Thursday, March 26, 2020

#SOL20 - Liminal Space: Notes from the Pandemic

Memory is the Diary We all Carry (M.A. Reilly)

"...memory, including cultural memory, is always permeated and shot through with forgetting. In order to remember anything one has to forget; but what is forgotten is not necessarily lost forever” (Assmann 2010, pp. 105–6). 


After Rob died I could not see a possible future. I don’t mean this metaphorically. I was stuck, waiting for him to rise, like Lazarus, so that our lives might resume. Our lives, like many who have wed, were entwined. Rob was my partner for nearly my whole adult life. I did not know then that what rested in my hands all along was responsibility for my very life. 

I was white noise.
A boat slipped from its mooring.


We want to share possible futures, as such imaginings are reassuring.  Even now, four years after my husband’s death I have forgotten much, and yet I remember the possible futures we dreamed.

Three dominant memories remain:

·      The small city college life.
·      The wild coastal west of Ireland.
·      A small farmhouse in Vermont.


A pandemic calls into question any possible future. Fear creates liminal zones; spaces suspended between remembering and forgetting. We stutter-step through the days, harboring ourselves in our homes as best we can. At night we imagine those suffering.

Not far from here, people are dying. Mostly they are dying alone—sealed away from family and friends. Even four years later, the memory remains of holding Rob’s right hand between the two of mine as the pauses between his breaths lengthened until he breathed no more. I needed him to know, if by no other means than touch, that I went as far as I could with him. I was present.

Not far from here there are people struggling to breathe, unaided by machines. At each hospital, doctors and nurses are anxious, waiting for the promised shipments of masks, gowns, gloves and the blessed ventilators that do not arrive.


The President of the United States is responsible for these hardship, sorrows, and deaths. 
He told a worried nation to not worry. He told a nation that COVID-19 was a Democratic hoax, just like Russian collusion and the impeachment were hoaxes.  He told us that there were just 15 cases and soon there would be zero. He told us the pandemic would go away in April like magic. He urged people to mingle and to go to work sick. He urged people to fill pews in churches on Easter.  
He worried more about the economy than those people a few miles from here who struggle to breathe. He is deadly because he filters all events through a narrow, single lens: what effect do these happenings have on the life of Donald Trump? Nothing more matters to him. 
He is neither boat, nor mooring.


A pandemic is unforgiving.  Our responses to the uncertainty reveals what we value and fail to value.

In the years to come we will not remember all the details of these days. We may turn to records and even then, the recollection will be filtered by how we have lived. Many details will fade.  
Yet what we have forgotten will not be lost. The forgotten will find voice in the kind of country that gets built from the ashes.

Work Cited:

Assmann A. (2010). Canon and archive. In A Companion to Cultural Memory Studies. An International and Interdisciplinary Handbook, ed. A Erll, A Nunning, pp. 97–107. Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter. 

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