Pam and Lynn after walking the labyrinth at Forest Lawn, May 2006

This weekend my lifelong friend, L., came over and it was so great to see her. (We met when we were 12. We are considerably older than 12 now.) We talked and piffled around with crafty things. Didn’t get a helluva lot done, but that was largely beside the point. She did a little stitchery and, after abortive attempts to do some knotwork, I wound up working on a WIP, a piece of bone I’ve been carving for literally years. I call her Schnausicaa. I work on her for a while, put her down again (usually for a long while), then pick her up when she calls to me. I do think we’re getting close to the end, but she tells me she isn’t finished yet, so I’ll have to go with her instincts.

Mostly L. and I talked, watched stupid TV shows and made sarcastic remarks about them, ordered in Mediterranean (kebabs and falafel) for dinner, and just were…friends. It was the first time I had hugged another human being since February 2020 (the last time L. came over for a craft day), just weeks before the shutdown. I (we) may have cried a little. But mostly we had fun, the kind of comfortable fun old friends have, no need for heavy duty entertainment, unafraid of silences, unafraid of expressing whatever needs expressing.

(We also lived together for almost five years in our late 20s so neither of us has any illusions about our respective housekeeping abilities. L. is the only person I would dare allow in this house in the pandemic-careless state it currently is in.)

Pam and Lynn at their apartment in the olden days

I’ve had other friends come over and we’ve sat outside separated by 10, 15, 20 feet on the lawn to talk, but L. and her husband ,C. (more like my family than my family), are both immunocompromised so they’ve had to be especially cautious. C.’s mom died of COVID in December. I wasn’t especially close to her, but she was someone I knew and liked, and the mother of one of my closest friends so it really hit home. It put a human face—if I needed one—on all those stats and numbers. Because, really, each of those numbers was a human being, precious to someone.

But now we’ve all had our vaccines, all my friends, and if we aren’t living wild and carefree, we are at least able to venture out now and again. I am a creative introvert so being on my own is not a burden for me, not like it is for some. Except, of course, when it lasts a year and a half.

I may have hermit-like ways, but I’m not truly a hermit. And old friends are a blessing one really can’t have too much of.

Schnausicaa (WIP) with snake goddess

I am caught between ideas right now—not too few, but too many. Good ideas, but almost none of them fleshed out enough to start writing, or to continue writing. Or too stubborn to let me move forward right now. I’m also doing a lot of research reading—but I’m pulled in different directions there, as well. Dueling ideas. And even some old, failed novels sending me new solutions to their old problems. So the creative wheels are spinning. Round and round they go, where they stop nobody knows.

I worked on one novel for most of the winter, but it slammed into a wall in March just short of 41k and would go no further no matter what I tried. I think somewhere along the line I took a wrong turn. Usually when novels get mulishly stubborn it’s a sign I’ve headed off into the weeds instead of following the correct path—that through line that takes me to the ending I composed at the beginning of the project. Usually, if I reread I can find where things start to feel hinky, backtrack and move forward in a different direction from that point. But I tried that, thought I’d identified the problem, except that the thing I thought was wrong, the character, insists on remaining. And maybe he wasn’t what was wrong. Maybe the wrong turn happened elsewhere. I haven’t the heart to do yet another reread/figure out session at the moment so I’m letting it lie fallow and attempting to work on something else.

Yes, I hear all the outliner writers telling me I’m in charge, not my characters. Make an outline and make them do what I want. I’ve tried that as well. They threatened to burn my house down. I learned long ago they are in charge and I’m just letting them use my fingers and brain. And I really need my house.

I’m not really complaining (The Unbearable Whininess of Being). I know many artists have been flailing for the last year or so and I’ve been lucky that I’ve kept writing, through the summer and fall and winter. Sometimes sporadically, but inching forward. And I am still writing, just flitting from thing to thing and not getting anything to jell. There are so many terrible things in the world right now and I am so lucky. Perhaps all the terrible things in the world are part of why my focus is strained. So odd that it would dissipate just as there are signs of hope, of seeing people again. As of Thursday my “probation” period will be over. It will have been two weeks since I had my second COVID shot (Moderna).

I do like seeing people, making plans. It’s just that isolation becomes such a habit for people like me. And given the problems with my legs and chronic illness, it sometimes gets reinforced physically. Limited mobility means limiting my plans to what is easily achievable.

People ask me how I’ve been able to stand being inside my house alone for 14 months, but the answer is that I’m never really alone. I’ve got all those characters and the extraordinary worlds they inhabit to keep me company. But when the magic circus packs up and leaves town without allowing me to follow? The walls do start creeping in.

I am extremely lucky. I see that, I feel that. My dear friend and neighbor has invited me to her house on May 15 for high tea, along with two other of my lovely neighbors, taken outside in her zen garden. We’ve all been fully vaccinated. I was the last and they’ve been waiting for my probation to pass.

But frankly, it will be a long while (if ever) before I leave my house unmasked or squeeze into crowded venues. There are the physical limitations, but there are also too many arrogant idiots in the world who think the rules don’t apply to them and why should they get vaccinated? Let somebody else take the risk.

I can only hope my circus animals come back to play, to settle down to their usual tricks and caprices so I can notate their stories. I really don’t want to wallow alone in the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.