There’s hardly anyone these days who has not heard of Zoom. I’m not talking about the action word associated with superheroes, of course, but the internet wonder that has kept people connected during this overlong pandemic.
People working from home have used it to conduct their business. Teachers in public and private schools at all grade levels have used it when the risk of meeting in person was too high. Various groups have used it to conduct meetings or hold webinars. Some church bodies have conducted worship services using this platform. Families used it to see one another face to face.
Here’s a handful of instances in my own life: My husband, Jerry, and I attended the funeral service of our long-time friend Jim Shapiro. We witnessed the wedding of Carolyn Gritt and Tom Wellhouse – her daughter Nancy making arrangements by cellphone. I’ve attended and participated in several poetry readings as well as writing workshops, Silver Sneakers exercise sessions, and Weight Watcher meetings. In those months when we kept ourselves home, socially distanced by miles rather than the relatively safe six feet, we could see those familiar faces – unmasked faces, with genuine smiles – looking back at us. It wasn’t the same thing as an in-person gathering, and there’s something cold about a “virtual hug.” But I give us all credit for our ingenuity, our perseverance in dealing with the dangers of the virus while keeping our connections and our shared endeavors intact.
During the pandemic I met two young women who feel as real to me as many of my immediate neighbors. One lives on the East coast, the other on the West. And, by the way, they’re both over 40, which to me is young. They are my champions, my motivators, the women who have put a smile on my face and enthusiasm in my actions. Let me briefly introduce Alejandra Costello and Laurie Wagner.
Here’s what both women have in common. They can look out at an audience encased in little black boxes and talk to them as if they are sitting right there. Their faces light up with authentic joy to have us all together again. Now Laurie, I might add, also connects with us through her private You Tube channel. Hello friend, she’ll say, looking straight into my eyes, and even though she can’t hear me, I sometimes say hello back.
Both of these women are passionate about what they have to share with us. In Laurie’s case, it’s writing – more specifically, Wild Writing, similar to what I learned some years ago from Natalie Goldberg in her book Writing Down the Bones. For each session Laurie brings a poem and reads it out loud, talks about it a bit and then talks about our “wild” writing practice and how certain lines in the poem can be used to launch us on a 15-minute writing spree. We’re encouraged to write longhand, without editing, allowing any thoughts that come to mind work their way onto the paper. There’s freedom in this practice because we’re not required to share. We don’t have to turn it in for a teacher to grade. It’s ours, and if we choose, we can post it on a private Facebook page. Or maybe we’ll read it at a special online meeting of Wild Writers in a “Campfire” session. This is the kind of workshop that appeals to me; I’ve generated so much first draft copy in the past two years it will take me another two to claim the best of it and whip it into shape for a real audience. Like you, for instance.
Now on to Alejandra. I can almost hear her melodic voice greeting us at the start of each session: Hello everybody. Her smile is genuine and welcoming. Later, when she takes questions or listens to someone discuss a problem, Alejandra is one of the most attentive listeners I’ve ever known. She doesn’t interrupt, and if she doesn’t have specific advice to offer, she has a way of asking questions which usually help the individual reach her own conclusion of “the next step.”
What is this next step? you might ask. Of course. It’s all about organization and decluttering. For most of us, it’s decluttering and organizing our homes and the various rooms and spaces within our homes that we’re working on. But this last week there was a session dedicated to tax preparation. Sometimes a man who specializes in organizing photos is featured. There are at least three sessions every week, and the replays are available for a month, so I can decide “Today is decluttering day” or “Today I need to get going on [a certain] project,” and I can tune into a previous session for Alejandra-inspired motivation.
Sometimes there are as many as two hundred people (mostly, but not all, women) from all over the United States and in other countries working at their own tasks, plugging away on their own projects while Alejandra’s giant timer reminds us how long we have for this session.
I’m not going to say my home and my assorted papers are all organized, but at least I’m making progress and having a bit of fun doing it.
For more about Laurie Wagner and Alejandra Costello, here are a couple of links. And I’ve posted their photos too. They’d be glad to have you join them for a session of wild writing or decluttering.