by Maddy Wolfenbarger ’22
Well, shit. Everything’s closed. The school is closed; the curtains are closed; the stage is closed; the park is closed; even my coffee shop is closed. What the fuck am I going to do with myself?
When I came to Davidson, I had idealized myself as anything but an artist. I carried the unsubstantiated idea into my freshman fall that I wasn’t artsy, and that, despite being a music scholar charged with a requirement to be in the choir, I wouldn’t need art anymore. I would go to choir rehearsal and pay my dues to the music department, but I would no longer be the choir kid or the theatre kid or the “artsyartsty” kid. That’s not what I wanted to do, so why would I waste my college education inhabiting that mindset and those spaces?
Fast forward to March 12th at 3:31 pm, where I sat – with many of my fellow Nummit rats – on the porch of Nummit completely heartbroken. I cried a lot that day. I cried because I’m not good at online learning. I cried in my overwhelming feelings of displacement. I cried because of the memories displacement triggered. I cried with all of my friends for the moments that were slipping away from us. I didn’t cry for The Refugees (the show I was in) being canceled two weeks before its world premiere. I didn’t cry for all of the unsung choir music and the many missed Chorale concerts. I didn’t cry for After Hours’ canceled Live Thursday. I didn’t even cry for drunk dancing and singing at Fiji on the weekends.
I didn’t cry for art until I realized I had nothing to do. I sat on my porch in the aftermath of March 12th deleting every single rehearsal, concert, and performance from my calendar. That was a slower heartbreak. In the midst of chaos, I didn’t take a second to process the encroaching reality and the fact that I don’t just go to Davidson to write papers and hang out with friends. I assumed that the feeling my art gave me wouldn’t go away; that it would continue to sneak its way into my life through auditions for shows and solo opportunities. I couldn’t even remember what a life without 15 hours a week of singing and 12 hours a week of acting felt like. I had invested so much time and energy into dissociating myself from being an artist while simultaneously investing my entire self in the arts at Davidson that I couldn’t even recognize the void it would create in my life amidst COVID-19.
So, in my boredom, I began finding ways to fill my time. My housemates and I began to find ourselves night after night jamming on the screened-in porch of our house – singing songs together and making new ones. We even made a song with lyrics composed of the (riveting) description off of a beer bottle. As the days progressed, I found myself wandering the streets and campus of Davidson surrounded by an unfamiliar silence. The idea that most everyone in the town is locked away in their homes is chilling because there are hardly any signs of life. The pulse of even a small town has completely dissipated. In that silence, I began taking photographs. At first, it was for my environmental studies class. Upon reflection, I was honestly just doing it for fun, though. It was – and still is – my way of processing the stillness but also finding the beauty. I started noticing the notes and drawings from sidewalk chalk that children left outside their homes. I saw a bed sheet strapped from a tree that served as a thank you note to any passerby,; a surprising medium to find outside of a home that looks like it should be featured on Architectural Digest. I began to notice all of the families working together in their gardens or walking outside together. All of these moments of beauty and reminders of vitality broke the silence in small – but significant – ways.
These reminders are essential because we have to tell ourselves and each other that we’re still here. Even in isolation and distance, we have to keep making sound in the silence. If that sound feels as insignificant as playing guitar on your porch or creating chalk art in the driveway, it is still a sound. It’s a sound that reminds you and others that you still have a beating and loving heart. It’s a sound in a silence that prescribes isolation, loneliness, unemployment, displacement, danger, and depression.
So, make a sound. Even if you think no one is listening.