The collar, is now the only part of my Corona Kimono that doesn’t have my stitching on it. Today I did the lapels.
On the left are the seasons, each represented by an image, spring, summer, autumn, winter. Below each image is mask or no mask, the trend for the season. Something that has become almost predictable. Another aspect of the seasons.
I wanted to give the sense that the pandemic isn’t going to end as we may have thought or hoped for when it first began. I feel like the phrase Varients of Concern conveys the idea of the virus always being there in one form or another.
I don’t know what will go on the collar yet. When I thought of putting the names of the varients of Covid, I got a chill at the thought of them being wrapped around my neck if I were ever to wear the kimono.
Perhaps it will be the number of people who have died from the virus.
Last week my friend Kitty told me she was meeting with Jamie, the curator at the Bennington Museum in Vermont. He was picking up archival materials that she had for an anniversary project he’s working on about the North Bennington Yearly Sculpture Exhibit. It’s been going on for 20 years and Kitty and her husband Charlie have been taking photographs of the event since the beginning.
Then she asked if it would be okay if she mentioned my Corona Kimonoto him. “I’ve always felt like your Corona Kimono is a piece of cultural artwork documenting the pandemic that deserves to be seen by a wider audience.”
I told Kitty I’d love it if she tell Jamie about my Corona Kimono. ” If nothing else, you’ve inspired me to actually finish it.” I texted her.
So yesterday I sewed all the seams I had to take out to put the batting between the kimono and the liner. Then I washed it, dissolving the interfacing that I used in the places I couldn’t put batting. (the interfacing stiffens the fabric so I can free-motion sew on it) I also came up with an idea to finish the piece off, which I actually began thinking about the morning before Kitty texted me.
I also always planned on putting a liner in it, so the stitching on the inside of the Kimono wouldn’t be visible.
I was never really sure what would become of my Corona Kimono, but if it could get some museum or gallery time that would be very nice. And if it doesn’t work out at Bennington maybe, this will inspire me to try getting it seen someplace else.
I did wonder for the first time what It might be like to wear the Kimono. When it occurred to me, I was a little surprised I hadn’t thought of it before.
A few weeks ago I told Emily during one of our Zoom Studio Chats that I was worried about how much my progress on my Corona Kimono had slowed down. “What if I never finish it?” I asked her.
Emily told me to be patient.
I knew she was right and it was good to hear her say it. It was just the reassurance I needed.
And now I can see just how right Emily was. This week I’ve had three entries for my Corona Kimono. So many it was hard for me to keep up with them.
Even though I only finished my entry from yesterday today, I knew when Kristen gave me a sticker for my second Covid-19 vaccination this morning I wanted to sew it onto my Corona Kimono.
I think it was Jill who left a comment on my blog saying she understood the pace of my Corona Kimono. The urgency I felt during the first weeks of the pandemic and how it eventually slowed was similar to the urgency she felt about the pandemic.
Now it seems the pace is picking up again as more and more people are vaccinated and the country is beginning to open up again.
As I near the last open spaces on my Corona Kimono, the pandemic seems to be coming full circle too.
Although I heard many stories, I really couldn’t imagine what it was like to be a teacher or have a kid in school this past year. But I got a bit of a feeling for it when I stepped into Sue Silverstein’s art room at Bishop Maginn High School yesterday.
Empty is the first word that comes to mind. Quiet would be the next.
There were four students in the classroom that every time I’ve visited had been bustling with teenage energy. It was always full of kids, even at lunchtime or during the summer. They’d be drawing and painting or just hanging out. They’d be asking Mrs. Silverstein a load of questions which she always answered patiently and lovingly even if the answer was “no”.
Yesterday the four students sat at opposite ends of a table or by themselves. Sue’s laptop was open on another table where the rest of the class was watching a video in their own homes.
The hallways too were empty and quiet.
Sue talked about teaching virtually and how strange and difficult it was. She told me about some of her students who are from Myanmar that are not only dealing with the pandemic but now with the coup in their homeland too. Some have families who are hiding in the woods and have no way of contacting them. Others have relatives who have been arrested.
But Sue handles it all, not shying away from the tragedies but bringing them into the light, talking openly with her students about it all.
I still have little idea what it’s like to teach and learn under such circumstances, but I did take away the feeling of emptiness, the lack of energy and how difficult it must be to keep spirits from plummeting.
But I also saw evidence that the teachers and students are making the best of it and carrying on.
Sue showed me the Class Chair, a Bishop Maginn tradition, for the graduating class of 2020.
I knew as soon as I looked at it, that it was the perfect symbol for my Corona Kimono.
The chair is painted with facemasks, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, laptops, Zoom symbols, images of the virus itself, and acknowledgment that the pandemic is worldwide.
Also on the chair is the name of each student graduating this spring.
I’d thought about somehow incorporating the issues around schools during the pandemic in my Corona Kimono, but didn’t know how. I just wasn’t close enough to the issue to be able to speak to it.
But I found out yesterday in Sue Silverstein’s Art room. A place that has opened me up to many experiences I wouldn’t have had and people I would never have known.
I just realized I never published this Corona Kimono post from the 14th. So here it is….
There have been many times over the past year that Jon and I drove up to the front door of The Mansion Assisted Living Home where we both volunteer, dropped something off, (often that The Army of Good helped buy) and drove away without seeing anyone.
The last time I was inside The Mansion was when Jon and I read stories on March 3, 2020. We had no idea then that it would be the last time we would be doing something inside the building for over a year.
Yesterday, for the first time since then, I got to walk through the front door and down the hallway, to the Activities Room where I feel so comfortable, it’s like being in a good friend’s home.
But before that happened Jon and I had to have a rapid covid test which was done outside by Lisa who works there. Then we waited ten minutes for the results (both negative) signed in and had our temperatures taken.
Of course, things are different since I was last at The Mansion over a year ago.
Much of the furniture has been rearranged to accommodate social distancing, there are signs reminding people how to properly wear a mask and everyone is wearing a mask.
Also, there are lots of new people living there and some of the people I knew are gone.
Jon and I were there to read stories and Zinnia was there to greet people.
I had to hold myself back from hugging Ellen and Claudia when we walked into the Activities Room. All of our smiles at seeing each other again evident through our masks. We met three new women who seemed glad we were there even though we didn’t know each other.
I read the stories that people had written to me on my blog about the Flour Sack Aprons and Dresses. Then I told them the story of Robin being born on the farm and showed them his picture.
I do love to hear stories and be read too, but yesterday it felt like the conversation that came out of the stories was even better than the stories themselves. Everyone seemed glad to hear that Jon would be coming every week and that I would sometimes join him.
Before leaving I set up a date with Julie to have an art class later in the month.
I was glad and grateful to be back at The Mansion.
Glad to see the people I hadn’t in so long and grateful they were safe and doing well. Even though the virus and the isolation it imposed on them, took its toll.
On my Corona Kimono entry, I drew a picture of the Flour Sack Apron and Robin on the pages of a book, to show the stories I brought to the people at The Mansion yesterday.
I started my Corona Kimono a year ago today. That first entry had sheep in it and the words “low hum of menace“.
It’s a different world today. Even with how hopeful things are now, I also feel a little ragged. Like the year has worn me down a bit. I hadn’t really thought of it this way until I looked at that first entry, which actually looks more composed, more peaceful compared to the one I did today.
I don’t think I can bring up the exact feeling of fear I had back then, but I can see the relief at having a place to express myself in that first drawing.
As an artist, the Corona Kimono became the thing that I was able to do during the pandemic.
What I really wanted to do was to help in some way. This was more a selfish desire than an altruistic one. “Doing” always makes me feel better than not doing.
Especially during difficult times.
Besides making masks, and being there for the people in my life, and trying to put positive things out into the world on my blog there was little I could do.
Creating my Corona Kimono has helped give my life as an artist meaning during this time.
Looking back at all the entries, I clearly see that some are rougher, more raw than others. I look at some and wish I could erase them, do them over.
But then if my Corona Kimono is truly a journal I guess that’s to be expected.
My last few entries have sometimes come a month apart. But that too reflects that the urgency has diminished.
This morning a bunch of phrases that arose from the pandemic and have become a familiar part of our vocabulary flashed across my YouTube channel. I quickly wrote them down thinking they might become a part of my Corona Kimono.
I’m not sure if I wrote them down because I thought I’d forget them, or if it’s because they are so much a part of life, I no longer think of them as being something other than a part of everyday life.
There was a mix-up when Jon first signed up to get his Covid Vaccine. First, he tried to make an appointment online, but never got confirmation. So he called Walgreens and told them and they made an appointment for him over the phone.
Because of a computer error, it turned out he had two appointments. The pharmacy never corrected the error and it strangely worked out in my favor.
New York State opened vaccines up to people 50 and over yesterday. I tried to make an appointment online, but Walgreens hadn’t updated the guidelines yet. So when Jon called the pharmacist with a question, he asked about making an appointment for my vaccine.
The pharmacist looked to see if there were any cancellations and saw that Jon’s two appointments were still in the system.
He was scheduled to get his booster the next day, but his other appointment was for that day at 5pm.
That’s how I got my covid vaccine the day it was opened up to people in my age group.
When I think back to last year at this time, I never would have imagined that I’d be getting vaccinated for the Corona Virus a year later. It’s almost hard to remember the uncertainty and fear so many of us were feeling.
But when I look at the images on my Corona Kimono, it all comes back to me. With every drawing, each word, every stitch, I am flooded with memories, with what I was feeling at the time.
There’s not much space left on my Corona Kimono. I will have been working on it for a year in April. The idea of finishing it is in a way like the idea of being fully vaccinated. Hard to believe that that at some point soon it will be over.
I can’t help feeling hopeful. It may sound strange, considering there are now over 500,000 deaths from Covid 19. But it does feel to me like things are beginning to change for the better.
Yesterday Jon got his first vaccination for the Coronavirus. I feel like I can finally relax a little knowing that he is going to be protected from the virus.
Also, knowing that if the Walgreens in our little upstate NY town is getting vaccinations (that’s where Jon was vaccinated) then other small towns and big cities must be getting more vaccines to distribute too.
I’m one of the last on the list to get vaccinated, and I don’t expect things to get back to normal for a very long time, but I still feel like things are moving along.
A couple of nights ago I had a dream where once again I was in a room crowded with people I didn’t know and no one was wearing a mask. In the past when I dreamed this I was terrified. (My last Corona Kimono entry was about this nightmare)
But this time, instead of being scared, I just assumed that if no one was wearing a mask it was because it was safe not to anymore.
I didn’t take this dream as a premonition, but as my personal fear about the virus subsiding.
This doesn’t mean Jon and I aren’t being careful anymore.
We will continue to wear masks, social distance, and wash our hands. Just last week I spoke to a friend who found out that she had the virus in December. She tested negative at the time, but a recent test showed that she has covid 19 antibodies.
I think the warmer weather, longer days, and feeling of spring help too. But ultimately, not having that constant low lying worry about the possibility of Jon getting the virus has made all the difference.
A few weeks ago, after our lamb Scotty died, Jon and I went shopping for a new rifle. The one he used to euthanize Scotty was old and wasn’t working right. We both felt it was important to have a rifle that was easy to use and working properly.
We called around and finally found a gunshop that had a .22 rifle. It was just what Jon was looking for. We had passed the shop before on the way to Glens Falls. They also sold shoes, which seemed nicely quirky to me and it looked like a friendly place.
The gun shop was big and spacious inside with lots of people walking around. Men, women, and children were looking at guns, talking to each other, having a good time.
But no one was wearing a mask.
It was surreal. I found it shocking.
I haven’t been around so many people since last march who weren’t wearing masks. It’s actually rare to see anyone not wearing a mask, even though we live in a place that overwhelmingly voted for Trump.
I felt like I had walked into one of my nightmares, the ones I started having regularly a few months ago.
In them, I’m in a crowd of people, who all seem to be enjoying themselves, and no one is wearing a mask. I start to panic and realize that I’m not wearing a mask either. I look around for it, but either can’t find one or the one I have doesn’t fit on my face.
I wake up agitated and frightened.
The woman who owned the gun shop was helpful, but I can’t say I felt comfortable there. I got the feeling we were all working hard to find common ground. We found it in the purchase of the rifle and some small talk about shoes.
I overheard a conversation about how the virus wasn’t as bad a people made it out to be. And when the owner asked one of the salespeople to show Jon a rifle, he wouldn’t even look at Jon.
I am still haunted by a pistol that was in one of the showcases.
It had Trump’s name and face engraved on the handle and the words “Keep America Great” on the barrel. It had the feeling of a fetish. Imbued with the spirit of anger and hatred.
Even if people have not had an experience like Jon and I did at the gunshop, I’ve talked to people who have had nightmares similar to the ones I’ve been having.
I’ve heard that we have some nightmares so that when we wake from them we can be grateful they’re not real.
I couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling I got from being in the gun shop for days. I think if I ever find myself in a situation like that again, I’ll just turn around and walk out.