A couple of lines from a Paul Simon song have been running through my head for the last week or so.
The song is the ravishing Wartime Prayers; the lines are from a verse about how this is a hard time - and what are you going to do?
Well, you cry -
and try to muscle through,
Try to rearrange your stuff...
(The lines lose a lot written down flat on a page: listen to the song!)
Since the beginning of June we've seen a trickle of people coming to Vic Yards and dropping in at our workshop. In the manner of people slightly freaked out by circumstances, and slightly starved of contact, we invariably chat a bit from behind our masks.
And this is how I meet the bright-eyed 17 year old who shrugs gamely about missing out on her matric dance, and the young man who had this one chance to make the national hockey trials, and the woman tearful about her grandchildren who she's got to see a few times, but can't hug.
Each of these people speaks from a position of privilege. None of these things is a tragedy, and yet each one is an irrecoverable loss.
At the Vic Yards soup kitchen the concerns are of a different order, the stakes high, the stories heartbreaking.
Those Paul Simon lines seem to me to capture something of how it's both ordinary and heroic what we're all doing: making accommodations and adjustments - of plans, funds, hopes & dreams, expectations of futures both near and distant. You try to muscle through. You try to rearrange your stuff.
So far, as a small business (a micro enterprise, really) we have been fairly lucky, in that we have consistently had work to do since re-opening on May 1st. Like many others we're putting effort behind a greater online focus; like many others we are gratefully tallying up every order or sale.
And so almost-normal co-exists with unimaginably strange and, along with everyone else, we try to navigate the gap.
We try to be sensitive to the needs of both our clients and our suppliers, many of them smallish businesses themselves.
We are kind to each other at work, and careful about COVID-19 protocols.
We adjust designs to be easier-fit and therefore better for online. We shift to all-local sourcing. We try and make things that will give people warmth and comfort and maybe some tactile and visual joy.
We try to rearrange our stuff. We try to muscle through. And we know we're not alone.