The day after I did my Bicycle Scavenger Hunt, our province declared a state of emergency and everyone’s degree of social isolation increased dramatically. Most are going out only for the occasional grocery trip or maybe a solo walk in the neighbourhood. I say “Social Distancing” as that’s what we all started calling it but like many I’ve seen online, I’ve started calling it “Physical Distancing”. Why? Because there is so much happening online.
Sage performed several times this week – sometimes telling stories to children, other times to grownups. Toronto’s oldest storytelling show, 1001 Friday Nights of Storytelling, hosted a Zoom session with over 70 people in attendance, and Marsha Shandur’s show, True Stories (Told Live) Toronto had a Zoom session so big that we overflowed in to Facebook Live. (You can actually watch a recorded session of that here.
A friend of ours who teaches Improv hosted a drop-in yesterday where we played games together for 90 minutes. We laughed together and had so much fun.
We have also had several games sessions with friends meeting online playing games inspired by Richard Osman’s House of Games. But the most fun part of it was this: There were so many points where I noticed that everyone in the conference was smiling. And perhaps the coolest thing was this: We were scattered around the world – the UK, US, and Canada.
I’m hearing more and more of this now. Not just public events but private ones moving online. People are having dance parties, meetups where they do art together, my son often studies with friends on video chat – working quietly just as they might in the university library were it open, people are having dinner parties, yoga classes and knitting circles. The same technology that was seeming to disconnect us is now bringing us together – not just with the people we live near but those all around the world. We are limited only by our time zones and sleep schedules now.
A week ago we had our Toronto “Silent Book Club” meeting on videoconference. About fifteen of us gathered together and just as we usually do we went around the virtual table, telling each other what we had recently read and were currently reading, making recommendations to the people we knew. Sage and I were both very surprised at how connected we felt to everyone despite our physical distance. You can read about how that went here on my friend Vickie’s blog. As soon as it ended, I decided I wanted to try one of my own. After all, now that these are not in-person events, nobody has to be able to make it to a single cafe in east-end Toronto. We could join from anywhere with an Internet connection. I put the call out on Facebook and several friends decided to join. Some of us have met in person while others have only met through blogs and social media. In attendance we had:
Lakshmi – I met Lakshmi through her blog Mukhamani. We’ve been reading each other’s blogs and corresponding for some time now. Her “Everyday Moments – Slice of Life” posts are among my favourite things online to read and I never miss them. They are excerpts from letters to her Doddamma – her father’s elder brother’s mother and talk about her day to day life. I am endlessly fascinated by how in some ways her life seems so different and in others it is just the same. She lives in Karnataka, India.
Samantha – from Fit is a Feminist Issue whom I met through the Friends for Life Bike Rally. She lives near Toronto but though we’ve known each other online for several years, we have yet to meet in person. We had literally started talking about grabbing a coffee in Toronto one of these days before we all went in to lockdown.
Anupriya – I met Anupriya through her blog Chasing Miles. When we met, she was living in New York. Since then she has moved to Toronto. And now Sage and I were able to meet her and her husband Subh. I was glad they could both make it to the book club.
Vickie – Vickie also lives in Toronto. I met Vickie through the Silent Book Club and now we follow each other on most social media platforms. I’ve followed her blog since the first Silent Book Club I visited and have enjoyed the entries that go beyond the Silent Book Club meeting notes. (They’re likely to be interesting for readers as well as they provide a fantastic set of book recommendations. The Silent Book Club has done more to increase my “To-read” list than anything else.
After some brief introductions, we went around the room. There was such an interesting mix of books between us that my to-read list grew a bunch. But more importantly it was so good to connect with other humans united by a love of books. This would have been a great way to spend our Sunday morning (or afternoon for Lakshmi) even had we not been staying inside because of the pandemic.
NOTE: If you’d like to be included in the next one, comment below – it’ll give me your email address and I’ll message you privately. We can’t have more than 12-15 due to time constraints so it’ll be first come first served.
I’m so excited to see all of this happening – not just because it’s providing a way for all of us to connect in a time when we’re not able to be close to anyone other than those we live with. I’m excited because to me people are getting more connected. We’re also getting more connected to people throughout the world and finding ways to include them. I hope we have a future where we can continue to invite people who don’t necessarily live in our area in to our homes and performance venues. Not only does it provide a way for us to connect more with others, it also provides something that hadn’t occurred to me until a friend mentioned it. Many people can’t travel, can’t get to venues because they’re not accessible or because they’re unable for health reasons to leave the house. These changes that are keeping me connected, are connecting many others for the first time in a while. Let’s see if we can remember this when we’re able to go out and see others again.
IMPORTANT NOTE: You are also invited no matter where you’re from. If you’d like to join us next time please comment below. I’ll contact you by email with details. As we only have room for 12-15 people it will be first come, first served.
For the curious, here are the books we discussed:
Music for Tigers by Michelle Kadarusman
For It Is a Pleasure and a Surprise to Breathe: New and Selected Poems by Gary Barwin
The Only Story by Julian Barnes
Early Stages by John Gielgud
The Emperor of all Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Postscript by Cecilia Ahern
Amma by Perumal Murugan
This Road I Ride, by Juliana Buhring
The Joy of Movement by Kelly McGonigal (Join the book club reading it together at Fit is a Feminist Issue.)
Such a Fun Age: Kiley Reid
The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra by Helen Rappaport
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Tahir Shah
Revolutionary Ride: On the Road in Search of the Real Iran by Lois Pryce
My People, The Amish: The true story of an Amish father and son by Joe Keim
The Storyteller’s Daughter by Saira Shah
How to Break Up with Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan to Take Back Your Life by Catherine Price
Spring by Ali Smith
Between the Stops: The View of My Life from the Top of the Number 12 Bus by Sandi Toksvig
A Bintel Brief: Love and Longing in Old New York by Liana Finck
The Wisdom of Groundhog Day: How to improve your life one day at a time by Paul Hannam
Pedaling Home: One Woman’s Race Across the Arizona Trail by Sarah Jansen