But the great task of a fiction writer is to imagine our way into the lives and mindsets of others, no matter who they are. This act of radical empathy is so, so much easier said than done. — Alison McGhee
You don’t have to make up stories. You don’t have to construct air-tight plots. You don’t have to do anything but sit in front of a blank page – and imagine. Imagine where you might be standing, looking down at a surreally blue egg. Touch the egg, hold it in your hand – and imagine who last touched it. Imagine there were rainclouds above a sacred mountain on the day that someone found the egg, Write the end of this imagining and work backward to: Who. What. Where. How.
Welcome into the abundant imagination of writer Lynette Sheppard
Requiem for a Way of Life
Last night, I dreamed my eyelashes fell out. What, I thought will I do without eyelashes? Don’t I need those feathery wisps to keep dust and dirt out of my eyes? And how will I look, a woman without lashes? Like a just-peeled egg, I imagine.
My dream was so vivid that I rushed to the bathroom mirror this morning, prepared for the worst. But my blonde eyelashes, though hard to see, were still shading my eyes. And I knew. The dream was about loss. About grief. About sorrow.
The beginning of the coronavirus pandemic was about practicality, about navigating an uncertain future. It felt like enough to focus on survival. I stored food. I planted a garden. PPP loan application. Zoom calls. Action helped dissipate my fear.
As I settled in to long, quiet weeks at home, more sanctuary than shelter, a new feeling arose. Hope. A hope for a kinder future. A vision for a post-Covid world. Not utopia – just better than what my friend Kim calls the “before times” – a world where connection and care for the planet, animals and trees, our sister and brother humans might replace the pain and limitations of self-interest.
My dream was clear. Before creating any new world, even if it is only my tiny piece of it, I need to allow sadness over the passing of the old one. The losses are many. Big losses: not seeing my aging parents on the Gulf Coast, not visiting children and grandchildren in California, no trips to connect with old friends. Smaller losses: no dinner parties or dining out, no travel to anywhere. For the first time in years, I likely will miss my annual visit to the bristlecone pines in the White Mountains of California.
But the biggest loss of all is my loss of ease in moving about the world. Every outing, every meeting, must be calculated in terms of risk. Navigating previously simple tasks becomes a considered exercise in staying safe – retrieving mail from the post office, buying groceries, resisting the urge to touch or kiss friends and neighbors. Choosing between a simple fabric mask or a double layered mask. Disinfecting surfaces in the car, the house. Washing my hands as frequently as when I worked in Intensive Care as a nurse. I’m older now, my hands are dryer, they crack and peel.
All of this is exhausting. And heartbreaking. So I will sit with the sorrow until it lifts. I will remember with tears and gratitude the many gifts I enjoyed in the “before times”. And then I will look ahead to the “after times”.
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