Odds and Ends,  Updates

One Year Later

A lot of folks have written things over the last week(ish) about where we are a year into the Covid-19 pandemic. I can’t really speak to the science, the public health, or societal effects, but I can talk about the effects that it’s had on me over the last 12 months. This may drift around and ramble a bit, but I’d say that’s what the last 12 months have been like in general – bouncing from one random bit of chaos to another, with some things seeming to go on forever.

I’m generally pretty good about staying up on the news, so I was watching the emergence of Covid-19 somewhat closely. Once it started popping up in the US, I was wondering when it would impact my part of North Carolina. I had a busy year of events already shaping up, and began wondering what would happen to the things I’d been planning.

At the beginning of March, coworkers and I started discussing what we’d do if things started shutting down. I’d had to back out of an event the first weekend in March due to getting some sort of nasty respiratory bug (likely the flu, due to sharing a house with an elementary school age kid). By the middle of that second week, I was feeling better and looking forward to helping with set up/load in on March 13th for Carolina Fiber Fest. I’d taken the day off work so I could show up for the 8am shift, help with vendor relief later in the day, and generally hang out with fiber folks and try to keep to my budget while drowning in wool fumes. So it was a huge shock on the evening of the 12th when everything started shutting down and the Carolina Fiber Fest organizers cancelled the event for everyone’s safety. I was disappointed for sure, but fiber festivals involve a lot of touching things and talking, and general mixing of strangers. Many of whom are in groups that wouldn’t do well if they got a really bad respiratory illness.

When the lockdown went into effect, I like everyone else, thought it wouldn’t last too long. And because cultural resource management archaeology is involved with infrastructure and permitting work, I had a letter to carry if I had to go to the office to deal with something. We shifted to getting groceries delivered when possible, and limiting trips to the store in general. I think my only non-work trips out of the house for quite a while were to walk around the neighborhood for exercise and a couple of trips to a garden center and Lowe’s for things for the garden. I quickly started to miss being able to go to the gym – it’s a major way for me to unwind and stay in decent physical shape for events. It’s especially apparent to me that I’ve missed too many days in the gym when I’m cooking and discussing historic foodways. Cooking is a very physical act when you’re hauling firewood, water, and cast iron.

I was definitely floundering for the first several months (and phases) of the lockdown, especially when we’d come up on the end of a lockdown phase and it would be extended, or when yet another event announced that it was being cancelled. I’ve been very lucky to have work throughout the pandemic, but working from home makes it hard to separate work and personal life. Work hours started floating around a lot – I’d take a break midday to go walk or do something else, then come back to things later. I worked in the garden, and I did a little bit of crafting. I tried to be a good historian and keep a pandemic journal, but that fell by the wayside after a couple months. It was hard to keep writing when nothing much was changing. I found that nothing was really holding my focus, and I spent a lot of time doom scrolling on my phone. I suspect that it was this lack of self-motivated focus that made me start looking at the virtual events (and motivation) available.

I started doing a bunch of virtual talks and lectures to keep myself entertained. I listened to talks from the DAR Museum, the Royal Armories in the UK, various archaeological organizations, historic sites, and even some from botanical gardens. By the time fall rolled around and it became apparent that events were just not going to happen for me for the rest of the year (either because they’d been cancelled or because I’d deemed going to be too risky), I was listening to at least 2-3 talks and lectures a week. I was also able to start reading again (as much for “research” as for fun) – I’d had issues staying focused for more than 10 or 15 minutes at a time if it wasn’t work or physically moving/working in the garden.

The Beginner’s Guide to the 18th Century Virtual Workshop Weekend in May was my first virtual event. I figured it would be a good way to build some new skills for when events started up again in a few months. I had a ton of fun learning to do embroidery, and that became a huge craft focus for me over the summer and into the fall. I enjoyed revisiting existing hand sewing skills, and seeing how others teach about spinning. Soon after the workshop, I ordered the embroidered pocket kit and an embroidered pinball kit from PennyRiver. The pocket was my craft focus for a lot of the summer, and I started looking around at modern embroidery kits. I found CozyBlue Handmade’s designs, and have picked up a few over the past nine months.

In the late fall, a friend told me about the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum’s Folk School offering virtual courses. I signed up for a Natural Dyeing class in early December, then another one in early February, along with a bandweaving class in late February.

By the time we hit the end of 2020 with no real end in sight (given the slow roll out of the vaccines and case numbers still not dropping as quickly as hoped), I realized I needed to really start creating my own sense of order. That’s when I decided I’d create three challenges/goals for myself related to the fiber arts, would complete six living history related projects by the end of 2021, and write two blog posts a month.

With those goals in place, I’ve felt like I’ve been able to impose a little order in my life. I’ve completed one personal fiber challenge (#Spin15ADay), and started my second (#100DaysOfFiberArt), though they’ve shifted from the month-long challenges I’d originally envisioned for myself. I’m on track for two blog posts a month, and need to get moving on finishing some of the partially completed living history projects. Finishing a pin ball and the embroidered pocket would get me two completed projects, and I’ve got other things that are in process at the moment as well. I’ve also got a supported spindle spinning class coming up at the end of March, a spoon carving class in early April, and a rosemaling class in mid April, all through the Vesterheim. I finally signed up for Shave Em to Save Em, an initiative from The Livestock Conservancy designed to introduce fiber artists to threatened sheep breeds. I’m hoping to finish five projects by the end of the year when the program ends, and am currently working on two. And if all goes according to plan, I’ll be teaching a (virtual) drop spindle class in April as well.

I’m also happy to say that on March 11, one year to the day when the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic, I’ve gotten my first vaccine shot. I’m back in a couple weeks for the second, and it’s nice to know that I’ll have a little more protection when I have to be around people for work in the coming months. I’m hoping to be able to start seeing a small circle of people in the coming months, and start figuring out what I’m ready to get back at when events start happening again.

A person what turns fluff into fiber. Or something.

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