Staff Writer Steven Ray’s Pandemic Experience

“Art helps me process what’s going on around me and gives me a way to articulate a response.”

By Steven Ray

It’s definitely been weird. Growing up white in a first-world country has insulated me from experiencing a lot of the instability and injustice that’s present in the daily lives of others. So when the pandemic came along, it reminded me that our hold on life is tenuous. It’s an easy thing to understand intellectually, but quite another to feel it emotionally. When something threatens your life, it wakes you up.

Wearing a mask for trips to the grocery store drives home the point. It’s like being in a movie about an apocalypse. My glasses fog up and I hear my breath, even feel it against the confines of my mask. This is my reality now. At the beginning of the pandemic, I didn’t wear a mask. Now I feel a mixture of suspicion and
irritation whenever I see someone else who’s not wearing one. I feel threatened by their choice.

I haven’t known anyone who’s caught the virus. I thought I had a slight fever one day, and my wife experienced that too. Since then I’ve been sleeping on the couch and using a different bathroom, so that if one of us gets it, hopefully the other one won’t. Those symptoms only lasted for an hour or two and haven’t returned; we both feel fine. That said, we’re isolated and do the social distance dance when we go out and about.

I’m a creative person, so I’ve been creating quite a lot during the pandemic. Art helps me process what’s going on around me and gives me a way to articulate a response. My photography is multi-exposure and abstract now, including unlikely pairings from both film and digital sources. Music I’ve recorded lately has featured no real instruments, just random sounds recorded on my phone and processed in my studio. My poetry has words all over the page, shifting back-and-forth like a drunk python. Is this the shape the virus has taken on in my thoughts?

Amidst it all, I’m grateful to have our dogs to walk. They get me out and about three times a day, keeping me from getting stir crazy while I get some exercise—a semblance of routine and health in an uncertain time.