In spring 2020, we began collectively experiencing isolation at a scale that was unimaginable just weeks prior. Billions of people had been asked to stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the rapidly spreading coronavirus. As we sheltered in place, not only were we are cut off from the people we love, we were also cut off from the natural places we love. Beaches, forests, and parks were closed. Warning signs were posted at trailheads, and caution tape was wrapped around playgrounds.
While it was harder than usual to spend time in natural places, we also needed natural places more than usual as a respite from the headlines, as a place to breathe deeply and process grief, and as inspiration as we imagine post-pandemic society, among many other things.
A Call for Submissions
The Spring Creek Project launched a call for submissions, "The Nature of Isolation," and invited writers and artists, the great meaning makers, to explore their home ecosystems and reflect on the nature of isolation during the pandemic. We wondered: What are you learning from the shelter of your place? What do house plants know about quarantine? What does your garden offer about mortality? What are you learning about renewal from the wilderness of sunlight and rain out your window? How is this microscopic virus changing the biome of your body and mind?
Creative Responses from Around the World
The response to our call was overwhelming. In five short weeks, we received creative work from nearly 300 people. A panel of judges reviewed the submissions and selected creative work from 28 people. Thank you to Jeff Fearnside, Kristi Quillen, and Daniela Molnar for reviewing the writing submissions. Next, we asked each writer and artist to record a video of their piece from home. Everyone graciously agreed to try, even though for many contributors this was the first video they had ever made.
The resulting collection includes contributors from across the United States—from California to Pennsylvania and from Oklahoma to North Carolina—and from around the world, with artists and writers in Israel, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, and Nigeria.
While each piece was created in isolation, they speak to our common humanity. Spring Creek Project released one video per day during the month of October 2020. We hope you enjoy the collection whether you are still sheltering in place or piecing together a life after lockdown.
Watch the Nature of Isolation series
About the Contributors
Jenna Butler is an Albertan poet, essayist, editor, and professor. A woman of color interested in multiethnic narratives of place, Butler teaches creative and environmental writing at Red Deer College and runs an off-grid organic farm. (Creative nonfiction)
Yvonne Blomer is an award-winning poet and the author of the travel memoir Sugar Ride: Cycling from Hanoi to Kuala Lumpur. Her most recent book is Sweet Water: Poems for the Watershed, the second in a trilogy of poetry anthologies with a focus on water Yvonne is editing. (Creative nonfiction)
Ruth Askew Brelsford is a retired theatre instructor. She lives in a log cabin with her husband, three rescue dogs, and menagerie of rescue cats in the mountains of southeastern Oklahoma. When not in quarantine, Ruth teaches creative writing in the local minimum-security prison and mediates in both Small Claims and Child Placement courts. She is a CASA volunteer. (Creative nonfiction)
Born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, Geinene Carson's foundation in visual art originated with a BFA degree in Painting and Sculpture earned from William Carey College on the Coast, in Gulfport, Mississippi. She furthered her art studies at the Lacoste School of the Arts in France and by living and working in Vienna, Austria, for several years. Now residing in Atlanta, when not in her studio, Geinene is a very present wife, mother of two, and advocate for using the arts as a bridge between people. Though her work has varied over the course of her career, her current focus has been on neuro-centric subject matter and creative advocacy connecting with a variety of communities in the realm of neuroscience, rare disease, and mental health—inspiring others to express, own, and reclaim our thought life in response to the obstacles we face. (Visual art)
Natalie Copeland is a multi-disciplinary artist and STEAM educator. Raised in the foothills of the Cascade range, Copeland holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from Central Washington University, and is known primarily for her work in Seattle fringe theatre. She is passionate about wild spaces, teaching students to stargaze in the planetarium, and adventuring with friends. She recently released her first book, WHEEL: A Heart's Hike Through—a hand-written, hand-illustrated poetry novel. Find out more about this and other projects on Natalie's website. (Visual art)
Cheryl Dumesnil's books include the poetry collections Showtime at the Ministry of Lost Causes and In Praise of Falling (University of Pittsburgh Press); a memoir, Love Song for Baby X (Ig Publishing); and the anthologies We Got This: Solo Mom Stories of Grit, Heart, and Humor (SheWrites Press) and Dorothy Parker's Elbow: Tattoos on Writers, Writers on Tattoos (Warner Books). A freelance writer, editor, and writing coach, she lives Northern California with her two children and her wife, Sarah. She blogs at The Crisis Diaries, and you can learn more about her work on her website. (Poetry)
Tim Fab-Eme enjoys playing with poetic forms and the themes of identity, exploitation, and the environment. He loves gardening and sometimes thinks himself a farmer. Tim hopes to revisit his abandoned prose manuscripts and treat them the way he treats his poetry. He lives in Rivers, Nigeria. His work is published in The Malahat Review, New Welsh Review, Magma; apt, The Fiddlehead, and FIYAH, etc. Tim studied engineering at the Niger Delta University, and he is presently pursuing a BA in English Studies at the University of Port Harcourt. (Poetry)
RK Fauth is a writer living in Asheville, North Carolina. RK's writing has been recognized by Passages North Literary Journal, Solas Travel Writing Awards, New Millennium Writings, and The Fulbright Korea Infusion. Her poetry most recently appears in The Revolution (Relaunch) and her creative nonfiction is forthcoming in Jacar Press's LGBTQ+ anthology Acting Up: Queer in the New Century. A virtual Master's candidate at Georgetown University, RK works for the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice as a research assistant to the poet Carolyn Forche. RK is originally from New York and spent most of quarantine in East Tennessee. (Creative nonfiction)
Tim Fox’s eco-thematic writings appear in Walking on Lava, Forest Under Story, and Dark Mountain 4, 5, 9, 11 and 17. He recently completed a young adult far-future trilogy, Afterlands Convergence. (Creative nonfiction)
A ceramic artist and painter for over 50 years, Leslie Green now devotes herself to paintings about the human connection to the natural world. With nature as her teacher, she translates natural forms, processes, and relationships into colorful worlds that bring the viewer closer to their own unconscious or conscious nature connections. (Visual art)
Charles Goodrich, Senior Fellow for the Spring Creek Project, is the author of three books of poetry, A Scripture of Crows; Going to Seed: Dispatches from the Garden; and Insects of South Corvallis, and a collection of essays, The Practice of Home, and has co-edited two anthologies, Forest Under Story: Creative Inquiry in an Old-Growth Forest and In the Blast Zone: Catastrophe and Renewal on Mount St. Helens. (Poetry)
Poet-dramatist Cindy Williams Gutiérrez is inspired by the silent and silenced voices of history and herstory. Her new poetry collection, Inlay with Nacre: The Names of Forgotten Women, was awarded the 2018 Willow Books Editor’s Choice Poetry Selection and a 2016 Oregon Literary Fellowship. She was selected by Poets & Writers Magazine as a 2014 Notable Debut Poet for the small claim of bones (Bilingual Press), which placed second in the 2015 International Latino Book Awards. Cindy received the 2017 Oregon Book Award for Drama for Words That Burn. She is cofounder of Los Porteños, Portland’s Latino writers’ collective, and of El Grupo de '08, a Northwest collaborative-artists' salon. (Poetry)
Gili Haimovich is a visual artist and poet. Her photography has been featured in the Contact Photography Festival and The Koffler Centre for the Arts, Canada; Ma'ariv Newspaper, Israel; Living on a Blank Page, her poetry and photography chapbook; and elsewhere. Her short film A Dictionary for Those Who Don't Need won a grant from the Israeli Ministry of Culture and she co-directed a couple of video-poems. She is the author of the poetry book Promised Lands in addition to other books of poetry and translation. A graduate of the arts school Camera Obscura, and the International School for Interdisciplinary Studies in Israel, she teaches writing-focused creative arts and translates literature from English and Hebrew. (Photography)
Sarah Hancock is a 17-year-old artist who believes in the communicative power of art to promote self exploration and healing. She uses her Instagram account @hysteric_art_by_sarah to share her work, message, and tips with an online community. Sarah created "Helping Hands" to show her support for nurses and in this time of isolation demonstrate how kindness can help people grow. The nature of isolation is to support each other and foster growth through this kindness. (Visual art)
Pauletta Hansel's seven poetry collections include Coal Town Photograph and Palindrome, winner of the 2017 Weatherford Award for Appalachian Poetry. Her writing has been featured in Rattle, Still: The Journal, The New Verse News, The Writer's Almanac, American Life in Poetry, Verse Daily and Poetry Daily. Pauletta was Cincinnati's first Poet Laureate (2016- 2018). She is managing editor of Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, the literary journal of the Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative. Learn more on Pauletta's website. (Poetry)
Cub Kahn is a nature photographer and educator. He is the author of the Art of Photographing Water and three other books on photo techniques, and his photos have appeared in Audubon, Backpacker, National Wildlife, and The New York Times. He cultivates the Sun, Water and Stone blog and lives in Corvallis, Oregon. (Photography)
Caroline Kessler is a poet, editor, and facilitator currently based in Oakland / on Chochenyo Ohlone land. She is co-creator of The 18 Somethings Project, a virtual writing adventure, and the author of Ritual in Blue (Sutra Press, 2018). Her work has been published in The McNeese Review, Superstition Review, Letters, Rivet, and elsewhere. She holds degrees from the Washington University in St. Louis MFA program and Carnegie Mellon University. More at carokess.com. (Creative nonfiction and poetry)
Erica van Loon is an artist based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. She has exhibited and worked as artist-in-residence at Kunsthuis Syb (NL), Banff Centre for the Arts (CA) (through Mondriaan Fund), Artist on a Hill (CH), NAIRS, contemporary art centre (CH), I-Park Foundation (USA), LABVERDE, Arts Immersion Program in the Amazon (BR) and ARCUS Project (JP). (Audio)
Amy Miller's full-length poetry collection The Trouble with New England Girls won the Louis Award from Concrete Wolf Press. Her writing has appeared in Barrow Street, Gulf Coast, Tupelo Quarterly, Willow Springs, and ZYZZYVA. She lives in Ashland, Oregon, where she works for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival as a print project manager and editor. (Poetry)
Stephanie Niu grew up in Georgia and earned her degrees in symbolic systems and computer science from Stanford University. Her poems have appeared in The Southeast Review, Portland Review, Immigrant Report, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a 2021 Fulbright Award and currently lives in northern California. (Poetry)
Christine Richards is a physical therapist in Durango, Colorado. She dabbles in music, writing, yoga and meditation, but she is most at peace when hiking through the wilderness of the San Juan Mountains with her husband, Tom, and dog, Choyu. (Creative nonfiction)
Lisa Schonberg (Staten island, New York, 1977) is a composer, percussionist, and sound artist with a background in entomology and ecology. She documents insects and habitat through sound work to draw attention to environmental issues. (Audio)
Jonathan Shipley is a freelance writer based in Atlanta, Georgia. His writing has appeared in such publications as National Parks Magazine, Fine Books & Collections Magazine, and the Seattle Times. (Photography)
Judith Sornberger is the author of three full-length collections of poems, most recently I Call to You from Time (Wipf & Stock 2019) and Practicing the World (CavanKerry Press 2018), and five chapbooks. Her nonfiction memoir, The Accidental Pilgrim: Finding God and His Mother in Tuscany, is from Shanti Arts. Sornberger lives on the side of a mountain in the northern Appalachians, outside Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, among deer, bears, and bobcats. (Poetry)
Kim Stafford is the founding director of the Northwest Writing Institute at Lewis & Clark College, where he has taught writing since 1979. He has taught writing in dozens of schools and community centers, and in Scotland, Italy, and Bhutan, and served as Oregon's poet laureate 2018-2020. (Poetry)
Pepper Trail is a conservation biologist and poet. His work has been published in Atlanta Review, Windfall, Rattle, Cirque, and other journals, and his collection Cascade-Siskiyou: Poems was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award in Poetry. He lives in Ashland, Oregon. (Poetry)
Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad is a Sydney artist, poet, and pianist of Indian heritage. She holds a Masters in English and is a member of Sydney's North Shore Poetry Project, and Authora Australis. Her recent poems and artworks have been published in several literary journals in the US, Australia, and the UK. (Visual art)
High desert writer Ellen Waterston has published four poetry and three literary nonfiction titles, including, most recently, Walking the High Desert: Encounters with Rural America Along the Oregon Desert Trail (University of Washington Press, 2020). Hotel Domilocos (Moonglade Press, 2017) is her most recent collection of poetry. She is founder of the Writing Ranch, which conducts retreats for writers, and the annual Waterston Desert Writing Prize. She lives in central Oregon. (Poetry)
Cooper Young is a mathematician and poet who hails from Santa Cruz, California. His most recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Wayfarer, Toho Journal, Lucky Jefferson, and Miramar. His new chapbook, Sacred Grounds, was published by Finishing Line Press in May, 2020. (Poetry)
Watch the Nature of Isolation series
Above: Art by Sarah Hancock