Nicole Celeste Anderson
On the back of my grocery list, I scrawl this pandemic statement. It’s the beginning of May, finals week, a few hours before our BFA Capstone class meeting on zoom. I stand in line, six feet apart, bandana tied over my face, and I feel little spikes of adrenaline as I debate what to write about.
My eldest child just opened my door while I was typing, to ask when I would be done. I made it home, four gallons of milk and several paper bags of food later. Quarantining at home with my partner of 15 years and our three children, I have very little uninterrupted time. I perpetually reassert boundaries, and constantly shift activities, to pour extra care on the little ones – to coregulate, to reassure, to engage and educate. My partner and I take turns doing our homework in shifts. I’ve been going to university since Spring 2014. Each semester I thought maybe it would get easier. By the time the pandemic hit, I laughed at the absurdity of circumstance. After multiple obstacles these past six years of college, arriving at this apocalyptic finish line feels anticlimactic.
I have survivor guilt, and immense gratitude as I sit in my home: air-conditioned, fed, able to have a place to pause, fry onions, wash laundry, make tea. I experienced homelessness (i.e. long term non-recreational tent camping) and was underhoused (trailers off the grid, hauling water, without indoor plumbing) for most of my young adulthood. Being in less acute personal crisis makes it feel more surreal, now, to face this culmination of global crises compounded by the pandemic: of for-profit healthcare, medical racism, failing infrastructure, climate collapse. I thank farmers, healthcare workers. I brainstorm alternate subsistence strategies for a nebulous future.
Physical comfort adds to a feeling of dissociation – you know there is a threat – but it is … gradual … I read firsthand accounts of doctors without effective protective gear, pleading stay home. I look at photographs of nurses in scrubs staring down armed “protesters” (let’s call them terrorists) blocking emergency rooms, photos of armed men brandishing signs reading, “I want a haircut.”
I flinch at the phrase we’re all in this together as inequities forged by foundational colonial violence of genocide and slavery increase, and disparities between working class and billionaires surge, collecting unprecedented profits while their employees traverse hazardous working conditions. I rage at distorted narratives, siphoned up from the American subconscious of founding fathers: the mythology of white innocence.
I cycle through grief, rage, numbness. I connect to my family. I ground by watering corn sprouts in my front yard. I walk at dusk, collecting poppy pods in vacant lots, to reseed next year. I research indigenous lead, women fronted coalitions of mutual aid, to pass on some of our stimulus check to, such as nonprofits for undocumented immigrants who aren’t receiving assistance. I consider how we as artists have the power to shape culture, the way microorganisms process toxins from soil through bioremediation. With accountability, compassion and creativity, we will collectively regenerate a holistic future.