These days I find myself craving small stories.
I want to hear personal stories about regular people’s everyday quarantine lives. I want to know what conversations people are having in their homes with their loved ones. I want to know about the small gestures of kindness and the personal or emotional revelations people are having. Even the grief and anxiety, as long as it’s on a personal scale, not a global one.
The global facts I’m getting plenty of—it’s the quotidian things I’m fascinated by. Maybe because there’s no such thing as the quotidian anymore. This is going to sound voyeuristic and I don’t mean it in a creepy way, but it’s kind of like I wish I could see into people’s homes and just observe their humanity.
This sentiment was echoed in our editorial meeting last week. While brainstorming article ideas for Puttylike, Claire Nyles, Neil, Kristin and I all found ourselves not wanting to give advice of any sort. The internet is rife with advice right now, and the idea of writing advice pieces didn’t feel right. Plus we’re feeling pretty lost ourselves.
But as Kristin told us about the bad poetry she’s started writing and Neil shared about the weirdness of not seeing another physical person who isn’t a stranger in seven weeks, we were kind of rapt. We wanted more… more small stories about other people’s current reality.
So, that’s what we’re going to be doing for the time being.
As you know, I live on a remote island on the west coast of Canada. It’s rural and wild (we have a healthy wolf population up here!) and the community is very self-sufficient, open-minded and tight-knit. We know our neighbours, and trading, gifting and bartering is common practice. Most people grow their own vegetables. It’s a lovely lifestyle. The community-oriented nature of this place is one of my favourite things about it.
When the pandemic started, my wife, Valerie, continued doing what she’d been doing for years: baking sourdough bread. (She literally transported her sourdough starter with us in a cooler when we drove 3000 miles to Cleveland last year. Baking bread is not a new hobby for her–though it’s freaking rad that so many other people are doing it now!)
It started with some barters: a loaf for some vegetable starts… A loaf for some fresh eggs… And then it turned into something more. Neighbours started asking, an email went out to our neighborhood list, and soon there were a dozen-or-so neighbours requesting Valerie’s amazing sourdough.
This isn’t a big money-making endeavor. We make enough to cover costs. It’s more like a service—to us as much as to them! Delivering bread to our neighbours has honestly become the highlight of my week.
I’m the driver. I touch our car, the doors, the steering wheel. People leave coolers or baking racks outside their houses, which I touch. Valerie touches only the sanitized tongs, which touch the crispy, golden bread.
Every Monday, we drive around the neighbourhood and drop off 10-12 loaves. Our delivery route takes us along the ocean, by the bay, which is beautiful. Sometimes people come outside and wave. Sometimes we chat over the fence or across the lawn. It feels so good. So good.
I told the team about delivering bread at our editorial meeting last week and everybody grinned and told me to write about it.
Then Kristin said,
“Can you imagine one of us pitching this idea six months ago?”
We all laughed.
Got any small stories to share with us about your daily life right now? Have you had any amazing conversations or personal revelations? I would love to hear about them in the comments. We might even share some of your stories in a new article in the coming weeks.