Cruising, Covid & Art

 A few years have passed since the  Covid pandemic scare. So much misinformation, uncertainty, and fear. No cures in sight, while healthcare workers are being stretched to their limits, and death tolls are steadily, inexorably rising.  Forced to stay in place, the freedom to shop and frequent restaurants curtailed, and no longer able to vacation, travel, fly, or embark on cruise ships, our personal favorite way to rest and revitalize. 

Our last cruise before the pandemic ended in March 2020 just before everything shut down.  My personal challenge was navigating the necessary spinal and hip surgeries which would allow me to walk easily again and leave the wheelchair behind. The surgeries which had been scheduled for months were canceled as hospitals filled with Covid patients, and simple pain management and endurance became the goal of these years.

Meanwhile, back on the ocean, so many crew members already at the end of their service contracts were forced to stay onboard their floating fortresses of solitude, as airports, and transports shut down all over the globe. Stranded, longing for what they couldn’t return to, at a time when home, family, comfort, and love were needed most of all.

How do you not lose your mind when you have nothing to do? No new people to interact with? No new challenges to overcome? No off-ship locations and ports to enjoy? 

One can create art. One can project one’s mind, heart, and soul, into creating art. But how do you get art supplies when you’re stranded on a floating quarantined vessel? 

A beautiful, fun, and amazing person shared his art with me. Wall art he created alone in this cabin. He used his vision to keep himself occupied and to create beauty and joy out of garbage and despair. I’ve always enjoyed public art wherever I am. I study the concepts and execution of original works, and the feelings and messages they are designed to convey.

But this man’s art is born of something more primal, something more visceral, something more immediate, and something much more recognizable. Plastic spoons, coffee stirrers, water bottles, items he gleaned from a seemingly endless resource,  which had suddenly dwindled to almost nothing, as the trash-generating guests were missing. He resorted to enlisting his shipmates to help him gather these suddenly scarce materials.

This man’s spirit is joyous, large, and welcoming. He is a pleasure to be around. I know well the feeling of coping and creating, of gratitude for making it through, and surviving the last few years, one mask and hand washing at a time. We saw and recognized the joy in each other, of being alive and well, and surviving such uncertain times. I see in Jes’s art, a reminder of what we went through as a collective body of people who love and appreciate life and are of service to others. My hope is that someday I will see a work of his on a wall or elevator somewhere. A dimensional sculptural piece, radiating outward like the sun.  On closer inspection, one may exclaim, “whoa, that was my coffee stirrer or the top of my water bottle!”  Art is born of spirit stretching outward, creating, capturing, harnessing, and manipulating time in order to keep the mind and heart from cracking and breaking down.

This is only one story of thousands, we all have one. As we stepped onboard this month, things were very much like they were in the past. However, we remember that time not so long ago, when we lost friends and loved ones and much of our taken-for-granted freedom to move about with ease. I see things differently, I look at people more deeply and with a much deeper appreciation and understanding than before. I hope I never lose this expanded view. I’m so grateful to everyone we interacted with, who greeted us with smiles and happy faces, even when those joyous moments cracked a bit, and the pain and loss of the last few years leaked into our eyes and sometimes overflowed down our cheeks and through our noses. Being a part of their ever-evolving story is our gift to ourselves. They take care of us and touch our hearts. We are very grateful to the crew members who we get to know and who enrich our lives. I hope they feel the same about us too.

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