The lead up to the birth of our first child was full of excitement for me and my partner. Our planned home-birth would be guided by our infinitely capable midwife; Jane Blackmore. When the time arrived, Anie soldiered through the first 48 hours of labour like a champ, but it was clear progress wasn’t coming fast enough. She had breathed through countless contractions, done an Olympic-level number of squats, and kept her spirits high through all of it. When Jane made the call that we needed to go to the hospital to get Anie some rest, it was like a switch was flipped and the pains became unbearable. With the dream of a simple birth gone, suddenly everything started to hurt more. Before we knew it there was an epidural and a team gathering in the O.R. for an emergency cesarean.
Hope is a fascinating thing—it’s a humble feeling that helps us to endure so much. Give hope and humans can face many challenges—we can rise to occasions and endure all kinds of adversity. Take it away and very quickly we start to suffer.
As an artist and a musician, in the early days of the first lockdown I felt a great joy and sense of community in acting together with an unprecedented number of humans on our planet. Was there ever a time we were so focused and like-minded? Have we ever faced a single threat as a unified planet? I was honoured to do my part by supporting local restaurants, sending out good vibes with music, and cozying into a new kind of pared-back life with my favourite gingers. Somehow, we made it through 2020.
More recently the promising results of many different vaccines have accelerated our anticipation of some semblance of normalcy, but somehow I think 2021 is going to be anything but normal. After fourteen months of carrying the flame of hope, we’re starting to falter and press on into the dark with nothing but a wispy ember to guide us. Suddenly everything is starting to hurt more.
For the last year our humble artisan business has been fine. Like many small businesses we’ve had ups and downs. We are grateful for government programs during the downs, and forever indebted to long-term clients and commissions that have come despite hard times in many sectors. Our little studio, in concert with the arts and cultural sector, has suffered greatly, but willingly and hopefully, for the good of our community. We have lasted a year with some style and aplomb, but this second year is going to be harder. The message of artists is one of hope, but when the artists start to feel hopeless it’s as if a bucket of water is splashed on the last glow of our ember. We find ourselves alone and wandering in the dark.
Our response to this moment of despair may define a generation. We can already see how our actions affect those around us. At the time of writing Canada has lost 23,000 souls to COVID-19. Each one a preventable death. How many people are mourning these tragic losses by themselves right now? The ripples of mental health issues caused by isolation will radiate for years. We are lost—but there’s still hope. In the words of Canadian Alt-Country crooners Blue Rodeo: if we’re lost, then we are lost together.
Discovering that we’re lost is not a problem, but how we respond could be. Anyone who’s ever gotten disoriented in the forest should know the simple actions that can save your life: stop, stay calm, stay put. Panic is your biggest enemy. It strikes me that this is also the best advice we have for this time. It’s not time to wander around or act rashly. Don’t panic. We are still all in this together. If we stay together, we’ll survive.
I say these reassuring words to myself as much as to you, my community. Just as I did for Anie as they wheeled her into the operating room: It’s going to be okay—we’ll make it through this. I didn’t know it for sure, but I believed it. I had hope, and it was okay in the end. When Anie felt hopeless, her family and her community rallied around to restore that hope. We acted together and together we were able to bear that moment until it passed.
Photo by Ty West