COVID-19 Posts

Living Your Best Life Without Ever Leaving Your House for Any Reason

My name used to be Anna. Now it’s Mamahoney. You can call me Mama, or Honey, or Mamahoney (but not Honeymama: Honeymama was my mother’s name). Honestly, I’ll probably respond to any combination of these sobriquets because the sooner I do the faster I can get back to this Jim Butcher wizard mystery I’m reading. And I really want to get back to it because it takes place in another city, which is not anywhere in my house. In fact, not one part of this fantastic story about how a handsome, middle-aged wizard solves supernatural crimes whilst single-parenting a daughter and negotiating the perilous political landscape of the supernatural world’s equivalent of the United States Senate (if it were diverse and cared about anyone) — not one single page — takes place in my house. Amazing!

I, like many of you (or a couple of you if you’re college-aged and reading this in Texas or Florida), have not been out much in the past five months. For nigh half a year, I, my partner, and our loin fruit have confined ourselves nearly entirely to our house. Our house, in case you’re curious, is 1,000 square feet of space, with two bedrooms, one bathroom, and very nice original woodwork. It’s decorated just how we want it, and doesn’t resemble an oubliette in any way, save one — the fact that we cannot leave it. This has made us all a little barmy. And not in the cute, eccentrically quirky way, like we’ll take up painting with dark chocolate or bat guano or something. More in a Grey-Gardens-meets-Biosphere kind of way.

The Slice: Celebrating Essential Workers through Art

Duluth artist Carolyn Olson has been inspired by essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In its series The Slice, WDSE-TV presents short “slices of life” that capture the events and experiences that bring people together and speak to what it means to live up north.

Musing on a Home Office

Like many people, I’ve been working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is definitely foreign to me. I am a navigator at Community Action Duluth, which is a job that requires intensive, one-on-one work with people. Skills acquired when sitting next to someone have a new level of complexity via telephone. I definitely had to hone in my listening skills to know if I was hearing my letters correctly (b, d, t, s, and f). It is much easier to relate to someone face to face. I now realize the importance of visual cues in communication, and the ways I watch and listen for understanding and clarity. Navigators are now explaining complex issues without the normal go-to tools.

Health insurance information I normally would be able to visually show and describe requires a deeper level of explanation over the phone. I check frequently if the content I am relaying is being understood as intended. Thankfully I am able to scan printable material and email it to my participants. For those participants without technical devices, I am still using the postal service. My local post office is only a half block from my home. In the future I hope to meet the individuals and families I have assisted remotely, in person. I miss the one-on-one contact.

Living History on Empty Streets

“Duluth is a bit off-center, both literally and figuratively—something most Duluthians don’t seem to mind at all. After all, this is the city whose skyway system runs partially underground, where the West End is located in the city’s geographic center, and whose annual Christmas City of the North parade is held a week before Thanksgiving. Duluth may be a little bit off-center, but part of what makes Duluth Duluth is that here, true north isn’t always where you’d expect it to be.”

— Tony Dierckins, Duluth: An Urban Biography

Sheltering in place gives a devotee to a city even more time to learn it intimately. I read Tony Dierckins’ new biography of Duluth, which fits the bill of a pre-founding-to-present history that I pined for on my blog some while back. The biography really only left me hungry for more: it clocks in at just under 170 pages and could easily have been double that length if it were to thoroughly explore structural forces and the lives of prominent figures beyond a series of mayors and those who crossed their paths. Still, it was a welcome step beyond Tony’s previous fun vignettes and collections, most of which peter out somewhere in the middle of the 20th century. Granted, Duluth’s history becomes somewhat less romantic in that stretch; the great turn-of-the-century wealth faded, the growth stalled, and the architecture wandered away from an eclectic opulence to something much more mundane. Still, the book is a reminder that this city’s history has always been one of awkward lurches, of rises and falls, and a quest for some sort of stability in the aftermath.

Together

A short video by Justin Peck, starring Jody Kujawa, Jason Scorich and Peck.

Nurses and COVID-19

“The world breaks everyone and afterward
many are strong at the broken places.”

~ Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell To Arms

Donna Heil is a registered nurse working in Duluth during the Covid-19 pandemic. Every morning or night, depending on the shift, she wakes up and goes to work. Earlier in her career she took care of children in an intensive care unit, and would fly in helicopters when needed to help pediatric patients. Now she works in radiology, helping people who are sometimes very sick.

She became a nurse after living through a horrific automobile crash in which her husband died. That is why I turned to Hemingway and his words, “many are strong at the broken places.” He wrote those words in his novel about the first world war and the time he spent in Italy recovering from a wound he suffered as an ambulance driver and the nurse who took care of him while he was convalescing. Donna is a tremendously strong, loving, caring woman which is why she is a great nurse filled with compassion and empathy.

Documents from the Northeastern Minnesota COVID-19 Community Archive Project at UMD are now live

History is being written today.

Documents from the Northeastern Minnesota COVID-19 Community Archive Project at the University of Minnesota Duluth are now live. More information about the project can be found at lib.d.umn.edu. If you would like to learn more, including information on how to submit, please check out the research guide.

This is a great resource, including art by UMD colleagues and friends.

A Trip to the Dentist

I went to the dentist today, the first day (I think) that Park Dental has been open at its Downtown Duluth location in the Medical Arts Building. There is a Park Dental location near my workplace, but I have an affection for running errands downtown, normally.

Duluth musician shares her experience during pandemic

New regulations during the COVID-19 crisis have forced musicians throughout the United States to cancel live performances, recording sessions and traditional practices. Local Duluth musician Lyla Abukhodair shares the experiences of her band, NorShore Summit, during this unprecedented time.

This video was produced as an assignment for a Digital Storytelling class in the journalism program at UMD. Through an interview conducted via Zoom and footage of previous performances, this video gives viewers a glimpse into NorShore Summit and Lyla’s new way of life.

There is no checkered flag …

On Tuesday, my friend and colleague Devaleena Das and I appeared on the KUMD program Neighbors with Lisa Johnson. It was a great experience, with a great interviewer, talking about a very difficult subject. You can listen on kumd.org.

The Slice: Making Masks to Fight COVID-19

Fond du Lac Reservation elder Sharon Shuck makes masks to donate to the doctors and nurses of Fond du Lac Health and Human Services Division.

In its series The Slice, WDSE-TV presents short “slices of life” that capture the events and experiences that bring people together and speak to what it means to live up north.

Selective Focus: Carolyn Olson

Carolyn Olson (featured previously in Selective Focus) has been redirecting her work a bit. Still focused on everyday scenes, she has been making drawings in a series she’s calling Essential Workers. These scenes are in grocery stores, public transit, street scenes and in medical facilities. This week, Carolyn talks about honoring these people who keep things going in unprecedented circumstances.

CO: Having recently retired from teaching school this year began differently anyway. I began last summer creating projects – challenges I called them – for myself, such as creating a series of images that tell a story, in hopes of illustrating books. When the “Stay at Home” order came I was accustomed to staying home and working in the studio regularly. Talking with our adult kids in the Cities brought home the realities facing the essential workers.

Guide to Duluth-area Craft Alcohol During the Pandemic

Ursa Minor Brewing has offered curbside beer and pizza pickup via a drive-by canopy since April 8.

Small businesses have been struggling to stay afloat during the COVID-19 outbreak. Local craft beer, cider and spirits purveyors are finding ways to persist by distributing products through a variety of takeout, curbside pickup and delivery options.

Paper Tiger

I’ve been trying to write this fucking essay for three weeks, but my brain won’t stay allegiant to my body. I feel like the inside of my head is a giant scribble, like Charles Schultz’ confusion thought bubbles or Rowling’s Obscuris.

I keep rolling the word around in my head, like that will somehow make it dissolve: pandemic. We’re in the midst of a pandemic. We’re having a pandemic.

The problem, I think, is that I have no frame of reference. It’s like trying to imagine a new color. And sitting down to write, the world is so loud that it’s hard to hear my own thoughts. I feel this ball of energy gathering — this terrible welling of grief and fear, tragedy and panic. I know this is crazy, or fantastically pessimistic, but it feels like we’ve been careening toward this for years. Maybe it’s an artifact of all of the government preparation for the inevitable disaster we received. As a Generation X kid, I spent so much time preparing myself for Soviet invasion or nuclear war that it’s bound to have permeated my subconscious in some insidious way.

Carolyn Olson on Essential Workers

Carolyn Olson on Essential Workers

Duluth artist Carolyn Olson has completed two works in a series on “Essential Workers.” Visit her site at carolynolson.net.