Siege Diaries 7/16/2020


After so many days falling away from my habit of regular writing, I’ve felt the itch to sit down again and take stock of where I am, where we are.

The roller coaster continues, but I’ve gotten used to anticipating the dips and long climbs. Personally, I seem to have reached a kind of personal equilibrium.  Having friends to visit with in person every other week certainly helps with adding just that tiny extra touch of the normal.  We’ve played games, visited, worked on projects, and eaten by far the best food we’ve had in a long time.  I’m also taking a half day off work every week now and my husband and I have been heading to the archery range in Toronto.  It’s just fun to shoot again.  We’ve been down to the lakefront to walk a few times.  We’ve gone for drives in the Porsche.  And next week I’ve taken a whole week off. We’re going to stay overnight on Monday–our 29th anniversary– at the Embassy Suites in Niagara Falls, with a room overlooking the Falls themselves.  There will be food from the Keg. We’ll hike the Niagara Glen, go to the Botanical Gardens and the Butterfly Conservancy, and maybe drive down to Ft. Erie and along the Niagara Parkway.  There will be a board game day, more archery, and then a dinner with some other friends (we still had room in our “social circle”.)  And I’ll ignore work for a week.  Maybe get to work on a project or two.  And then we’ll be back with our good friends at their lovely home for a birthday party at the end of the week.

Meanwhile, huge changes at work.  The manager who hired me (who I stopped reporting directly to a few years ago when our department grew) is retiring, and most of our department will be reporting to a new manager starting within the next week or so.  I had gotten the sense that she might be retiring sooner rather then later in the past number of months, and I suspect her assistant will likely leave shortly as well (as I know for sure she intended to retire this year).  She has just seemed tired, even before the pandemic hit.  The new org structure shouldn’t be too jarring for me, since I’d been working on a project that reported up to the new manager for some time, but it’s the end of my department as I had known it, and that’s a little sad.  We were a tight-knit group for many, many years–very social. Going to work always had a certain sense of fun and camaraderie.  That feeling had started to fray a bit when most of us went to 50% working from home, and it has really unraveled as we all went to working from home full time with the pandemic.  When/if I’m ever back in the office, it will be a hugely different place. although some of the people will remain.  I don’t know whether we’ll ever host another silly wedding or baby shower, or attend a Blue Jays game together.

At the same time, some new opportunities.  I conducted an hour-long impromptu speaking session for a group of sales guys, arranged through a fellow member of one of my Toastmasters club.  I also did a one-on-one coaching session with a woman referred through ACCES, the employment agency I’ve been volunteering with through work.  And best of all, I’ve landed a volunteer proofreading gig with the DSCH Journal, a publication devoted to Dmitri Shostakovich I’ve been subscribing to for a couple of years.  Not only was it a chance to contribute to something associated with my favourite composer, I get to dust off the proofreading/copyediting skills I haven’t used for a couple of years.  I quite like proofing and editing, and for many years at Pennsic I’d spend every evening proofing the Pennsic Independent.  I took an inordinate amount of pride in catching as many errors as I could.  And, of course, more than fifteen years ago, I spent time as the editor of Tournaments Illuminated.  It was invigorating to return to working with a stylebook and all of those cryptic marks proofreaders use for marking up copy by hand, and it was even more rewarding to actually catch a dating error in one article (just proving how deeply I know my Shostakovich).  The downside is that I’ve now throughly read the next issue of the journal, but hey, I don’t have to wait–and I’ve already seen my name in the masthead.

And then down I go again.  The downs these days are mostly in the US, which is fast becoming a horror show in the southern US and in the White House, as aggressive willful ignorance seems to be winning the day.  I look maybe once a day, and then I just can’t any more.

Meanwhile, in Ontario, our daily case count is in the low 100s and parts of the province are moving to the next stage of opening tomorrow, although Toronto and environs will not.  Many urban areas are requiring masks indoors now, and Hamilton is expected to join them after a Council vote tomorrow  We’ve done well in Ontario with the previous stages, but this next one involves restaurants and gyms and bars, at reduced capacity, and I worry about those sorts of environments getting it right.  They’ll be expanding the gathering sizes for indoor and outdoor gatherings, and while I’m aching for a concert, it would have to be special, with particular care taken for safety–and to be honest, about the only thing that could make me even consider it would be a Shostakovich quartet.  Frankly, I’ve been mostly happy in Stage 2.  It feels fairly safe.

But I’ll get to hear the Shostakovich Viola Sonata on Saturday–just as I had planned in the Before Times.  Toronto Summer Music decided to go ahead with many of their concerts virtually, and as part of that, a concert they had planned pairing the Beethoven “Moonlight” piano sonata with the Shostakovich Viola Sonata–which quotes from the “Moonlight”–is going forward.

And people are finding creative ways to find fun in this altered world. Drive-ins are suddenly popular–and new ones are popping up.  There are now even drive-in concerts–mostly rock, but the OSM is doing Beethoven’s 5th Symphony at a car park in a Montreal airport.  (Alas, nothing like that locally).

And maybe tomorrow night, for only the second time in my life, I’ll get to see a comet. I’ll drive to the lookouts on Ridge Road from the top of the escarpment, look to the north-northwest with the binoculars we’ve dug out, and if I am lucky, I’ll spot Comet Neowise not far from the Big Dipper.  The sky and the stars persist, and sometimes, at just the right time, something special appears to give just a modicum of hope.