Nothing stays the same for long. What’s different about the past few weeks is the sheer density of change: Everything seems to be changing all the time, in ways most of us could never have planned for. It infuses all the conversations we have now, like a heavy black curtain. But what you see here are items that express the sheer force of change itself: Something turns, and we have no choice but to notice.
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Since the start of the pandemic, retired English teacher Sarah Jaehn, 72, has been drawing a few pages a day in her journal. “The sketchbook is entirely what I think and how the pandemic affects me,” she wrote from her Dunedin condo complex.
— Submitted by Sarah Jaehn, Palm Harbor
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Chan Bliss rides his bike over the Courtney Campbell Causeway almost every day. When the county stated closing the beaches at the end of March, he started taking pictures of the Courtney Campbell Causeway Beach — hundreds and hundreds of photos.
“While subtle, the changes are there,” he wrote. “The beach slowly began to smooth out when the tire tracks disappeared and birds began to appear. A few times I walked down on the beach to get pictures of the flocks of birds and felt a little guilty marring up the sand with my footprints.”
See his whole collection here.
— Submitted by Chan Bliss, Safety Harbor
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“For me, the coronavirus lockdown has resulted in significant weight loss: 2.2 lbs. How could such a small amount be significant, you ask? Because it consisted entirely of hair.
“I had been growing dreadlocks for 17 years. The longer they got, the more attention they garnered. At some point, a few years in, I started to get used to people’s gazes, comments and questions, but I was still taken by surprise when the first stranger asked to take a photo with me simply because of my long, matted hair.
“I have long been used to accommodating my hair in everyday situations (piling it onto my lap when I sat, styling it in a “bun Mohawk” reminiscent of Star Wars’ Rey when I exercised, twisting it into a beehive and covering it when I didn’t want it to get wet), but ... for the first time, my hair was becoming a nuisance.
“The second week of March was spring break for St. Petersburg College, where I teach psychology. It was in that week that the college announced it would be converting all of its face-to-face courses to an online format to honor social distancing mandates. I realized that my students were the biggest reason I was keeping my long dreadlocks. If nothing else, my hair gave them something out of the ordinary to look at, like chunky jewelry or a graphic print would. (Okay, I admit I also wanted my Gen Z students and psychotherapy clients to think I wasn’t old and stuffy.) Now I was faced with the prospect of not sharing space with any of them for the foreseeable future, only being gazed at by my loved ones and my cats, and having to avoid rolling over 5-feet-7-inches of hair with my desk chair during the long hours I’d be sitting in front of my desktop.
“Less than a week later, that hair lay like furry snakes on the ground. I had shaved off all but 1/4” of it with electric clippers. For the first time ever, I was able to ascertain the answer to the question countless people had asked me over the years: ‘How much does it weigh?‘”
— Submitted by Ryan Hall, St. Petersburg
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Kaelyn Sheedy was almost home from her trip to Europe when she woke in the middle of the night in her New York City hotel room with a fever and a wet cough. She called the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ask if she should be tested for the coronavirus — the outbreak had just surged in Italy, one of the countries she’d visited. But the CDC, she said, told her to get on her flight home to Tampa. Two days later, she finally convinced health officials she should be tested; she posed for this photo that night. And two days after that, she became one of the first two people in Florida diagnosed with the coronavirus.
— Courtesy of Kaelyn Sheedy, Tampa
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“Between my routine with a 14-month-old and the schedule of my 90-year-old Grandma, it’s been pretty easy going one day to the next. The hardest part for us, besides not finding toilet paper at the store, is keeping track of the days. So I made us this little helper.”
— Submitted by Christina Aikman, St. Petersburg
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Haiku for the times
19 runs quiet
A snail finds its way across
The earth breathes ... at last
— Submitted by Tara Sheldon, Clearwater
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COVID-19’s crushing impact on small businesses was immediate. On March 26, the Gabber, a weekly community newspaper in Gulfport for 52 years, published its final issue. “This has been a truly unexpected turn of events,” owner-publishers Ken and Deb Reichart wrote in a letter to readers. “But, the reality of a suddenly dwindling revenue stream means that we can no longer continue to print the paper, or to support our colleagues in bringing you news. And while we remain hopeful for a future where the Gabber can continue, we don’t know when that will be.” The answer came weeks later, when a freelance writer made a deal to buy the Gabber.
— Jay Cridlin, Tampa Bay Times
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A breeze tickles my toe-tops, moving past the sleeping dog, rustling his whiskers.
Clouds, like glaciers, slide westward. I hate to tell them the sickness lies there, too.
California nightmaring, the Empire State is on fire, and they say New Orleans is next.
Yet, I appreciate the beams of light escaping through the fleeing fluffs, warming my side.
Move along, and while you’re at it, please bring the end of April, for I have things to do in May.
— Submitted by Haley Busch, Tierra Verde
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The coronavirus “is the alien that has crippled the world by taking away what we know as being human, desiring love, and the touch of another,” artist Louis Markoya wrote of his painting “The Virus.” Markoya, who moved to St. Petersburg in January, presented the oil-on-canvas work in April as the first of a small series inspired by the pandemic.
— Submitted by Louis Markoya, St. Petersburg
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“I usually visit my granddaughter, Anabella, every week. She is 4 years old, and we enjoy making art projects, cooking, taking trips to restaurants, libraries, museums or the zoo ... I have sent cards with stickers, a homemade photo book titled ‘I Wish I Could Play Outside!’ and many art projects.”
— Submitted by Virginia T. Hokes, Tampa
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On March 30, Lori Sheaffer’s boyfriend was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. He was hospitalized at Moffitt Cancer Center, where he was undergoing treatment. Sheaffer and her boyfriend talk on the phone when he has the energy for it and share pictures of the moon when he doesn’t. They can both see it from their windows.
— Submitted by Lori Sheaffer, St. Petersburg
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