It sometimes feels that the very nature of time has changed. Days bleed into each other or they seem only tenuously connected, a beaten book held together with a few strands of binding glue.
Our current emergency, unlike a natural disaster or act of terror, is not bound by time. Even once we move through the worst of it, there will be no definitive endpoint at which we might pause and say: “At least it’s over.” Calamity and aftermath happen simultaneously, feeding back on each other. It’s disorienting.
It poses a challenge for journalists. Much of our job involves documenting the granular, visceral details of life at a given moment, and yes, we’re trying our damnedest to do that. It also falls to us to take the long view — to make sense of conflict or change over time, to offer perspective and some idea of what the future might hold. Trying to do that right now can feel like bailing a leaky boat with an even leakier bucket.
What we’ve tried to do here is somewhere in between those poles: capture what life looks like now and try to make sense of these bizarre times.
We’re drawing on the discipline of folklore, which contains tales but also songs and dances, jokes and playground games, memes and urban legends, weddings and funerals and much more. One of its foundational principles is “conservatism versus dynamism,” which is a fancy way of saying that things change and things stay the same.
Maybe that feels too academic, which is why we landed on a simple title for this project: the Scrapbook. We all know scrapbooks; many of us have run our hands over those pages, the dry paper and smooth photographs, or we keep modern versions on our phones or computers.
There is a shelf of them at my parents’ house in Tennessee: I can pull one out and see my grandfather’s face staring up from the 1940s, handsome and youthful, or my own face at age 3, quizzical and cowboy-hatted.
We hope our Scrapbook, with stories, photos, videos and audio, illustrates the texture of altered life in Tampa Bay. We know it’s far from definitive, though, which is why it will be a living project.
Send the bits and pieces of your life to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll keep updating it for as long as this bizarre chapter continues. Time keeps moving no matter how it feels, and at least at my parents’ house, the scrapbooks always seem to have a few empty pages in the back, for whatever comes next.
— Jack Evans
Illustrations by Lisa Merklin
And here are our stories: