Letters from the Pandemic 24: The Elms
by Katherine Krampol
Too long without words — forgive me. It was such an effort adjusting to this new life of perennial solitude and I lost myself in it. But today, the air is fresh and hopeful — Spring is coming! You were the first I thought to write to.
I am living presently next to one of the busiest roadways in Vancouver. I moved into the suite rather hastily at the onset of the pandemic. The size of the suite, and the newly painted walls, bright and pure as snowdrops, seduced me. But no sooner had I signed the lease, under the landlord’s rapacious watch, did the voice of the road outside rise-up and unleash its terrible potential. I had no idea how hurried this city was!
If you could see through my eyes: outside my window and through a row of battered Elm trees, six lanes of traffic roar by. On rainy days, the noise intensifies as vehicles battle against the droplets and winds dash about the elm boughs like curtains in a storm.
It pains my heart that I can do nothing to protect the trees. Let us start a plot to liberate them!
The first few months living here were unbearable. The heaving city buses and cement trucks unnerved my morning spirit. On particularly jarring days, I imagine the drivers as deranged charioteers, gaping mouths seething with determination, careening down the roadway to some destination of relief or begrudging obligation. Accelerating to outrun their own madness!
Hyperbolic, perhaps? Perhaps not: it’s been a tough year.
I’ve devised several strategies to dampen the noise. My “Mist on the Water” radio playlist — remind me to share it with you — contains tranquil pieces by Debussy and Bach and has been successful in blotting out late-afternoon rush hour. At night, I wear earplugs and a heavy bean pillow on my head. I have to confess that at the height of my mania, I papered the walls of my bedroom with flattened moving boxes only to hear them escape their scotch tape bonds and plunge to the floor.
No doubt my acute sensitivity to traffic noise has something to do with Covid and the panic-stricken world. Perhaps, as Freud might say, I’m projecting my deep disturbances upon an environment out of my control. It seems like a rational enough diagnosis, tidy and manageable, so I shall take it.
In any case, I have found some respite from the relentless clamour in a family of jubilant chickadees and the lone squirrel living in the Elms. The squirrel is particularly entertaining. He spends most afternoon hours in a state of enthralment grooming his winter-plump body, an intimate display which, at times, can make one blush.
I also suspect the squirrel sleeps in my defunct chimney where I can faintly smell him — a sour musk odour — and hear him shuffling about at night, adjusting his bed covers. It frightened me at first, this proximity to wildlife, but I have grown to appreciate the squirrel’s steady company.
I will be moving from this place as my lease is finally coming to an end. I wanted to share this with you before I quarantine elsewhere, in some quiet haven I hope; by then I will have a new story to tell.
Though I appreciate this time to contemplate and reflect, Covid is such a terror. It’s too much to bear. I hope you are doing well. Send me a few words when you can spare the time from your writing.
Assailing you with kisses,
Katherine Anca Krampol is a creative content producer, writer, and GLS master’s student at SFU. Currently, she freelances under the company name Orange Pulp, focusing on media storytelling for the non-profit, civic, and cultural sector.
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3 comments on “Letters from the Pandemic 24: The Elms”
Excellent work, Katherine! Your prose are exquisite. Your letter really captures covid malaise.
I loved this exquisitely written narrative and I have shared it with many. So much to relate to. You bring such couth to an otherwise inelegant moment in time. The visual of the fall of the moving boxes scotch-taped to the wall evoked a howl of laughter. A reflection of similar awkward/desperate fixes we have all attempted in order to battle some perceived demon. Katherine: your shared thoughts are a gift of great comfort and joy. Thank you!
Thank you for your enormously kind and generous words, Judith! That it brought you a howl of laughter brightens my heart. It wasn’t until I sat down to write this that I began to realize how much my life had become an ever-evolving sport of sanity strategies. I realize now many can relate, as you say. It is comforting to see that connection, especially in such separated times. Thank you again for letting me know your experience.