December 10, 2020

A Puzzled Year

This story by Diane Sims is a finalist in the 2020 non-fiction writing competition, "Alone in the Time of Covid-19"

I am a brand-new puzzle each COVID19 morning.

Still the blinds continue to baffle the breeze. Still the smell of fresh coffee remains so familiar, even if the beans are a tad dear. Still the touch of my husband’s hand on my face so trusting.

Yet the pieces of normal life are so scattered and I wonder, over my third dark-roast cuppa java laced with 1 per cent milk, which other ones would go missing today. We all know what we’ve lost through lock-downs, closed borders and limited personal contacts. What’s next.

So the ragged, dog-eared pieces like feeding the cats, turning on my computer or yanking on my bra I put in play easily while other new ones that just won’t place make up the borderless heartache of my life, as Smokey Robinson crooned.


I can’t call Eric, Margie or Orysk to pitch writing ideas because their publications and my regular broadcast haunts have bit the dust.

Like Eric Bogle scolds in No Man’s Land, they are white crosses that stand mute in the wind.

Mute memories that bless and burn. The money I had been blessed to earn now burns through the proverbial hole in my pocket.

Just like a sharp-dressed man new pointed pieces prick, prod and turn my head.

Scanning food flyers for 2-for-1 canned tomato sauces pricks my pride. (But masks with Native prints I eye and buy.)

My banker prods me for a past-due mortgage payment.

Ah, but painting is the piece that now turns my head. This decades after my Grade 4 teacher, “Horrid Harriet Herbert,” slapped her yardstick on my desk snarling, “You are a pitiful painter.”

I finished my grade school years opting for essays on whooping cranes or intricacies of Latin declensions instead of artwork. (Both foundations for my career in writing, as it turned out.)

However, my writing career as I thought it went overboard this year. It took me worried nights, hours of email missives and some soul-slapping to remember and rejuvenate what my writing could still do.

Whether causes are international, national or local a writer can forcefully put pen to paper and advocate. And that I did while putting fresh coats of paint on summer furniture.

But I didn’t put brush to paper until the first Friday evening of this COVID19 June.

Ivan, my 87-year-old artist friend, cajoled me into flying blind with my $1.80 acrylic brush, “Look, you can always paint over it and no one will know. Holy teapot Di, do it!”

Four hours later a colourful 4”x5” desert sunset canvas made an Amelia Earhart landing on my stovetop.

Painting has become a passionate misnomer, marrying my desire for perfecting the word in my mind for portraying the gaze in my mind’s eye. It’s crazy but some people want my work.

And I have had paying commissions. Go fish!

Story by Diane Sims

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