Images of Meaning: How we’re getting by

Libby Goff, Bwindi Uganda

The intensity and body language of these beautiful children captivated my immediate wonder and curiosity. They were deep in conversation and starting with a touch, one little girl had something of great significance to say. How many times have you turned to a friend and summoned them with a light nudge of the hand to say, “Wait listen, I’ve got something to share with you that’s important.” With social distancing and shelter-at-home in place, we are unable to touch our friends physically. But we do get to use our voices and whisper from afar; I love you, I appreciate you, I hold you close at heart and I care. 

When this is over, and there will be an end to the isolation, may we purposefully hold one another, share a meaningfully hug as if this could happen again, cherish the physical touch of a hand shake, the kiss on a forehead, a friendly pat on the shoulder and the warmth and energy transferred when standing shoulder to shoulder with colleagues and friends. We will eventually get to congregate again, and when standing amongst a sea of humanity may we have a new found respect for each other remembering, sometimes the story starts with just two.

Ronny Stewart, San Antonio TX

I think of bluebonnet photography as a visual analogy to the profession of medicine.  It even provides visual proof to me that to see the beauty requires the right perspective and context, and a soft, gentle light makes all the difference. If I don’t view it from the “right” perspective and miss the context, or view it through a harsh light, I may miss something amazingly beautiful. 
Yolanda Crous, San Antonio TX

My college friends and I have been close for more than 25 years, but it wasn’t until this pandemic that we thought to start a group chat and weekly Zoom calls. I suddenly have access to the precious trivialities of their lives again—what they’re making for dinner, which ’90s exercise videos they’re doing to stay sane, whose pet is most irritated by their owner’s now constant presence. (This photo is from our first Zoom call, when a few of us thought it would be fun to introduce our dogs to one another; Casper, Beauty, and Daisy were underwhelmed.) For me, this strange, strange time has brought on a kind of dissonance of intimacy, one where I can’t visit my father in the RGV or hug a patient’s family member when I’m volunteering, but I can witness a dear friend on the East Coast negotiating Minecraft time with her son and rehash the day with a friend in Abu Dhabi over coffee or a glass of wine. We have lost much and many in this time of COVID-19. I wonder what recovery will look like once it comes—and which small pieces of magic that we have gained will we be able to sustain. 
Richard Usatine, Fair Oaks Ranch TX

My wife and I are sheltering-in-place and enjoying walks around our block for exercise and viewing of nature.
We try to go at sunset to take in the beautiful colors as the sun goes down. I placed the road to the left to balance the open woods on the right and the beautiful sky above.
Jason Rosenfeld, San Antonio TX

This pandemic and the required physical distancing has given me the opportunity to build an even deeper relationship with my boys. I have found that the extended time I have spent with Anders and Corbin has actually helped me become a better father: more patient and more willing to focus on the little things, which are all that matter to them. This picture shows the result of an entire day of working together building a lego city with Anders. I couldn’t imagine spending that day any other way and am grateful that we had the time to co-create together.
Ruth Grubesic, Bandera TX
Ruth Grubesic, Bandera TX

To de-stress, I spend time outside gardening. The garden is blossoming and we even recently had a new baby calf. Being in a natural environment provides me sanity. Even though if you heard me talking to my plants and to the calf I might sound insane😂. First thing in the morning I tend to the chickens. Later in the day I go for a walk with the dogs (our perimeter check) to see what is going on outside. Late afternoon it is time to feed the cows. In between, when I need a break from the computer, I go out and tend to the garden.
Tracey Vuong, San Antonio TX

I’ve been trying different baking recipes during #quarantinelife.  This is my second time trying a fruit tart. The first attempt, the custard was too liquid, so I added more cornstarch the second time around. I’m enjoying learning more about why recipes call for different ingredients and how manipulating the ingredients add to the final product.
Drew Sanderson, Flower Mound TX

I don’t have the opportunity to come home much during the year while I’m at school, but the move to an all-online curriculum has allowed me to return to my hometown to stay with my family. My mom says it reassures her to have everyone back under one roof during this stressful time. We’ve made a recent habit of going on walks together on the trails near our house during her lunch hour. Even if it’s cloudy outside, this time is a bright part of my day. We stay away from others, but it is interesting to see how popular the trail has become since this all began. While I miss going to school, being home has given me a chance to reconnect with my family and enjoy quality time with them I might not otherwise have had.
Chris Yan, Northborough MA

It takes a village
I left home to self-quarantine in my parents’ basement when covid reached our hospital and I was re-assigned to the covid units. My wife takes care of the kids on her own now, and drives over clothes and supplies weekly. My mom sends late dinners and groceries down. My friends text and write encouragement. And my dad rises before 6:00 every morning to make me breakfast, which he leaves outside my door before I get up. Fried egg, toast, smoked salmon, coffee. On my first day in the unit, this was the only thing I ate all day. Sometimes what sustains you is nature, art, poetry. Sometimes it’s literally just the food people bring you. 
Maureen Miller, MD

On our last international trip before the shelter, my family warmed up from raw sleet at Toronto’s annual Christmas market. Looking for gloves, we found Mo the Moose, a hand puppet designed by Vancouver-based HaislaHeiltsuk artist Paul Windsor. Each puppet has an ear tag describing the animal’s persona. Mo’s describes him as “Being huge and strong/My antlers go high into the sky/I am a vegan who loves trees.”

I, Maureen, am, self-recriminating and petite with holiday poundage, a reluctant pescetarian slouched from back pain and fearful of camping. At work lately, I’d felt easy to kick down like a twig. Knowing that, my father insisted we buy Mo and proceeded to imbue Mo with my alter ego, a mirror of boundless  self-compassion who spoke in Kermit the Frog’s throaty falsetto “MAUREEN IS FANTASTIC!!!!!!”

For me, COVID came into life just after Christmas, earlier than for most people. I can’t tell its tales for work reasons. But when I see Mo the Moose listless on my shelf, I laugh. Mo insists that I am fantastic, and it seems Mo has felt that my whole life.
Marin Albers, Conroe TX

Just about as quickly as we moved to our home, we planted milkweeds; and about as soon as they were in the ground, the Monarchs came!  The zealous caterpillars eat the milkweeds continually to the nub, but the plant endures with similar indomitable zeal.  We have been humored to find many chrysalides inauspiciously placed, namely to the children’s brightly colored, mostly mobile outdoor play things.  For the Monarch’s safety and with the aid of surgical training and wood glue, my husband meticulously transferred them to a board. They are a wonder to behold!
Peg Seger, San Antonio TX

My son posted this earlier in the week. Shown is my grandson’s bearded dragon Bobzilla (Bob for short) who seems to be growing exponentially and not showing any signs of lack of food as yet.   (My grandson wanted to call him Godzilla but the shortened nickname became problematic.)
Louisa Xie, Denton TX

I love Chinese food. Spending time at home with my mom (who was born and raised in Sichuan, China) lends to some great lessons on traditional recipes, with nostalgic storytelling of her childhood. Due to recent shortage of grains and similar products, my mom has opted for handmade noodles. Noodles are a symbol of longevity in Chinese culture. We’ve been eating a lot of noodles lately. 
Taddy McAllister, San Antonio TX

I’m still walking every morning and I have a momentary thrill, then a momentary chill, when I see the baby leaves coming out on the trees.  Don’t they know?
Carson Cotrino, Houston TX

This picture was taken on the morning of my grandfather’s funeral, just days before all the stay-at-home orders were issued. I woke up to find my boyfriend and little brother playing Legos in the early morning light, and I found the moment so innocent in the midst of a rising global pandemic and the death of my grandfather. Even though I can’t physically see my family now, I find solace in seeing them on FaceTime and have made more of an effort than before to call and text. In a strange way this pandemic has taught me the value of family, and how we can lean on each other even from afar in tough times.
Mark Laussade (photographer) and Nancy Laussade (narrative) Georgetown TX

I find that working with clay, using my hands, forces me to focus. I am able to stop worrying about my family becoming ill, not being able to be with them and help. It calms me for a bit and I can keep going.
Cameron Holmes, San Antonio TX

As my life as a medical student has slowed down significantly, I’ve been able to observe and appreciate nature even more than before. This is a picture of the first bloom of the season from my rose bush. It started to bloom the day our clerkships were stopped and it’s reminded me that even though our humanly world has slowed/stopped, nature keeps moving forward, business as usual. 

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