Pandemic, Day 4 – Spontaneous Solidarity

Day 4: I have no idea, honestly, what provoked me.

In the last few days, I’ve strived to lessen my intake of pandemic rhetoric. (BIV Publisher Kirk LaPointe has an excellent editorial on how one of the gifts of all of this is the opportunity to spark a misinformation eradication mission here: https://biv.com/…/covid-19-crisis-should-spark-misinformati…)

That’s when it happened.

There I was, scanning the headlines, trying to avoid anything that appeared to pontificate on who is to blame and why we should hate someone new, and a piece about how travel start-ups are surviving this downturn caught my eye. I get that being sick is what most people are focused on. My mind, however, dwells not on the virus so much as the global economic crisis spurred on by it.

The article felt neutral enough to wade into without worrying about amplifying my anxiety.

So, I read on.

There they were, GetYourGuide. My own familiarity with the name surprised me. I had no idea they were a Berlin-based travel start-up company. What I did know is that when I became travel-obsessed over France, and then Spain, GetYourGuide was everywhere I wanted to be. They had cool side trips, meet-ups, interesting excursions, a great website, walking tours, lots of great ways for me—the mid-life woman who travels sans companions—to dive in and explore a place with a knowledgeable guide at my side.

The article was the neutral oasis I’d hoped for and proved very interesting. It touted financial prudence in business and how, through that restraint shown early, all three companies in the article turned their sales teams into customer service teams to manage the onslaught of cancellations and display strong confidence that they can withstand the significant downturn.

This is getting a bit political and slightly preachy. So, I will retreat back to my purpose here. My share is not about the places you access information or being smart in business. This, my dear ones, is about small acts of love in unexpected places.

All I could think about after reading the article was how the folks at companies such as GetYourGuide must be at the very end of their wits. Their mental health must be teetering. Their teams fight the fires of people, in the midst of sickness and worry, possibly loss of income and stability, also watching their sacred investment of money set aside for the most-necessary break from daily life disappear with little chance of recovering it.

So, I went to the website and began to type.

Let me be clear, I’m a realist and aware of why GetYourGuide tugged at my heart. I’ve got a huge chunk of cash wrapped up in what I believe to be the start of my annual solo adventures. This October, it is meant to be Spain. Will I be able to go? Who knows. However, I’m planning on it unless circumstances demonstrate the trip to be foolish.

I also want to be clear that travel isn’t something I take as an indulgence or a fancy. I waited almost 50 years to do it out of fear. To me, after France, it became the blood in my body. It manifested into the breath of my life. It is the embodiment of my independence, my sovereignty. It takes on a presence as my companion through the ongoing process of opening myself to all that I do not yet know.

Managing my emotions surrounding the potential loss of it in the midst of just finding it is pretty damn visceral. However, I’m confident that, if not this year, I’ll eventually be back on the road more devoted than ever to exploring.

I wanted to share my faith in tomorrow, for just a moment, with these folks who I’ve never met, whom I am confident don’t know the CEOs, who probably make $12 an hour to serve as customer service rep/counselors/keepers of the dreams.

So, I wrote:

Hi folks.
I just read a story about GetYourGuide and how you are managing the coronavirus outbreak.
I just wanted to send love and support to all of you.
I still have a major trip planned for October of this year and my plan is to show some big love to GetYourGuide when it comes time to book tours to places.

Standing in solidarity.
Robin Rivers

I received this response:

Dear Robin,
Greetings from GetYourGuide!
Your feedback is important and appreciated.
We humbly send you our gratitude and for putting a smile on our faces. You are a blessing!
Have a wonderful day and stay safe!

Kind regards,
Ann
GetYourGuide Support

Even if it was just the lovely Ann who saw it, wow. What a moment of sharing good energy.

So, let this time be one where we reach out to strangers and give them a bit of ease. Show the love, remind them and ourselves that life will come back online. Everything right now is forcing us to change, to let go of what we thought was going to happen, to consider our own expectations and how we navigate disappointment in order to recalibrate. None of us can force the wheel of daily life back into place, but we can show love.

Go rise to the challenge of it all. Send a note to a random stranger about something you admire happening in the midst of this.

It matters.

In The Writer’s Studio – August, The Dead Month

Just about every writer who submits their work to agents knows that there is one month every year when nothing happens.

Don’t prep a manuscript, write a query letter, reach out on Twitter, or check in with an agent who has your partial. It’s not gonna work out for you because everyone is at least pretending to lounge on a New England beach.

The rest of the year is stupid crazy busy. August means time for a bit of radio silence.

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For me, it has traditionally proven the month to hunker down and log big hours in the writer’s studio, plotting and crafting.

This year, however, my brain took a break along with everyone else. You can read about my angst surrounding this unplanned standstill HERE.

Today, after a long chat with an editor who just returned from vacation herself, I found myself breathing a bit easier. The conversation revealed her own startling loss of an entire month and her shock at how often lately this similar chat has played out. Apparently, August was a wash for at least half the known universe, and we are all scrambling to realign priorities, carve out time, and make tangible progress on writing projects.

For me, this is all about removal of external distractions.

I’ve planned the hell out of my research trip to France and refuse to plan even a minute more.

Classes and curriculum, mapped out.

Coaching training, done.

Schedules, made.

Now, to snuggle in and get the love letters between Francesco and Aesmeh mapped out.

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Then, to make sure my modern-era antagonist is fully formed and well-rounded. I actually quite love him, such a provocative character motivated by what he is convinced is the only possible road to truth.

Finally, before I get on the plane to start the research and writing marathon in France, I’m going to nail the sequence of the story down and finish the plotting. That way I can move through my time there with exceptionally focused purpose instead of scrambling to figure out story foundations.

I’m coming out of the Augustine black hole, people.

Finally.

Exploring Vancouver – Spanish Banks Bike Routes

I would like to begin by acknowledging that the land on which I live and that I write about here is the unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

For the last month or so, I have started at least a few mornings a week with 10k worth of walk or bike riding.

It is a Summertime ritual for Vancouverites who know that the rain and darkness will settle in all too soon.

This morning, I rode out to the tip of the UBC Endowment Lands.

On the way back, I stopped at the beach to enjoy the gorgeous light.

There, I received a message . . .

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I am lucky enough to live on the West Side of Vancouver in a gorgeous neighbourhood called Kitsilano, which runs along the waterfront. So, accessing this incredible beachfront trail is pretty much just getting on my wee Schwinn and hitting the road.

I love cycling around town, and believe me when I say I am no athlete.

Vancouver is an absolutely magical city for cyclists, with routes literally from end-to-end, protected lanes, and for all sorts of levels.

The city even has a public bike share system that is used by thousands of people every day.

People visiting or wanting to bike the beachfront, but are not familiar with the route, the City of Vancouver has paper or downloadable Cycling Route maps.

However, I wanted to share a short map of this route from Tatlow Park, which is at the edge of Point Grey Road. Despite the controversy around it, the road is for pedestrians and cyclists only other than traffic from residents along the street, and it is a stunning location to start your ride.

The rest of the route is along the water and very accessible for people of all fitness levels.

The trail is quiet before about 9 a.m., with the occasional jogger or walker to pass. Mid-day and on the weekends, it gets quite busy. However, because Vancouver is so cycling friendly, most people are quite courteous as long as you are courteous to them.  There is the random hot dogger who likes to fly down the path with their headphones and no clue about the rest of humanity. So, keep your wits. Otherwise, enjoy this sweet route and even take a quick ride through the forest in Jericho Park to cool down.

When Kids Learn to Love Poetry

I admit it, poetry was never my favourite thing.

In fact, it’s easy and honest to say that I’ve spent pretty much no significant period in my life reading any sort of rhythm or rhyme.

For a long time, I dismissed such musings outright.

Who wants to read stuff that you have to guess at the meaning?

Rhyming, whatever!

I’m a novelist, not a poet!

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Then, of course, came children.

I read SO MANY RHYMING BOOKS when my kids were little, and I started to realize the true cantor of words. Then, how spoken word carried a lyrical quality when written well. Then, how writing poetry could help me become a better long-form writer.

I was hooked and slightly ashamed at my willingness to dismiss such a gorgeous art form.

As I started teaching creative writing, I used it as a way for kids to develop their descriptive writing skills. The results are often amazing

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This past week, I introduced my wonderful Grade-1 student, Rickie, to this sort of magic. He got to take home a copy of the lovely Children’s First Book of Poems with illustrations from Cyndy Szekeres.

He pored through it for the last week, and got to pick out the one that made his heart sing.

It was, indeed, a lovely tale about a lonely puffin who traded eating fish for making friends with them (and got to eat pancakes instead, bonus!).

 

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We spent time today learning how to use descriptive words to write a rhyming puffin poem of his own, and it turned out so great.

In the end, though, the biggest win from all of this poetry was receiving an inspired text from his mom over the weekend with him reading a newly minted poem written by Rickie himself. Then, I got to see the hard copy of it today:

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Young Author Spotlight – The Scariest Trip by Bonnie Xu

Note: This week’s featured story is from Grade 6 young author Bonnie Xu. Her vivid imagination and love of storytelling inspire Bonnie to put so much effort into her work. Relatively new to Canada, she has struggled with writing foundations such as homophones and verb tense. However, this week she took some big risks writing a mystery that was a bit out of her comfort zone. It turned out a wee bit scary and really fantastic.

 

The Scariest Trip

By Bonnie Xu

 

My class went to the famous dark forest for an adventure trip. Mostly, I just wanted to explore new creatures. It didn’t turn out how we imagined it would be.

It was the scariest trip ever—so creepy and mysterious. That day will live forever in everyone’s memory and I shall be the girl who lived.

The night was so silent we could hear our own breath. I stopped and all of the footsteps stopped. It was weird, but I could still see my two best friends in front of me in the distance.

“Amanda and Sarah!” I yelled.

It was no use, they kept on moving.

I was very weary and chose to stay behind to rest for a minute and then catch up to them. I slowly turned my head a little and  . . .

“Ahhhhhhhhhh!”

They were no longer my classmates but instead turned into walking skeletons.

“No, no, this can’t be happening,” I thought as I trudged along. “Now what? I have to salvage my two best friends just in case they also turn into skeletons.”

How would I do it? Not in the gloomy night! There was no way to rescue my friends and get out of there. I didn’t even know where they were. At that second, I heard a familiar scream and could see a strange looking house not far from me. Sarah, I realized immediately, was in danger.

I felt like I was running faster than a jaguar, even faster than a rocket. I zoomed past where I was before, sprinting toward the house without blinking. I kicked the wooden, cracked door open with a BOOM!

“Enter will die” was written everywhere on the entrance wall, but I felt brave. I was not scared anymore.

I saw something handing in the middle of the hallway—a bloody head. It made me fall on the floor. I noticed who it was the first second I saw it. I couldn’t stand it anymore. My heart broke and I began to bawl. Poor Amanda.

“Aha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha,” said a creepy voice. I looked to where the sound came from and saw a wicked witch.

“What did you do to Amanda and Sarah, you ugly fool?” I shouted at her, eyes full of tears.

“You don’t address your queen like that. Otherwise, she will also be dead,” commanded the witch.

I turned around trying to figure out who the “she” was. I saw a girl hanging from the roof by a rope. A sparkly, sharp knife was right in front of her neck. I dreaded losing another friend.

“What do you want then?” I asked, confused.

“That! Power!” answered the witch.

“What on Earth are you talking about? My necklace, power? All that I want is my friend and to leave this place right now!” I shouted at the witch.

“Hmmmm. You give me the necklace, I’ll let you go,” she said slowly as if she didn’t care.

I was never going to give her my necklace. My parents gave it to me before they died in a plane crash.  The necklace was the only thing I have to remember them.

“Have you decided yet, you fool?” the witch spoke.

“Bonnie, don’t!” Sarah called out.

That just made everything worse.

The sparkly knife poked into Sarah’s throat. Her blood splashed everywhere.

“Noooooo!!!” I roared and turned to the witch. Flames of fury appeared in my eyes.

“You shall be dead!” I shouted, holding my necklace tightly, hoping there was real power. I closed my eyes and concentrated.

“Flash!”

The red lightning came from my necklace. That was the most powerful magic I had ever seen.

And, I survived.

I woke up in my bed two days later. All of that crazy stuff seemed like a dream, but I knew it was not.

 

Header image courtesy of  Rosie Fraser on Unsplash