This week you’ve heard from virtually the entire staff of The Colorado Sun as we’ve offered a look back, and a look ahead, after one year of the coronavirus.
Along the seemingly interminable road, we also wanted to hear from you, our readers. Inspired by the call to write during this pandemic issued by novelist and teacher Laura Pritchett to her class of college writers, we created Write On, Colorado.
The goal has been to collect enduring snapshots of life during a historic time, with all its difficulties, heartaches, joys and new discoveries. Now, as we reach the one-year milestone, we offer a look back at some of the most memorable contributions.
We begin with a retrospective from Pritchett, whose essay launched the project.
We are in this aloneness together: Reflections on one year of Coloradans responding to the call
By Laura Pritchett / March 5, 2021
This time last year, Colorado had its first COVID cases. And soon after, The Colorado Sun responded by starting this Write On feature. Now at about 170 pieces and counting, it has offered a chance for Coloradans to share their bewilderment, epiphanies, stories and heartache of the times.
Although we were uniformly shocked by the pandemic, there was great diversity among the submissions: Retirees and new graduates. Prose and poetry and even song! Urban nature and wilderness nature appreciation. Joyful stories and difficult ones.
And yet, big commonalities stood out: Honesty. Frankness. Vulnerability.
I often tell my students, “We have free speech in this country, but not always frank speech.” Lack of genuineness lends itself to all sorts of societal and personal repressions which have serious consequences. I encourage them: “No Hallmark, please, no glossed-over stuff. Give me the real and the raw.”
That’s what this project has done above all else, I think. Allow a space for that. And as one contributor put it honestly, “having courage to sit with darkness makes you a badass.”
It sure does. We are badasses. We have risen to the occasion.
I’m learning to value every inch of life I occupy thanks to coronavirus. And it actually feels bigger than before.
By Maya Booth / March 31, 2020
I’ve spent the afternoon running around my small yard in central Denver, taking photos of every green living thing I can see.
I squeal through a half-open window to my roommate, who is also working from home and probably wondering what I’m up to, that I’ve just made a thrilling discovery: a smartphone app that classifies plants right down to the species, at the tap of a digital camera shutter. Many are out there suffering and sacrificing in the fight against the novel coronavirus, but my perspective is one of staying home and refocusing my figurative lens on life in a smaller bubble. The adjustment has made the patch of urban grass I live on begin to feel like an entire wilderness.
As a recently burnt-out nurse searching for a way forward, I embrace routine in these strange times
By Margaret Gambel / April 1, 2020
Routine. Our house of four maintains a routine, broken predominantly only by the nightly living room updates of a pandemic world. Even then, that itself is a part of the routine.
Two of the housemates are medical students. They remain studying for a Step One exam that is constantly at risk of cancellation. The start of the third year, the year they really get to experience the clinical side of all they have learned, faces uncertainty. Otherwise, their daily schedules are the same as pre-pandemic.
I set no alarm, because I know that just after seven, I will awaken to the sound of fresh coffee being ground. It is my cue that I should also get my morning started, although I go about it in a lazier fashion than either of them. I dress in jeans, a jacket and socks with sandals, knowing that by midday, I will have shed down to shorts and T-shirt. Classic Colorado.
Amid the coronavirus shutdown, I went on a walk for sanity. I got a dose of reality.
By Steve Krizman / April 4, 2020
As Doug and I reached Park Avenue and Broadway, the “Jesus Saves” sign was in view. We were one block away from the Lawrence Street Rescue Mission, where Doug could finally get warm.
“Oh NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!” he wailed. “It’s happening!” His shivering flared into convulsions as he leaned into a wall and I helped him slide to the ground. The seizure he had warned me about was upon him, just short of “Jesus Saves.”
I had known Doug for about 30 minutes. I was on my daily walk for sanity in the Uptown neighborhood when I came upon him at East 22nd Avenue and Emerson Street. He was dressed in shorts on a sleety 30-degree day and looked wobbly.
This unusual moment in history gives us time to learn something new or remember something forgotten
By Richard Lawson / April 8, 2020
I was due to read Heidegger’s “Being and Time.” As an Episcopal priest, it is my job to have some sense of what we are up against. And lately I have been thinking a lot about what we face.
In order to sharpen my thinking, I picked up this thick book of existential philosophy, which was published shortly after World War I. The book is about what life feels like between birth and death. In my view, existentialism pairs well with theology, which sometimes gets distracted by ideals and the afterlife.
As a teen, I debated if I’d even attend my mom’s funeral. Now, I want nothing more than to be there for her.
By Christi Romero-Roseth / April 11, 2020
I was there for you for the first time, really, when I was 19.
We’d had years of discord, you and me, emotional, physical, pain that dominated and shaped my young life, and yours, too, I imagine. I’m sure you don’t know, but as an angst-filled teen, I’d had years of an inner conversation that had me arguing with myself whether I’d even go to your funeral if you died.
But then, I didn’t have to wait to find out. And you didn’t have to die to settle it.
I thought I was taking care of my son during coronavirus. Turns out he was taking care of me.
By Will Bardenwerper / April 13, 2020
Nature heals. Many have discovered this before me, but better late than never. Though I’ve always appreciated the beauty of nature, my admiration had been abstract, limited to infrequent and brief sojourns from various cities.
My conversion from distant admirer to true believer took place recently, as I looked for healthy things to do with my 2½-year-old son, Bates, amidst Denver’s increasingly restrictive shelter-in-place protocols.
Aside from 63 hellish days of Army Ranger School, I’ve never gone camping. I’m a decent athlete, regular CrossFitter and skier, but by no means an outdoorsman. Simply putting up a Marmot tent recently had me studying YouTube instructional videos. And so the recent epiphany I experienced hiking South Table Mountain outside Golden, Colorado, came as a surprise.
I thought I was launching a new chapter of my life. Now I must trust in the universe.
By Alyssa Mamuszka / May 6, 2020
About two months ago, I arrived in Denver and worked for about two weeks as a waitress before I was told that due to COVID-19 I would not be receiving a paycheck for the foreseeable future, and that my routine would now include staying at home and social distancing.
At 23, I’d chosen this as the place to start my new life. I’d fallen in love with the city on a visit a few months earlier. Having spent my college years studying in Burlington, Vermont, I felt the two places had a similar feel.
I was thrilled for the chance to explore new parts of myself, whether it be career based or simply the chance to try new, outdoorsy hobbies. When my six months of living at home with my parents reached an end, I packed up my things and headed west, to begin my next chapter.
I watched love bloom over Zoom. Beautiful things still happen.
By Jenny Stafford / May 8, 2020
When the quarantine began in Colorado, I forced myself to find one small silver lining—now I would have time to take a memoir and essay writing class that I’d been wanting to take for years.
I work as a playwright and director in theater, and usually rehearsals and performances keep me busy. Now, of course, theater is shut down. My life as I have known it—just like everyone else’s—is shut down. It seems like my industry might be one of the last to return.
I’ve been looking for joy wherever I can find it…and I’ve found it in a surprising turn of events in this writing class.
During coronavirus, I’ve turned indolence into an art form. No more.
By Veena Raigaonkar / May 21, 2020
It’s the biggest change I’ve noticed in my routine.
I sleep in almost every day, even when my father yells from the kitchen, “It’s 8:30, wake up already!”
It’s a wonderful comfort. But it’s also brought a blanket of laziness over me. The mere thought of doing schoolwork makes me groan in annoyance. I say I’ll work out this morning, but I end up saying to myself, “Eh, I’ll do it tomorrow.”
After all these years, it took the coronavirus for me to befriend my parents
By Aditi Ramaswami / May 22, 2020
I stuff my feet in my boots and race out of the house, taking swigs of protein shake at stoplights en route to the office. Hitting snooze a fourth time was clearly a mistake.
That’s how most of my mornings looked at the top of the year. Some days meant working longer than usual, thanks to the hustle and bustle of the state legislature. One day I made it home around 2 a.m., after slogging through a 16-hour bill hearing.
When work did end “early,” I’d head to Denver to indulge in dinner or happy hour with my partner or friends, often arriving home only to crawl into bed. I can’t even remember the last time, pre-COVID, that I sat down for a full meal with my parents in our Centennial digs.
What my friends’ surprise prom taught me about coronavirus — and life
By Rosstin Ahmadian / May 28, 2020
I met William and Emma over a year ago when I started graduate school. Those two are the quintessential couple in our academic program: They conduct quality research in their respective laboratories, study hard for exams, and still make time for close friends and for each other.
When the three of us go out for coffee, William always seems to more carefully consider Emma’s contributions to our discussions regardless of how emphatically I attempt to make my points heard. This attention to her extends to all aspects of their relationship but particularly to the gifts that William puts together.
William called me late one April evening, his latest installment to our weekly constitutional of COVID-19 quarantine check-ins. Over the course of our friendship, I had become his trusted advisor on all things special, covert, or both. It was up to me to field his ideas, provide critical analysis on logistics, and discuss implementation strategies for maximum FUN.
The common refrain of “Wear a mask…” convinced me to respond with a prose poem
By Marilyn Chambron / July 1, 2020
Oh, they say wear a mask for safety’s sake. Are they kidding?
Fear grips the heart and throat of merchants when they cannot fully see a black or brown face: male or female. Masks intimidate. Suspect just by being alive. Complicated.
We wish for normal more than others because we are aware what the masks suggest to the “they.” Only go to the grocery store or the pharmacy. They understand that we also need food and medicine. Isolated.
Avoid the coffee shops, restaurants, clothing and shoe stores. Those places are not worth the hassle of security guards or police who in their zeal perceive a threat. Shoot first, ask questions later, if they ask at all. Frustrated.
Somehow, by the grace of God, I weathered the most recent coronavirus storm
By Maddy Butcher / December 29, 2020
Someone sent me a playlist of dance songs this morning. By eight o’clock, with two cups of tea in me, I was dancing around my kitchen and living room, feeling relaxed and free of cares.
My dogs watched. “Who is this woman?”
It was different from that night last week when I hit a nadir of pandemic angst. When you reach this moment — I’m guessing most readers have — would you actually call it a low point (nadir) or a high point?
I lost my amazing dog during coronavirus, but in my mind his wisdom remains
By Ellie Sciarra / January 5, 2021
Hey, grief said. Make the bed. Own the hour.
Follow the sun, its radiance, reminder to the day, light to open your heart
to the silence
to the blue, blue sky.
My mantra of longing is What would Jackson say or do?
A guiding whisper in the middle of the night to take care of your health, do the tests, you are worth each penny. Wasn’t I, he asks?