On Finding Scope for Imagination During Uncertain Times

“Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive—it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we knew all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there?” – Anne of Green Gables by Lucy M. Montgomery

Anne Shirley has been on my mind recently. When I was a kid, I only ever read the first three books in the Anne of Green Gables series. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I discovered what happened to her in Windy Poplars and beyond, so her childhood to teen years made the biggest impression on me.

She was an imaginative girl who often flipped between bubbly enthusiasm and being in the “depths of despair” depending on what sort of trouble she might have accidentally found herself in.

stylized black and white drawing of woman in white dress touching butterflies the size of large owls. the blue, green, orange, and pink butterflies are the only splashes of colour in this scene.
This isn’t Anne, but I think she would have found scope for imagination in this sketch.

I’m fortunate to live in a walkable neighbourhood, so I can get nearly anything I need here without stepping onto the subway. This has been wonderful during the pandemic as I can walk by a nearby shop and see how busy it is before deciding whether I should buy groceries and other necessary supplies now or wait a day or two when there are fewer people there. photo of man walking down steps. Upper half of photo shows him walking upside down and up a pair of steps. image might be mirrored or something?

It also means that the days bleed into each other. I’m being so conscientious about where I go that I tend to see the same trees, shops, strangers, and even pigeons that I did last week, last month, and approximately a million years ago in March when the first wave of this pandemic hit Toronto.

(No, I’m not joking about the pigeons there. We have a flock of them that has chosen a specific area as their home and always returns to it after foraging elsewhere. I affectionally refer to them as our “pet” birds).

I used to find scope for imagination in things that I only saw and heard occasionally like attending specific street festival or planning an afternoon trip to a park in a different part of the city that requires one to ride the subway or take a streetcar with a multitude of strangers.

Now the only differences are changes in the weather and maybe the occasional new coat or pair of shoes a neighbour might want to show off if we pass each other on the street.

Like most of you, I’d imagine, my world is small, yet there is still scope for imagination here. The outside world might remain more or less the same from one day to the next, but that doesn’t mean your mind must do the same.

Even the smallest changes in a community can be attention grabbing now. The first autumn leaves that peeked out from a sea of green were prettier than they’ve been in years.

Bananas that are submerged in a bright yellow landscape.There are books to read and movies to watch that will take you anywhere you want to go, including places that weren’t accessible to mere mortals at all except through our imaginations!

Art museums themselves might be closed or scratched off many of our visiting lists, but art itself remains.

This is our new normal.

Someday future generations will ask what this time period was like.

I’m taking notes of my experiences. Some of them end up as blog posts here, while others have been scribbled down into a private journal I may pass down to my nephews someday.

Pretending to be a time traveller is another way to find scope for imagination. What is perfectly ordinary to us may be fresh and interesting to someone a century from now.

How would you explain the idiosyncrasies, irritations, and immeasurable moments of our era to them?

That one question in and of itself makes my mind tingle with possibilities.

Where have you all found scope for imagination recently?

4 Responses to On Finding Scope for Imagination During Uncertain Times

  1. Lydia,

    I read this post shortly after you posted it and have been thinking about it for a while. I think I have a response now.

    As far as explaining our era to a time-traveller or an alien or someone from another culture, I have no idea. I can’t explain them to myself. It probably doesn’t help that I’m here in the U.S., a country that has, as far as I’m concerned, gone absolutely off the rails.

    But the question of finding scope for the imagination is a query that I think I can discuss. You write, “I’m being so conscientious about where I go that I tend to see the same trees, shops, strangers, and even pigeons that I did last week, last month, and approximately a million years ago in March when the first wave of this pandemic hit Toronto.” My life is somewhat similar, though my M.E. keeps me even closer to home than you are staying. Like you, I take refuge in books. I’m about 150 pages into Marion Turner’s five-hundred-plus-page biography of Chaucer, titled —— Chaucer. Catchy. It’s not science fiction, but there are time travel (the fourteenth century!), travel through spaces (England! France! Italy!), intrigue (spies! palace politics! sex!), plague (bubonic! pulmonary! septicemic! plus dysentery at no extra charge!) — all in the first 150 pages.

    Outside the pages,* I, like you, am tracking the details of what’s in proximity to the doors of my house. We had some warm weather; today I set the sprinkler to water the garden and grass, and the sparrows and chickadees came to play in the water. I haven’t seen much of them because there’s a gang of blue jays that has gotten very territorial recently, but apparently they don’t like sprinklers as much as do the smaller song birds.

    I stand out in the yard and think about what I would like to improve. I have come to the realization that I’m going to have to hire someone to help me, because my fatigue prevents me from working in the garden the way I would like to do. I’m trying to figure out if our yard (and my husband) would accommodate the sort of cottage garden riot that I think would be appealing. I’ve been saving catalogues from plant nurseries so that, when the weather becomes truly forbidding, I can make some collages to help me visualize possibilities.

    I take a lot of photos as a way to remind myself to notice what’s right before me. I hope to use them as a sort of retrospective in my blog. I used to play around with photo editing and may try taking that up again.

    I write letters and, depending on to whom I’m writing, may indulge in florid prose or elaborate plans for what we’ll do post-pandemic. I have planned more trips with or to family and friends than I could take in five lifetimes.

    And then there’s all the time I spend fantasizing that the laundry is all folded and put away, that a lovely dinner will not only cook itself but also wash up after, that the bathroom will miraculously stay sparkling clean for all eternity…

    How are you holding up as Winter comes creeping along?

    Ruth

    __________________________________________
    *”Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend.
    “Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”
    — Groucho Marx

    • It’s so good to hear from you again, Ruth! Thank you for stopping by. I haven’t seen new posts on your blog recently, but I hope you’re doing well.

      My spouse has M.E., too. If it’s okay to ask, how long have you had it?

      Your garden sounds lovely. I hope you are able to hire someone to do everything in it that you can no longer do. I’ll bet there’s someone out there who would be perfect for the job.

      How often do you write letters? What have you photographed lately?

      I’m holding up well so far. My light therapy lamp is doing wonders for me.

  2. Lydia,

    I still get e-mails alerting to your new posts only sporadically. I always swear to myself that I’m just going to check your site without prompting, but I have, as my brother tells me, a mind like a steel sieve, and my resolution disappears.

    I haven’t posted anything recently. I have many posts living in my head, but haven’t gotten them onto virtual paper yet.

    But of course you may ask about my M.E. I acquired it back in 2013. I went through a series of infusions of Rituxan for my ITP (presently in remission) that left me fatigued. The weariness was supposed to disappear, but then it didn’t. And didn’t. And didn’t. So I went through the months-long process of elimination, and finally was informed by a rheumatologist that I have CFS, which, as you know, is the other, getting-phased-out-name for CFS. (I think it’s all about the funding. I mean, who wants to donate to research “fatigue”? Just take a nap, right? But MYALGIC ENCEPHALOMYELITIS — there’s a disease worthy of grants and lab space. ; ). I went home to start researching my newly-diagnosed condition. The FIRST page I opened offered this insight: “CFS isn’t a death sentence. It just feels like one.”

    How long has your husband been dealing with M.E.? I hope it is not too severe? Does he know about YOU + M.E.? (https://solvecfs.org/you-me-registry/) I’ve been tracking my symptoms daily for the registry.

    The garden used to be quite lovely. But it’s more than my husband can do on his own. Also, he tends to get involved in Major Projects — like his weekend project to shore up the vegetable patch that he started in June and has been working on ever since. He decided that the new retaining wall needed fabric underneath to prevent erosion, and that the fabric needed pebbles to hold it in place, and the pebbles needed drainage tubes, and that the walkway had to be torn up to make room for the pipes — and that was the point at which I stopped keeping track and realized that the yard would be a mess for the year and that my plans for the yard were going to have to wait. But I know the veggie patch will look beautiful when he’s finished and will probably last for millennia.

    I write letters pretty often. As with everything in my life, my letter writing goes in waves as my energy ebbs and flows. I’ve been a lot of my energy envelope writing Get Out the Vote letters, first for our general election, and now for the special election in Georgia that will determine control of our Senate. But I have gotten thoroughly fed up with all this electronic communication, and have been writing more letters than usual. I write much more quickly with a pen than I can type and it is, for me, the most natural mode of expression. (Send me your address and I’ll write you note.)

    As for what I’ve photographed lately, it’s been mostly the yard, the scene out the front door, the moon, the birds in the yard. I hope to start posting some of my photos as a review of the year. It’s weird to be sorting through them. I didn’t think back in March that so many of us would still be in denial about COVID and refusing to wear mask and help tamp down this virus.

    It’s amazing what a little light can do, isn’t it? What time does the sun go down where you are? Here we are up in the “foothills” of the Rocky Mountains (about 5700 feet above sea level), so the mountains raise our horizon by several thousand feet and hastens the sun set. In Kansas, where my family are, sun set lingers considerably longer.

    Does moonlight have any effect on your SAD? Do you feel better when the moon is full?

    • And I’m down to your last commen nowt! 🙂

      I have no idea why you only get sporadic emails about new posts. My posting schedule here is Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays if that helps. If you use an RSS reader, you could also add this blog to it.

      What was your health like before you were diagnosed with ITP? I’m glad you survived it and am sorry that medication gave you ME.

      My husband has had it for over 20 years now. He caught some of mild viral illness and never quite recovered. His case is on the milder side of the spectrum in that he has worked almost that entire time, but he has to be careful about which types of jobs he takes. His current job is work-from-home that is very accommodating of his bad days when his productivity is lower than usual which is truly wonderful.

      But he does have pretty limited energy for most other things, so he has to portion it out carefully if, for example, I want to go to a national park for a nature walk/picnic and he’ll have to do lots of walking in order to accompany me. That sort of thing can only happen occasionally.

      I passed that site along to him. Thank you for it. He perked up when he started reading through it!

      I haven’t thought to pay attention to how the moonlight affects my SAD. I’ll start doing that, though! In November the sun goes down in Toronto at about 4:45-5 pm. It won’t rise again until 7:30 in the morning on average, so that’s a lot of hours of darkness.

      I don’t like to share my home address online, but I’ll send you my email address if you like. 🙂

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