In this season of pandemic, while we humans – hundreds of millions (billions?) of us – adapt to sheltering-in-place, self-isolation and quarantines, we have a unique opportunity to share the best of ourselves.
Without lengthy commutes or events outside the home as part of our daily schedules, we have much more time at our disposal: to reflect, to read, to explore a far wider realm of audio, video, and other digital offerings.
In response, artists – musicians, performers, writers, painters – are freely sharing their work with the world.
Literary magazine River Teeth’s “Beautiful Things” Blog archive is open access. Ditto Narratively.com, an online collection of outrageous memoirs. Apple’s iBook is offering additional free digital books, as are other sites.
The New York Metropolitan Opera is offering free live audio streaming. And the Guggenheim Museum has made over 200 modern art books available online for free!
I’m using this time to digitize my own collection of published essays and poems, making them available in both online and print form.
Two years ago, poet and anthology editor Eileen R. Tabios contacted me to ask permission to include an essay I wrote on our ecological connections to local wildlife in a forthcoming collection. Entitled “All Our Relations” (Bellevue Literary Review, 2014, Vo. 14, No. 2, special issue on Our Fragile Environment), it was my first piece to be nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
“I have a piece I think you’ll like even better,” I replied.
I referred her to my essay on trying to rescue a little brown bat, “Until We Have Loved” (Hippocampus, 2015, Vol. 11 online, also anthologized in Selected Memories: Five Years of Hippocampus Magazine, February 2017, edited by Donna Talarico). And so it became.
Published in 2018, initially sales of Humanity: An Anthology, Volume 1 (Paloma Press, San Mateo & Morgan Hill, California were devoted to charitable causes.
Now the entire collection of Humanity is available for free download.
The most striking feature of this collection of essays is the bold willingness of each writer to ruthlessly lay bare unseen vulnerabilities and struggles.
In addition to my love letter to a teeny bat, Humanity: An Anthology begins with a story from physician Mary Pan based in the intensive care unit of a rural Kenyan village – an essay particularly appropriate for these times. The anthology ends with a Methodist minister’s musings on how to “make the word a vital, compassionate place for little ones” – another essay well-suited as we respond to a both predicable/seen, and unpredictable/unforeseen, pandemic.
Interspersed with more academic treatises including a reflection by Daniel Atkinson on being Black within the stereotypical “pull-yourself-up-with-your-bootstraps” American entitlement narrative, and poems considering one’s identity, life experiences, and positionality, largely by Filipino poets (an ethnicity shared by the editor), are reflections by John Bloomberg-Rissman on White (Jewish) privilege, by Leny Mendoze Stroebal on becoming an indigenous ancestor, by former Israeli army enlistee J.A. Berstein’s memoir, and by Christine Amour-Levar on a nine-woman trip to the Arctic Circle with Nenet reindeer hunters.
In HUMANITY, we are presented with humanity’s explorations, often struggles, with itself in a variety of contexts. (….) Despite their differences, all of the writers in this book share something in common: thoughtfulness.-E.R. Tabios, ed.
I hope you enjoy getting to know the authors and poets in this collection. May our words inspire you to share your own; and to reach both inside and out, to touch those parts of yourself and others that desperately need touching, especially now.