Movies in the Time of Pandemic

One thing the pandemic has been good for is staying in and watching movies. For me, it’s mostly older movies I’ve wanted to revisit, but hadn’t had time. Some of them replay on television, but I really, really hate being interrupted by 5 minutes of commercials. So off to Netflix and Prime and others I go. Or I look through my bookshelves of Blu-rays/DVDs and dig out a favorite. 

I like movies that have a slow build-up, that delve into character before making things explode. Movies we can talk about after they are finished. Turning on Netflix, I’m overwhelmed by choice and spend more time adding to my watchlist than actually watching. 

Running Lists

I made a list of the movies I turn to again and again. Some are old, some are newer, but not many. My tastes run to fantasy and science fiction (big surprise), musicals, drama, and opera. Period pieces are great, especially Korean, Chinese, and Japanese. The drawback – they are long, we’re talking 3 – 4+ hours long. Mini-series length. They are so engrossing, I don’t mind. 

The Blues Brothers. When I need a pick me up, that’s the movie I put on. I love musicals. I probably left a lot of them off my list, they are hard to find on television, except on PBS. Bollywood movies are usually a blast. Surprisingly, Netflix has a lot of them. I’m a sucker for Disney cartoons like Moana and Brave, although I didn’t list any Disney movies. But I’ll always watch them. I’m sure there are tons more movies I could add, but the ones listed below are some of my favorites, in no particular order. What are some of yours? What movies do you turn to when COVID makes you stay home?

My Watch List:

The Martian (AKA another “Saving Matt Damon” movie at our house)

Field of Dreams

Lord of the Rings/Hobbit

My Neighbor Totoro

Spirited Away (Okay, any Miyazaki movie)


The Princess Bride

Aida (the Metropolitan Opera version with Violeta Urmana/Johan Botha)

Red (Mark Rothko) on Great Performances

The Lion in Winter

2001 A Space Odyssey

Apollo 13



Singin’ in the Rain

Die Hard

Blade Runner

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Monty Python and The Holy Grail

Lawrence of Arabia

Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (Indian)

Red Cliff (Chinese)

Seven Samurai

Hidden Figures

Major League

Blues Brothers


Godzilla (1954 & 2014)

The Producers

The Warrior (Korean)

The Great Battle (Chinese)

The Value of Silence in an Uncertain World

You’d think in the Time of Covid I would be scrambling to listen to music, to soothe myself with rock, classical, new age. Anything to distract from the nagging fear looming over my shoulder that the person at work not wearing a mask is going to infect me, and with my high risk status, I’m a goner despite MY mask. Music should give solace to my uptight brain. 

It didn’t work out that way. 

Sometimes I listen to 70’s and 80’s rock going to and from work. It’s mindless, it reminds me of childhood, some songs are even uplifting. It gets me through the commute without too many four-letter words. But at home or on walks, I listen to the silence. The hum of the refrigerator, the whir of a fan. Birds chirping outside the window. The wind roaring through the trees. (Wyoming has some hellacious winds, up to 35mph on a normal day. No pleasant breeze here.)  On a walk, I hear my footsteps. Children shrieking on the playground. The growl of an untuned truck engine. Easy enough to let fade into the background. 

Silence has value. 

Experience has taught me that silence is a part of the spiritual discipline of a votary of truth. Proneness to exaggerate, to suppress or modify the truth, wittingly or unwittingly, is a natural weakness of man, and silence is necessary in order to surmount it. 


It provides balance to a world beset by noise, 24/7. The world shoves itself in your face, demanding to be heard, looked at. Feared. Nonstop news, advertising, all demanding my attention. I feel the uncertainty I carry receding as I chose to turn off the tv, shut down the computer, and pick up a book. Or weave. Or carve a woodblock. 

Silence has energy.

“You will at once feel your senses gather themselves together; they seem like bees which return to the hive and there shut themselves up to work without effort or care on your part. 

St. Teresa

It recharges my mental batteries and relaxes my body. My mind slows down. I hear and see things I’d ordinarily pass over. As a writer, that’s a prize. As a human, it’s precious. We’ve forgotten how to find peace in our lives. Peace brings balance. The hardest thing to do is turn off the running dialogue in your head. Without the constant uproar, ideas percolate unrestrained. Poems sing through your head. Connections are made from unconnected thoughts. 

As a writer, who wouldn’t want that?

Scientifically, it helps your brain and overall health. If it all sounds very Zen, it is. And it isn’t. Each religion has a special place for silence in its practice. But you don’t need religion to help you find silence in reflection. Just a willingness to step away from the world, to disconnect for a little while. It’s hard at first, but nothing gets easier without practice. Practice being yourself. Silence can teach you that.

Listen to silence. It has so much to say. 


The Renaissance Woman Today

I can’t be good at everything

Imagine my surprise when I came to this realization. Society says we should strive for perfection in all things. To boldly go where no writer/artist/knitter/printer has gone before. To be different, unique. Special. 

Fine and dandy, but I call bullshit. 

Extroverts and Type A personalities run the world. They push. And push. More, better, faster. I bought in to it. When you already operate from a brain that is attention deficient, what are a few more things to rattle around up there? A busload of screaming kids, all clamoring for attention. You get used to the noise and disarray. It took a good long while before I realized I didn’t want to get used to the racket, especially racket of my own making. 

In my arrogance, I thought I could juggle all the balls and be equally good at everything. It took a few clues landing on my head with a thunk to realize I’m not. I’m not good at everything. And I don’t need to be. It’s not a race against the world to reach the top. It’s not a death march up Everest. 

With realization came planning.

What could I let go of? All the juggling balls don’t have equal weight. What was important to me? Important enough to want to hang on to that, and not something else. Creating was important, but what did that look like? I had way too many hobbies, I needed to let go of some. I did, but I still haven’t let go of the material things surrounding the hobby. One step at a time. Into storage with them.

Writing stayed. It had to. It’s part of me. Novels, poems, and essays. Trying to write short stories and flash fiction went by the wayside, they are not my strong points. I’m well rounded enough without them, although it was hard to tell myself that. Write all the things! That’s what I used to believe.

Printmaking stayed. I have a deep-seated love of the smell of ink and the creation of an image on paper rolled through a press or rubbed by hand. I kept watercolors and drawing pads to create ideas for prints, and to see if an image would be better suited to another medium than printmaking. It’s hard to let go of some types of art. I’m never going to be the kind of watercolor painter I wanted to be, acceptance of that made my painting better as I found my own methods.

Knitting and weaving. There’s something about the tactile nature of knitting and weaving that appeals to me. The creation of something practical, useable. The design of a pair of colorwork mittens, a hat, or table runners is a meditative experience. Seeing the design come to life is gratifying. Knitting and weaving stay. They get pushed to the side sometimes, but they stay in my repertoire. 

Everything else that stays is for a practical reason. I no longer design websites, except my own. Sewing is for masks and quilts, but it’s for fun when I feel so moved. Photography has mostly gone, except for practical stuff. I majored in it, I shouldn’t let it go, but the truth is I loved working with a Rolleiflex camera and its square format, and a 4×5 camera with its huge negatives I developed myself. Now that the world is digital, it’s really hard to work with old-style negatives and development. It was another meditative experience swept away by point and click. I still have the old cameras, just in case. 

I really wanted to be a Renaissance woman. I don’t think it’s possible anymore. That’s okay, the last thing someone needs is to pressure themselves into scattered interests with no time to improve them all. I can’t be perfect at everything, but I can do some things to my own satisfaction. Most days, that’s enough.

Advice Paralysis

How’s your writing going? How’s your quarantine going? How are you doing today? 

I finally identified my current writing problem. Instruction fatigue that leads to paralysis. I’m editing a novel as I try to write more poetry. I’m using search and replace to search and destroy insidious words. Good advice I read somewhere. Normally, I would embrace what I can use, discard the rest. I enjoy helpful advice. 


Since all the writers are stuck at home, advice is gushing out to blogs and writing sites like water from a fire hose. Everyone has the time to advise right now. “Write All The Things!” Advice flies at me every time I open my email or browse to my favorite sites. At first, it seemed good. I gulped the gushing water. Then I tried to apply it to my own work. That’s when I choked. Contradictions rattled in my brain. Do this, not that. Do that, not this. Write, no, write more. Wear a mask. Wear two masks. Wrap duct tape around your face and wear a welding shield. Don’t touch your face. Don’t touch anything. Don’t breathe, it’s safer. But despite that, write. 

Tons of articles appeared on how to use this stay at home time to your advantage, most of them exhorting you to not waste time and get that Great American Novel (or Poem) in the works. Sort of NaNoWriMo, the Pandemic Version. It can guilt-trip people frozen in place by everyday fears—money, food, rent, worry about loved ones. The numbered “C” that has replaced the Big C. Getting through the day seems more important than getting Sylvia out of the murder house and on the run for her life. 

It’s a dystopian novel that sprung to life. Kudos to those who can keep plugging on despite the looming end of the world as we know it. (Too much?) I struggle to do any real editing of my novel, other than nit-picky stuff—eradicating weasel words like “that” and “would”. My poetry has undertones of despair. Even a poem about a flower ends with its death. I’m afraid to edit previous work because of this. I’m trying to pull up my bootstraps and accept writing isn’t coming from a happy place right now.

I don’t want to journal. Meditating is not the answer to all problems. Hurtling an asteroid into Earth seems like a good place to end a sci-fi novel.

Must Not Give In To Annihilating Humanity. 

Find inspiration where you can. Don’t worry if you can’t. 

That’s all I’ve got right now. I venture out the door to my “essential” (sacrificial) job with the public that leaves me fearful I’ve caught coronavirus every time I leave at five. That I’ve brought it home to my family. Writing needs to be a safe space. Not swallowing the fire hose of advice is now refuge from my tendency to beat myself up over not producing more, since I’m stuck in the house when I’m not at work. 

Advice is a sign of the times. It’s a cozy blanket fort offered up as salve to our burning fears. It wants to distract us from the underlying terror that something bad is going to happen and we’re helpless to stop it. I like to be in control of my world and damn it, the world is spinning out of control. I’m embracing the paralysis by easing away from social media and the news. I’m baking bread. Writing ideas in a notebook with my favorite pen. Petting the dog. Reading everything I can get my hands on. Paralysis retreats inch by inch. By the weekend, I’m ready to write again and send my plaintive “How are you doing today?” out into the world once more. 

Back to Top