By Karol Nielson
Spring came as the virus spread and most days I left quarantine at my parents’ house in Connecticut to walk through the neighborhood, delighted by blooming magnolias, apples, forsythia, cherries, dogwoods, azaleas, daffodils, bluebells. I watched buds on maples, elms, oaks turn into lush leaves. I counted the walkers, runners, and bikers, about a handful to two dozen, saying hello as I passed by, and I wondered how long it would be before I got back to New York, to the life I had before the pandemic.
We watch cop shows one after another during the long hours of quarantine. CSI: Miami looked good because it starred actors from a favorite series, NYPD Blue. The show opens with a grizzly murder or the discovery of a corpse and the suspects quickly emerge. It’s full of beach and pool parties, bloody postmortems, cheesy lines, and unbelievable confessions. Too often I pick up my cellphone and check messages, social media, even the news, and lose the thread. But I always hope that the next episode will draw me in.
I started teaching creative nonfiction writing a few months before the September 11 attacks. That day I emailed all my students to make sure they were okay. One woman said her boyfriend worked in the twin towers but he took the day off to surf on the Jersey shore. My mother shared her advice about teaching before I started: Love your students, she said. She spoke from the heart as a Sunday school teacher who treated her students like family. It came naturally to love my students as I nurtured their writing from often thin first drafts to well developed and sometimes published works. Because of the pandemic, I now teach online, but I hope someday soon I can get back to the classroom, loving my students as I share insight about my deepest passion.
Karol Nielsen is the author of two memoirs and two poetry chapbooks. Her full poetry collection was a finalist for the Colorado Prize for Poetry in 2007.
I used to find inspiration in random encounters in New York City but I left for Connecticut at the beginning of the pandemic. Now I have a much smaller world.