management has been notified, and now I wait to see if it will be repaired or replaced; it’s an older second-hand model, so it will likely be replaced. And I’m grateful that I was able to salvage the contents of my fridge (freezer is still working, thankfully).
With all the recent upheaval and so many things out of our control, it can be hard to stay positive and keep the faith, as it were. And if you struggle with anxiety and depression (I do), times like these can make you feel even more fragile than usual. I’ve been feeling particularly vulnerable this weekend, as I write this post. I’m extra gentle with myself at times like this; I tell myself it will pass. And I remind myself that I have a lot to be grateful for.
Here is my gratitude list:
A cozy, comfortable, safe home
Access to safe, clean water and good, healthy food
Access to cellphone, Internet and cable TV
Access to amenities within a 10 to 20-minute walk from my home
Some work coming in
I’m well, as are my family, chosen family and friends
I have supportive family, chosen family and friends—so I’m in solitude, but not alone
We have a great combined, cooperative federal, provincial and municipal effort on COVID-19 and its impacts
Time for art projects, reading, reflection, playing Scrabble against myself, doing online word search puzzles
My beautiful, playful four-legged friend Camille (cat) to keep me company
Ability to take daily walks, with pedometer to count my steps
Access to stories on Netflix, TV, movie collection, books, Internet, social media, online performances
Being able to see beauty and kindness in the world during these uncertain, heartbreaking times
A neighbour and I helping each other out with groceries, errands, laundry change
It’s a good, insightful exercise: reflections on gratitude. Give it a try and see for yourself.
The following is my list of lasts from the Before Time (pre-COVID-19)—the last time I ventured outside my neighbourhood on transit and had in-person contact with other people. It really sums up the people, places and things I love—and really miss.
Last time I saw my parents: November 3, 2019 at the Elm Hurst Inn (Ingersoll), for our extended family pre-holiday brunch (they headed to Arizona that week and returned home in March)
Last time I saw my sister, brothers, sisters-in-law and nephews: December 26 at my sister’s house for our annual Boxing Day feast (brother-in-law was in New Zealand; saw him last at Elm Hurst Inn brunch)
Last time I saw a close friend: Dee, on March 11 at Presse Café at Bloor/Yonge
Last hug: March 11 (see last time I saw a close friend—we totally forgot to do the elbow bump)
Last time riding TTC: March 11 (see last time I saw a close friend)
When was the last time you saw loved ones in person? The last hug you gave/received? The last movie you saw at a movie theatre?
p.s. Since I wrote this post and scheduled it for publishing, the Government of Ontario announced that Toronto and Peel will be heading into stage 2 today (Wed, June 24). Now, as we’re gradually able to be together again—still following public health measures—we can finally look forward to some firsts.
When I went on hiatus with the blog in February, it was with the intention of taking some time away, to step back, get some R&R and figure out where the blog was going to go next as I made the move away from reviewing and focusing on my own art. Since then, I’ve posted a few times, with reflections on the early days of COVID-19 stay-at-home and physical distancing measures, and sharing an interview and book launch shout-outs.
Now, I want to share some other reflections and images from my time during the pandemic, starting with these images I took on April 15 (or Week 5, for those who are keeping track), during one of my daily walks. Most of the images are of doors that caught my attention as being both unique and beautiful. Going beyond their appearance, though, I also became mindful that these doors are entrances to multi-million-dollar homes; homes that have at one or more vehicles, ample yards, and lots of living and storage space. Homes that offer the highest level of comfort during these days of staying home and physical distancing; the people in these homes can drive for groceries – with contactless pickup – can afford delivery, and have enough square footage for each resident to take space for themselves, as well as store an abundance of supplies. It is a reminder of the stark differences in circumstance for Toronto residents, where not everyone has the privilege of so much living and storage space or safe, distanced travel – or even a home at all.
There are also a couple of images that give me a sense of hope (the child’s rainbow drawing in the window), whimsy (the Christmas decoration on the leafy tree) and quiet solitude (the open book, left on a bench).
Throughout these weeks of pandemic, early plans for productivity and self-improvement made way for moments of stopping to take a breath and self-care. And that’s okay. There is no “normal” during these uncertain times. The best we can do is take it moment by moment, day by day, week by week. Look after ourselves and each other. Try to be kind and compassionate, to ourselves and others. Reflect on how we can do better as individuals and as a society, as we work toward recovery and reopening. And keep the faith that our collective efforts and sacrifices are working. And that, one day, we’ll be able to see and hug our loved ones again.
On Thursday, June 18th at 5pm, Toronto Lit Up and Inanna Publications will be hosting a virtual book launch to celebrate Inanna’s Spring 2020 releases! I am so excited to be launching with these fabulous authors! Here are the details: Join us for a virtual celebratory evening of readings and revelry featuring authors Heather Babcock […]
It’s been heartbreaking to see all the cancellations of live theatre performances—not to mention devastating for theatre companies, festivals and artists—with seasons being cut short or delayed indefinitely, and productions and festivals cancelled during the COVID-19 crisis. But there are still ways you can support companies and artists, and stay connected with theatre while we […]