Living in a fantasy world

I do live in a fantasy world a lot of the time, so I know what I’m talking about here. Writers mostly do. You may see us grocery shopping or taking our cars for service or dropping the kids off for school, but that reality doesn’t mean we’re not living in our fantasy world, figuring out plotlines, talking to our characters, considering story arcs…

Until reality impinges on fantasy and we have to face it.

Recently I’ve felt more and more that it’s the opposite in my corner of the world, at least. Fantasy is impinging on reality. Because we don’t want to deal with reality, we create fantasy. Covid-19 doesn’t exist. It was made up. It’s not going to kill anyone we love because so many people survive it, it’s just like the flu. There are only 40 or 60 or 100 or 200 cases in my community, and nobody I know has it, so I won’t get it. Masks don’t protect you. It was 5G that caused it.

Reality is scary right now, yes, but not facing it is scarier because you know what I’ve found from living in a fantasy land a lot of the time? Reality will force you to face it eventually. You do have to come out of the clouds and pay the bills or your power gets turned off. You gotta scoop the cat litter or it gets stinky. Right now I’m wearing scratched glasses because going to the eye doctor is too much reality.

And if we don’t face the frightening reality of covid-19 as a community, we’re going to regret it. All of us.

I hate wearing a mask, but I do it.

Poem: Wisdom of the Baby Bird

Wisdom of the Baby Bird

By Michelle Garren Flye

Like an eagle or hawk soaring

We want to leap into the sky!

We don’t know what waits;

We just know we want to fly.

Hawks dive onto their prey,

Seagulls wheel above the sea,

Eagles may drift along drafts

Our senses cannot perceive.

Maybe turn our eyes instead

To the baby bird in the nest.

Standing precariously on the edge—

He’s waiting, not taking a rest.

Take a leap of faith—oh yes, let’s do!

But only when the time is right.

Stretch the wings out first—

Take a short practice flight.

Only then will we grow stronger,

Only then will we avoid a plunge

Headfirst into a maelstrom

Of dangers we cannot dodge.

Juvenile owl waiting the right moment to fly. Photo by Michelle Garren Flye
Pissed Mama Osprey. Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem 27 (National Poetry Month): Normality is Too Normal

We could do this, you know. Normality as we once knew it is gone. The slate really could be wiped clean (with a Clorox wipe) and we could begin something extraordinary, if we wanted to do it. I don’t think we will right now because you need a visionary leader to accomplish such a thing, probably more than one. And I haven’t seen many visionaries recently. But right now while the slate is erased, I can’t help but contemplate the possibilities.

Normality is Too Normal

By Michelle Garren Flye

Normality is too normal for me.

I have no wish to go back there.

What’s so great about normal?

Extraordinary is better.

Rainbows and butterflies

Are not normal at all.

Last year, small toads

Hopped through our yard

All spring.

That became normal.

It wasn’t great, though.

We ran over them by accident

And felt bad when we saw it.

Normal. Not good.

Definitely not great.

Roses and daffodils aren’t normal.

Not really.

You have to wait for them to bloom

And then they’re only here for a while.

They are extraordinary.

What’s normal?

If you think about it all the great moments

Aren’t really…normal.

So why go “back to normal”?

Forward to extraordinary, instead!

Product placement… Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem 21 (National Poetry Month): Waiting in the Wings

This morning it occurred to me that the whole world is really “waiting in the wings” if, as Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage.” Of course, that made me realize how much I miss the theater. “My” theater, one of my happy places, is being renovated during this unscheduled downtime, and I’m thrilled for the possibilities. I’m also a bit worried because I don’t know when we’ll be able to get another production on the stage, even though we do plan to. But plans don’t mean much right now, do they? Will our cue ever come? While we wait, though…

Waiting in the Wings

By Michelle Garren Flye

We’re waiting in the wings,

Listening for our cue.

It’s dark while the lead sings—

Only one spotlight will do.

The scene goes on forever…

It’ll never be our turn!

The ensemble is just extra,

Of little to no concern.

Oh but when the time comes

We’ll burst upon the stage

With light and color and costumes

The audience to engage!

We’ll flit about the floor,

Dance steps we memorize.

No one will dare snore

When our chorus arrives.

But now we wait in silence

Hoping we’re in tune.

We give each other guidance:

Our cue will come soon.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem 16 (National Poetry Month): Lost Days (For the Seniors)

Like many I fell for a Facebook trend recently which consisted of posting your senior photo in support of this year’s graduating class. I don’t actually have my senior photo anymore because it was a few years ago, but I do have my old yearbook, so I pulled it out and took a pic of my old photo. And posted it with some encouraging words for this year’s seniors who are basically missing out on a pretty fun part of their lives while we take our corona break.

But I started thinking. Was that post more about me than it was the seniors? Probably. I mean, I looked good at 18. We all looked better than we do now, let’s be honest. I got a lot of nice comments on the photo, too, and those are always good. But how in the hell was it supposed to make today’s seniors feel better?

So, as an act of contrition, I wrote a poem, and not just any poem, either. An Italian sonnet, which is widely regarded as a difficult form. Here goes:

Lost Days (for the Seniors)

By Michelle Garren Flye

Just a worn out page in an old yearbook,

A memory captured in a photo.

Days gone by in years long past, but lo!

Posted here now for you to take a look—

To show you we know what you forsook.

Has anyone ever been dealt such a blow?

Taking your freedom, knocking you low.

But we’re here with you, do not be mistook.

Wait! Is it possible we are in the wrong?

What is an old photo but a memory kept,

An experience savored in celebration?

This is what you’re denied all along.

These lost days are what you have wept—

While we make posts of self-congratulation.

A more appropriate photo for quarantine. Enjoy the little things. Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem: Peace and Rubble (is this how we go?)

Humans, as a whole, have a difficult time seeing clearly beyond their own noses. I’m guilty of it, too. Some have a gift of empathy where they not only see clearly what is happening to others beyond their own experience, they feel it, too. These poor creatures are definitely the exceptions.

Look at what’s going on now. Here in southeastern North Carolina, we’re dealing with the restrictions that COVID-19 has placed on our entire nation, we’re watching the news and seeing the numbers tick steadily up—but the people around us don’t appear to be sick. Maybe some of them are, but their cases must be extremely mild. We know that there are more cases out there and we could be next. We know it, but we don’t, for the most part, actually feel it.

And so we go on about our lives. We’ve taken up new hobbies, returned to old ones. The kids go to “online” school every day. Some of us are chafing a little at the restrictions. My kids can’t see their friends. My oldest is missing the second half of his sophomore year at college. But over it all, right now (and it may be short-lived), I have a feeling of profound peace. I’m not rushing anymore. I’m not feeling guilty for devoting so much time to the theater work I love instead of making dinner for my family. I have time to fold laundry and wash dishes. I’m enjoying this unanticipated vacation.

And I know it shows a lack of empathy that I can feel peaceful right now. Maybe this is the end of everything, maybe it’s the ruination of our country, maybe it’s the apocalypse. Anyway…

Peace and Rubble (is this how we go?)

By Michelle Garren Flye

If this is the way we go, I think it’s the way I choose:

Family all around, safe in our home, with love as real

As the things I care about—the only things I have to lose;

Maybe that’s wrong to say but it’s the way I feel.

It’s an odd war we’re fighting, of that there is no doubt.

The enemy is hidden, you can’t even see the rubble.

There’s nothing to show on the nightly news, no bout

Of bombing or flattened buildings—maybe that’s the trouble.

Instead of fighting, we’re asked to sit still and quiet

Don’t go out, stay home with your loved ones, they say.

There’s a special joy in that if you’ll only find it,

A life you’ve not given yourself time to live—until today.

Out of focus

Focusing on one thing at a time makes it difficult to see the big picture. Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Today I sat in my silent bookstore hoping for the phone to ring with someone wanting to take advantage of my Covid-19 remote shopping option. The silence is of my own making. I closed to the public at the end of last week. It felt like the right thing to do.

It’s very difficult right now to know what the right thing to do is because it’s difficult to know what to focus on. Medical experts who say this epidemic will not end well if we don’t continue to isolate ourselves? Government hopefuls who expect real life to echo the movies and miracle cures to materialize out of thin air? Economic brains who anticipate the further shutdown of the economy to be more catastrophic than thousands of deaths?

And truly, it’s hard to see the true danger. It’s invisible until it hits you or someone you love. The medical community understands this. They’ve given us the tools to defend ourselves (wash hands, don’t touch face, remain socially distant), but they warn if we don’t use them, the effects will be devastating.

The truth is, though, this silent and invisible enemy will be the most devastating one we’ve ever faced if we don’t listen to facts. Scientific facts—something we’ve been trained to disbelieve in our recent alternative fact universe—are what can save us, but how likely are we as humans to listen now that so much is at stake? Our lives depend on it, but are our pocketbooks more important?

What do we focus on? We can’t focus on any one thing, really. We have to see the whole picture. All at once and from every angle. And know that what we don’t see—the invisible—can harm us.