By Marieke Slovin Lewis / Seattle
When my mom, Helene Bednarsh, told me in the fall of 2020 that a friend of hers from Oak Park, Mich. had created an online magazine dedicated to all things pandemic, I jumped at the chance to write about my experiences living in northern Europe.
At the time, my husband Richard and I were living in Bailleul, France. We had just moved there from Belgium after the pandemic turned our plans to return to the U.S. upside down. We had tickets and reservations for our three cats and our dog to return to Prescott, Arizona, but the airlines began canceling all international travel with animals. No way to sneak on board when you have four, but we were lucky to be able to say yes to a one-year postdoc position in France.
Writing for The Insider gave me a clear focus and became an important outlet, a way to connect with people all over the world. I am deeply grateful to Andrea Sachs for her ingenuity and dedication to this project, as well as her support and feedback. I have learned so much about the craft through Andrea’s ideas and feedback. I have enormous gratitude as well for Matt Nadelson, whose tech brilliance gave added dimension and pizzaz to my pieces.
My Insider pandemic experience spanned two lockdowns in France, the 2020 U.S. presidential election, the January 6 2021 siege on the Capitol, and my desperate attempts to get a first vaccine before returning to the U.S. in June 2021.
In The Insider in January 2021, I shared the experiences of people from different corners of the globe, from Homer, Alaska to Holon, Israel. That story in particular gave me a chance to connect with people going through their own pandemic experiences. There was a sense of solidarity and support as we communicated back and forth, sharing ups and downs, photos of social distancing signs, selfies with masks, and creative ways to safely gather outdoors.
The Insider was ever-present as I wrote about returning to the United States and the culture shock we experienced moving back to GOP-dominated Arizona after five years abroad and in the middle of a global pandemic. I wrote about life in Arizona and the struggle of trying to protect my health and well-being in a place that was already conservative before the Trump years and had become even more so in the years since. I managed to get through nearly three years without contracting the virus until I tested positive within days of traveling to visit family in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Writing to you now from my new stomping grounds in Seattle, I feel a sigh that our time together is ending but also so much gratitude. For me, writing has always been a meditative practice, a way to find meaning out of the trials and tribulations of life’s up and downs. It has also been a means for overcoming loneliness.
If you have followed my writing for The Insider, you know that I am a globetrotter. This kind of life comes with moments of intense isolation. It’s part of the package when you have to start over in a new place time and again. That can be an exciting opportunity to recreate yourself, to meet new people and explore new cultures and places. During a pandemic, the nomadic life can be more than a little challenging.
I will always be so thankful for my time with The Insider and to everyone who has read and commented on my pieces. As I continue to write, I invite you to follow my journey. I never know where each new year will take me. In this strange new post-pandemic world, we need connection with each other more than ever.
I hope you will come “see” me at my blog and share your stories as well! You can find me at “Life of Marieke”: https://lifeofmarieke.com/ To follow my work, writing music with people from their stories, visit: https://guidingsong.com/
Until we meet again, in the virtual realm and maybe even in person, I wish you joy and health. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you!
Marieke Slovin Lewis is a writer, musician, singer-songwriter, yoga teacher, and editor. She holds a Ph.D. in Sustainability Education and writes music from people's life stories, using a method called Story-to-Song that she developed with a fellow doctoral student. She was recognized as a finalist for the 2021 Amateo Award for arts participation projects in Europe for her project, "On the Move: Poems and Songs of Migration," for which she wrote songs with refugees and asylum seekers in Brussels, Belgium about their migration experiences. Marieke is a wandering soul and has lived all over the world. She is currently living with her husband, two cats, and a big white husky in Seattle, Washington.