Inspired by Lynda Barry’s COVID diary, which appeared in the New York Times on May 8th, I decided to keep my own collage diary. I began with the simple prompt, “When did this become real for you?” Some chaotic impressions tumble out on that first page as I recount my memories of an oddly timed trip to New York City just prior to the lockdown. I took on the diary project thinking it would give me something constructive to do other than just feeling immobilized, but I never could have imagined all of the unlikely and devastating events that were to unfold in the coming months. So many deaths: George Floyd, Brianna Taylor, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, John Lewis. So many unbelievable and terrifying things were happening—fires in California, a mass death of pilot whales, violence against protestors, political strife, and always the numbers of COVID dead kept mounting. In these pages, I track large events and small ones, reflections and encounters, from March 16 through Sept 2020 while living here in Providence Rhode Island. Ordinary life in this new strange world of COVID shelter-in-place is juxtaposed with grim statistics from the daily headlines. As I write these lines today, November 19, 2020, I never guessed that the US death toll would reach 250,000. This pandemic has touched so many that no one can remain unaffected. The “old” normal was never really fair. One hopes that the “new” normal, whatever form that might take, will be more just, but there is never any guarantee unless we fight for it.
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