panacea for the quiet by
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The book “Quiet” by Susan Cain was an affirming revelation. I’m an introvert, so social distancing and sheltering in place aren’t a problem for me; I was pretty much doing it already. And with so much free time, I’m able to write on a regular, uninterrupted basis. I’ve always enjoyed wordsmithery, but now the words come more easily than ever, filling some of the hours I once spent doing other things, like creeping along in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

It’s almost as if I was prepared for this breathtaking pause.

It’s almost as if I was prepared for this breathtaking pause. I already did much of my shopping online, so adapting to InstaCart wasn’t much of a stretch. Thanks to ibooks and audiobooks, YouTube, podcasts, Netflix and other streaming services, I already had access to all the learning and entertainment I could ever dream of. I already subscribed to a few online newspapers and magazines. I already had the ability to connect to my day job through I already had FaceTime and Skype, not quite face-to-face but almost. About the only things I’m really missing right now (aside from the Bob Dylan concert at the Hollywood Bowl that will undoubtedly be canceled and even if it isn’t I doubt I would go) are the hugs and kisses of friends and family. When and if life gets back to normal, there’s gonna be a whole lot of touching going on — or is there?

In these quiet times, I can actually hear my heartbeat. I go deep within, thump-thump, and there I connect with another aspect of my being, using my handwritten gesture as the basis for art. With nibs, brushes, pipettes, and ink at hand, I make marks on paper that express the feelings I don’t have the ability to express in words — I think of them as poems without words.

True to my nature, I’ve never been much of a joiner, but I do love online workshops — recently enrolled in MasterClass and it’s a godsend. And now comes Zoom, and suddenly I’m part of not one but three writing groups, and a group of friends that play games like Would You Rather and Scavenger Hunt when, IRL, I doubt we’d get together anywhere near as regularly. And Retrospect has become a second home, where I have a new family of friends with whom I happily spend more time than I thought I had. I even prepare meals more thoughtfully. It’s not that I’m cooking more creatively, we’re pretty much eating the same as always, but I’m more aware of the act of nourishing, feeding. Feeding for health, for existence, for love.

So panacea? Yes, in certain small ways I do feel better now than I did before, but then I remember why. I remember what’s out there. What it’s doing to others. And then I feel bad for feeling better. Because this is too big, in too many ways. We know there’s no such thing as a cure-all, but things can change. We can change. Maybe there’s a philosophical panacea in our future, of pan-continental proportions, for all of humanity, and for our Mother, planet Earth. One can only hope.


Profile photo of Barbara Buckles Barbara Buckles
Artist, writer, storyteller, spy. Okay, not a spy…I was just going for the rhythm.

I call myself “an inveterate dabbler.” (And my husband calls me “an invertebrate babbler.”) I just love to create one way or another. My latest passion is telling true stories live, on stage. Because it scares the hell out of me.

As a memoirist, I focus on the undercurrents. Drawing from memory, diaries, notes, letters and photographs, I never ever lie, but I do claim creative license when fleshing out actual events in order to enhance the literary quality, i.e., what I might have been wearing, what might have been on the table, what season it might have been. By virtue of its genre, memoir also adds a patina of introspection and insight that most probably did not exist in real time.

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Characterizations: moving, well written


  1. BB, as always in your stories we hear your inner voice, and then the story packs a wallop, sometimes a sneak-up, quiet one, but a wallop nevertheless!
    Stay safe!

  2. Laurie Levy says:

    As a fellow introvert who also devoured “Quiet” when it first came out, I totally get where you are coming from, Barb. Like you, what I miss most of all is being able to hug my grandkids, kids, and friends. I think if I weren’t moving now and so fearful about all of the people with whom I am forced to interact, I would be content to write and read and create, Life in general is slower and less frenetic, and I hope that will continue when we emerge from our current state of staying at home.

  3. Suzy says:

    Reading your story was very soothing to me. You make it sound like such a calm, peaceful time. Which in some ways it is, and I know I should focus on the good instead of fretting about the bad. I think I used to be an introvert when I was young, but now I love interacting with people, and I really miss it these days. Thank you for a lovely interlude!

    • Well, I did choose to focus on the positive for the story, Suzy. I almost chose an image for “head in sand”…during the first few weeks my anxiety was such that I had to stop watching the news or I couldn’t sleep without taking a chill pill. I forced my husband to spoon feed me tidbits that I was able to digest without losing it. Better now…because at least I’m able to see a glimmer of light ahead.

  4. Marian says:

    Let’s hear it for the quiet of introverts, Barb. Love Susan Cain’s book and was encouraged by it. I, too, do a lot of communicating with friends in writing and think I’m more articulate that way than on the phone, or sometimes even in person. Food is different somehow, now. Like you and your husband, Dick and I are eating close to the same foods, but now I experiment more (How would the beans and rice taste with chili powder? I’ll try steaming the fish with the mushroom-sesame dressing I bought). All the senses are more intense, and you’ve conveyed that beautifully.

  5. Right there with you, Barbara. And Suzy. Calming, as in the panacea, soothing. Taking a breath outside. I’ve been having difficulty meditating, I think because — as you said above — the power of the pandemic yanks me out of inner focus, the others. Comfort in the company of others, like here, so naturally fitting into the online tube, a fragile but critical panacea.

  6. Betsy Pfau says:

    Really a beautiful essay this week, Barb. You are truly an artist/philosopher. I go through spurts of needing people, then am perfectly happy, in fact NEED to be alone. I find it more difficult to find quiet time to write now, as the computer is in the den, where my husband is always watching TV. I don’t have a laptop, so can’t go off somewhere to escape. He seemed stunned that I wouldn’t join him soon on a trip to Martha’s Vineyard to open that house before we go for the season (I never have before and don’t intend to now). I really need some time by myself right now and appreciate your introvert.

    • Thanks so much, Betsy. Everyone is different, of course, but for some of us alone time is critical. I wake up two hours earlier than my husband just to have that time in the morning to myself, and then I’m good to go. Do enjoy yours…I think everyone is ready for some at this point.

      I love it when you mention Martha’s Vineyard because now that I’ve been there (just last year), I can picture it so vividly. I sure hope we make it back there some day…such an incredibly special place, like none other!

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