Phoenixville Community COVID-19 Creativity Project
Has the COVID-19 epidemic inspired your literary or artistic creativity? Phoenixville Public Library wants to showcase your work on this web page in a project to commemorate this extraordinary and unprecedented moment in our lifetimes and the Phoenixville community’s responses to it. This project is open to all residents of the Library’s service area: Phoenixville Borough and Charlestown, East Pikeland, and Schuylkill Townships. All forms of literary and artistic endeavor are welcome. This includes, but is not limited to, poetry, essays, short stories, photography, drawings, paintings, video, and musical performances. E-mail your submission or a photo/scan of your artwork to email@example.com. Please include your name and the name of your town. Thank you for sharing your talents and for your participation!
Joanne Krivulka, Phoenixville
Speed of Light
June McInerney, Phoenixville
Completed Jigsaw Puzzles
Bird Harbor 2
Dogs and Cats
Street of Memories
Myra Kodner, Phoenixville
Boat Launch Rt. 113 in Phoenixville
(May 25, 2020)
White Abandoned Building at St. Peter’s Village
(April 14, 2020)
Back of the Boat Launch on Rt. 113 in Phoenixville
(late March 2020)
French Creek at St. Peter’s Village
(April 2, 2020)
Pastel Colored Building at St. Peter’s Village
Maureen Hiller, Phoenixville
A Hand to Hold in the Era of Social Distancing
I don’t consider myself a “city girl”, but that’s what Kyle calls me. In actuality, the suburb where I grew up is only a few miles closer to Philadelphia than his own hometown. He might disagree, but it’s one of the few minor things that sets our upbringings apart.
I will admit that years of working in the city has seeped into my personality a bit — always thinking ahead to the next meeting, devouring breaking news at Twitter-speed and jotting down to-do’s at every turn, fending off the next forgotten task or big mistake that threatens to derail my hard-won future accomplishments. It’s almost as if a lurking mugger was going to jump out at any second and snatch away all my hopes and dreams if I’m not vigilant.
Kyle is a more go-with-the-flow type—hours of uninterrupted yard work, hikes and fishing expeditions are more his style.
When we’re out together, no matter if we’re headed to a scheduled appointment or on a casual date, I tend to charge ahead and move quickly, prompting Kyle to pull on my purse strap so we can walk side by side. On the day the governor ordered all non-essential businesses to close, I felt that familiar tug against my shoulder as we approached the marriage license office. With only minutes to spare and the world shutting down around us, Kyle still would not be rushed.
The third Saturday into Pennsylvania’s stay-at-home order should have been the day of our wedding rehearsal. I’ve been doing that a lot lately—marking each painful hour by its would-be milestone. It’s noon, and we should be at our rehearsal luncheon. It’s 3:00 p.m., and I should be drinking champagne with my bridesmaids at the nail salon. It’s 7:00 p.m., and we should be enjoying the NCAA Final Four watch party with our out-of-town guests. These longed-for moments quietly pass us by, no celebratory clinks of glasses to ring in our ears and honor each carefully planned-for event…at least not anytime soon.
Instead of practicing our walk down the aisle, we did what Kyle loves to do on an ordinary spring day—we took a windy and woodsy drive, windows down for our dog, Darby, in the back seat. This particular trip included a jaunt to the only store in our area rumored to carry toilet paper, a tip from Kyle’s would-have-been best man. From the driver’s seat, Kyle reached for my hand as I cried. I’ve been grieving the loss of our wedding, all-the-while wishing I wasn’t being so dramatic, as the nation continues to reel from the COVID-19 pandemic. My usual structured schedule—commuting, working, errands, fitness classes, repeat—is no longer there to distract me from my more difficult feelings.
Kyle reminds me that he was “built for this,” easily able to roll with our setbacks thanks to his laid-back temperament. This unhurried quality is a trait I admire, and yet, one that I personally struggle with. It’s not that I can’t relax. It’s that when I do, for an afternoon of light binge-watching or casual magazine-perusing, there’s always the thought nagging at the back of my mind that I could, and should, be doing something more productive.
This is nothing new, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that I derive a great deal of my self-worth from my real, or perceived, sense of accomplishment, and so much of the time, a full calendar equates to the sense of calm and satisfaction I crave. I feel like I can only thrive when there’s a steady hum of busyness in my life. But not Kyle. For him, the less going on, the better, and it’s not a referendum on his value as a human being when he’s not checking something off a list.
Earlier today, the fourth Saturday into the stay-at-home order, we went on another one of our long drives to get out of the house and pass the time. If we weren’t living this new, Twilight Zone-esque existence, we would be on our honeymoon and waking up at the Grand Canyon. After wandering along the back roads for awhile, we end up at the best drive-through bagel place in a 30-mile radius. Although a popular destination in its own right, as well, the view from the line of cars is certainly nothing to write home about.
Sitting in the passenger seat, I envision standing on the ledge of the impressive red rocks, gazing into my new husband’s eyes and falling even more deeply in love. As we pull forward, I look over to see my still-fiance happily petting Darby as she stretches from the back seat of the truck to nuzzle his neck and, without any majestic vistas or awe-inspiring sunsets, right there in Reading, PA, I fall more deeply in love just the same.
Only a few weeks ago, I thought we’d be starting the next chapter of our lives together. Testing our young marriage by opening a joint bank account, taking on home renovation projects and getting ready to start a family. Instead, it feels like we’re rewinding the clock to some of the earliest days of our relationship. We used to take the scenic route a lot back then too. Then, just like now, Kyle points out childhood landmarks and recounts fond memories of growing up, reminding me once again of his innate ability to tell a good story. He turns on the radio and sings to all sorts of songs, impressing me with his voice and making me laugh when he subs Darby’s name in for various lyrics (“Darby had a lumpy head…?!”). Rather than rush ahead or get lost in my racing mind, I can feel myself gradually settling into the space beside Kyle, the one he pulls me toward so often, whether by purse strap or outstretched hand, and focusing on the small things that drew me to him in the first place.
As I write indoors, Kyle mows the lawn and relishes the afternoon sun. I type in one tab and anxiously hit the refresh button on the latest coronavirus news in another. While this outdoorsman very well may be contemplating the injustice of it all and worrying about the future, somehow, I doubt it. Earbuds in and music on, he pushes forward, unhurried and grounded in the simplicity of daily living. Each day, he shows me how to slow down and maybe not so much appreciate, but at the very least accept, each moment.
In my experience, acceptance doesn’t come easy; however, as I’ve discussed with those closest to me on so many virtual calls these past few weeks, there’s no right or wrong way to deal with any of this. We comfort one another and tell each other one hundred things can be true at once. You can be sad about lost experiences like graduations and birthday parties and relieved that you’re not going through anything worse like losing a loved one. You can be exhausted, but not have done much of anything to physically tire you out. Regardless of individual experience, we say your feelings are valid and compassion toward yourself is key. It’s what I hear on all the expert-led COVID-19 bonus episode podcasts I listen to on my once-a-day walks around my neighborhood (still at a “city girl” pace) and what we reassure one another, and yet, embarrassingly, that level of acceptance is not something I am regularly able to tap into. But the good news is, amid all this uncertainty, I find it surfacing in myself more and more everyday.
I’m already looking forward to next Saturday morning and another aimless, hours-long drive with Kyle, which seems like a good sign. Settled in snugly beside him, maybe I’ll be the one to reach for his hand and let it linger there longer than usual. And maybe I’ll do it more often, less guarded and insecure than I’ve been before. With some more unfamiliar roads on the horizon, and the rest of our lives ahead of us, I like to think that I will learn to more gracefully accept life’s unpredictability, and there’s some hope and comfort in that.
Victoria O’Neill, Phoenixville
Since the pandemic began I have made over 500 masks, many donated to local non profit community organizations. I recently added one of a kind wearable art masks. Here is a photo of one created with a vintage floral applique.
Jennifer Bicking, Phoenixville