Today, March 12th marks the anniversary of the first day of the pandemic lockdown. I was sipping tea at A Taste of Britain with my friend Lea when I got a text informing me that the college was closing and my job was moving off-campus to my home office. My students and I could handly know what a hard year was coming. I got them through it and got myself through it, but it occurs to me now that I've watched too much TV over the past year and ate too many donuts. Some of the TV was good, like the Queen's Gambit on Netflix, but a lot was brain-numbing entertainment. Now much of CNN and MSNBC can one watch in a day without reaching for a dish of butter pecan ice cream? Now that I've had my shots and am re-entering the world, I've decided to embark on a new project I'm calling Bookgirl52. I've turned off the TV and plan to read a book a week, 52 books by this time next year.
I've lined up the books in my office, some of them complicated tomes like Siddhartha Mukherjee's 500-page history of the gene. Bill Bryson's At Home, a history of private life, is on the list, as is Walter Isaacson's latest, The Code Breakers. I am a devoted fan of Thomas Lynch's essays on dying and death, therefore his book, Whence and Whither: On Lives and Living, is the first to be opened. In it he asks the question: How did you come to be the one you are? He advises, "Look for the watersheds, the moments upon which everything seems to depend - the shape of the journey, the way home, the turn in the road from which vantage we see where we have come from and where we are bound, the whence and whither of our personal histories, the race we were born to run - those pools of happenstance out of which arise the life and times that bear our name and face, our being in the world."
The pandemic is a watershed for all of us. It is certainly a turn in the road in all of our lives. I'm looking forward to seeing you all on this next journey.