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Isolating Together : A Public Archive

Please Note: As of 10 Aug 2020, all submissions to PPL’s ongoing and growing Isolating Together archive will be at this address:

Greater Portland is a vibrant region, filled with creative and adventurous individuals. As a community, we are integral to one another, and the Library is integral to our community. Amidst this time of isolating during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, we invite you to send us your thoughts from your individual point of view describing how you are living with the present social distancing measures. We may now be physically distant but let us remain socially connected.

How are you weathering the challenges of this COVID-19 pandemic? Send your thoughts, poems, letters, diary entries, original artwork, doodles or comics (300 words or less, please), to isolatingtogether@portlib.org 
We’ll share your submissions here on our library blog and on our library social media. Archives provide future generations a richer view of history, first-person documentation of our times and lives. This is an opportunity to document our own histories for future historians and social scientists trying to make sense of it a hundred years from now!

The Fine Print: By submitting content through this email address you are granting Portland Public Library permission to disseminate, preserve, and use that content in connection with its educational and research mission, including promotional purposes, in all media in perpetuity. You retain ownership of and copyright in the material you share, in this particular project & collection. Our hope is to continue this project throughout the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, beginning March 2020. We will collect individual submissions, actively seek out relevant material for preservation from other sources, and create opportunities for our community to participate once we re-open our buildings to the public. When possible, please include the following information with your submission: your name, date of creation, your age, your location (town or neighborhood), how you self-identify (gender, identity, race, tribal affiliation, cultural affiliation, etc).

By submitting material, you voluntarily agree to contribute this item to the Isolating Together archive, affirming that
(1) you are 13 years of age or older, and
(2) you are the creator of this item.
Exceptions: This item is in the public domain, or you’re a parent or guardian submitting this item on behalf of your child.



30 July 2020

Distance-Learning on Peaks Island

Abbott K, age 8, distance learning from his home in April 2020.

from Abbott K., of Peaks Island


26 July 2020

Electric Car

I have an electric car. I try to limit going out to 1-2 days a week. The other day I noticed that a spider had made a web on my charger.

from Diane S., of Portland

29 June 2020

Quarantine Kitten

Quarantine kitten, BlackBerry, came into our lives on Juneteenth.
Baby has a long and beautiful life to live.


from Leah P., Southern Maine Community College



26 June 2020

sending words

from Abraham S., West End



22 June 2020


Library To Go

PPL To Go sign, at 5 Monument Square


Printing Hold Slips for Library Patrons, Riverton Branch



Printing Hold Slips for Library Patrons, 5 Monument Square



Curbside Pickups at Peaks Island Branch


Little Water Girl holds forth, 5 Monument Square

from Raminta M., PPL Reference, and Kathleen C., PPL Maintenance & Security




19 June 2020




After three months of quarantine during which we’d only seen our closest neighborhood friends from a distance, we had them over for dinner in our backyard. It was a warm spring evening. Their kids (5, 10, 12) and our kids (10, 12) played cornhole while we cooked and brought food out to the porch. We shared stories about the things in each of our lives that had become familiar that were completely unfamiliar to us before quarantine. Masks. Zoom. Telemarketers seeming kind and human. Daily talk about sickness and death.
They’d biked over to our house so when dinner was over we all got on our bikes—all 9 of us—and biked through the dark and mostly empty streets of Deering Center to Evergreen cemetery. We rode right down the middle of the street, a critical mass, and when we reached Evergreen, we rode down to the ponds, got off our bikes, and in the long unmowed grass beside the ponds we watched hundreds of fireflies dance in the dark. It felt miraculous to see these little insects light themselves up. We all stood there in awe feeling grateful.


from Lewis R., of Deering Center




9 June 2020




A bird flew to my window and caught me by surprise. One of its feet gripped the screen. Our eyes locked. It fluttered its wings as if quickly treading air. I was transfixed.

After about 30 seconds the bird flew off.

I wondered what it meant. My dream book (a good place for symbols) said one thing; our ancestors said another; and ornithologists have their own logical meaning.

I wondered if it was marveling at the human in a cage. But I prefer to think that it was a sign of hope. And freedom. Freedom from the virus and our cages.


from Diane L., of Scarborough




8 June 2020


from the West End News’ Portland Palate

Face Masks Finally Arrived


Fran and James at the Waterfront/Old Port


West End garden pansies


from James F., West End



Tuesday 26 May 2020


Covid Quarantine

Today is one of the warmest days we have had in quite some time, so I decided to take my office outside for the morning.


from Raminta M., of North Deering


Thursday 21 May 2020

needles and hooks

Yesterday I finally had my acupuncture appointment after more than two months of waiting.  How great it feels, not only to be able to better manage my pain again but also to get out of the house for the first time (except for picking up my medications at CVS), beyond the building front stoop.  Meanwhile, I’ve been crocheting a large blanket, a few rows a day.  At the rate I am going, I will be half way through in a week or two!  I am so looking forward to massage and to knitting with my friends again, in Congress Square Park …


from Angelika S., West End, Portland



Thursday 21 May 2020




When I grow weary with Corona news,
Of health care workers reusing their gear,
While megachurches’ preachers all refuse
To shut down (“it’s the media spreading fear”),


Rates of morbidity and infection
On the rise, despite social distancing,
And all that our civic leaders have done
While President Trump’s done worse than nothing,


As I’m sequestered alone in my room
Images of my own death fill my head.
If this should prove the time I meet my doom
I hope in years to come, when I am dead,


That somebody will smile and think of me
When this shows up, a Facebook Memory.


from Jeff L., of Portland




Thursday 14 May 2020



from Abraham S., West End, Portland


[Resurgam: “I shall rise again,” is the motto of the City of Portland, Maine.]



Monday 11 May 2020


Johns Hopkins Covid 19 Map


What was your name,
number ninety-nine thousand, two hundred ten?
Was it Akmed or Chunhua,
Mustafa or Mike? Did your friends
call you Anna Maria or George?
Were you mother-blessed “Emma”
or street-baptized Blade?

Were you scared as you died 
alone in a hospital hall,
untended among too many to save?

Maybe you got a too-scarce ventilator, 
but though hovering, masked faces
checked oxygen levels and monitors, 
could you hear the beeping stop?
Did you see some of those faces cry?

Did you slip away in your room
at home, your family afraid to touch,
to kiss, to hold your trembling hand?
Were you first of your family to go?

Were you unnamed on admittance?
Was the street your home?
Did you end up with a toe tag,
boxed in wood, unknown, unmourned?

You, number ninety-nine thousand, two hundred ten, 
you’re lost to me here in tallies of countries. 
You shed an old story or stopped midway
when you became a number.  

Most important, dear human, please, 
say that you were loved, were loved
before Corona took your name.


from Susan S., of Portland


Monday 11 May 2020



In mid-March, her memory-care home was declared off-limits to families, to keep residents safe from COVID-19.

She is a mother with a ravaged memory; we are her son and daughter-in-law. 

Time slip-slides, elides.  I wonder… when can we hug her again?  who will we be to her with more memories gone? 

Amid this strangeness, spring birdsong expands our soundscape, wildflowers flourish in the duff.  It is easy to forget that as life continues, so does death.  It happens like this:  a 95-year-old woman has a quiet morning, then lunch.  She lies down for a nap from which she doesn’t wake.


from Eileen M., of Woolwich



Friday 8 May 2020

[from Portland’s In Her Presence educational initiative]



from Eugenie, Precieux, and Astrid, of Portland



Thursday 7 May 2020


There Is No Insight Without Disorder


When we are driving in an unfamiliar city, we drive more slowly.

When we are reading an unfamiliar word, we read more slowly.

When we are making an unfamiliar recipe, we make more slowly.

When we are in new terrain, we are our most present selves.

Are we ever in new terrain right now.

It’s unsteadying terrain. But the presence we can bring to it is nothing short of holy.

There is no transformation without awareness, and this presence is a threshold to awareness. To notice what we’re missing from our ordinary life – the things that matter to us. To notice what we’re not missing from our ordinary life – the things that don’t matter to us. To reorganize our life, as much as possible, around the former and release, as much as possible, the later.

There is no insight without disorder.

So here we are in insight-rich terrain. And if there were a password to access it, I suspect it’d be something like goslowbegentle.


from Caitie W., West End, Portland


Monday 4 May 2020


Thank you for the opportunity to share reflections / responses to our collective current circumstance.
I’ve provided a sculptural response to the critical shortage of PPE for our frontline providers.


from Cathleen M., of Parkside, Portland

[*PPE: personal protective equipment]


Monday 4 May 2020


My Easter 2020 painting : Perspective

from Holly L., of Portland


Sunday 3 May 2020


We want to offer for archives this original creation we made early March 2020 with seaglass and pebbles. It was inspired by the need to establish connections.

Thanks for offering this platform, it inspires togetherness.

from Brigitte and Gail, of Saco


Friday 1 May 2020


Here I Stand


The buds on the tree
Are talking to me they’ve
Weathered worse winters before
They’ve danced windier mornings
Than last summer’s storm remember
The fall the hurricane came it’s spring
Here I stand in bloom again


from Nathan B., of Portland



Monday 27 April 2020


Isolating Together collage


from Joel B., of Portland


Friday 24 April 2020


letter-writing interlude

from Abraham S., West End, Portland.




Friday 24 April 2020


Over the past 6+ weeks I’ve been through such a range of emotion. I’ve been sad, scared, angry, hopeful, despairing, and even happy at times. My daily routine has been disrupted due to the COVID-19 crisis, while my spouse continues to work a modified schedule. I’ve loved spending more time with my dogs and have gotten some projects done around the house but it feels like things are deteriorating across the country. I’m grateful to be living in a smaller city where I can get outside and where it’s not too crowded, but I don’t know what our country is going to look like on the other side of this. I’ve been so encouraged by the neighborly spirit I’ve experience from the people living nearby that I am doing my best to harness that hope for us to use as we think about how to rebuild our society and economy once we defeat this virus.


from Adam K., of Portland


Tuesday 21 April 2020

Jessica E., of Portland

Tuesday 21 April 2020


As I sat in my makeshift home office with the window slightly cracked, I heard the sound of beeping horns. Is that a parade? Maybe it’s over! I ran into living room and told my mother that I had heard cars and horns! We looked out the picture window – nothing but the rain. I laughed and my eyes filled with tears. I told her I had thought that maybe it was a parade… I walked back to my home office. I allowed myself one sob – time to get back to work.


from Diane L., of Scarborough



Friday 17 April 2020


“Longing for Strangers”

The exquisite decadence
Of sitting at a table
Guessing which date number
The young couple across the room is on
The clank of a dropped fork 
The din of twenty conversations

The bracing aroma
Of your favorite coffee shop
The artsy barista and
That lady whose life story
Seemed fascinating based on
Her glasses and the way she held herself
As she read her book

The movies, all buttery popcorn
Collective laughter
Sticky fingers 
Smiles and knowing looks as 
Families exit and 
Children become the heroines and heros

And the annoying person
Who stands in front of the one item
Left on the grocery list
Taking an infinity to decide
Between spinach and arugula
I miss you, too.

from Jennifer K., of East Deering, Portland


Friday 17 April 2020


A woman discovers her husband is deep into the men’s rights movement. His verbal abuse escalates. Strangers on Twitter tell her to be careful as she leaves; they advise communicating and searching for resources on public library computers where records can be erased. They tell her to act as if he’s already tapped her e-mail and phone. Now the strangers praise a different woman who’s healthy, as far as she knows, but isolates as if she has COVID-19. How can you plan for the worst when it shifts guises? Where will the first woman go?


from Amy B., of Portland




Monday 13 April 2020


When I, alone beweep my cloistered state
And social distance practice in my home
Thinking on the plague and cursing fate
Fearing whate’er apocalypse may come,


As travel halts and businesses shut down
And all the world seems toilet paper crazed
All the antibacterial scrub is gone
At empty grocery shelves I stare amazed


Beset by worries for my dear ones far
Or that I might infect one in my home
Because I touched some dirty thing somewhere
And couldn’t bear to leave my face alone,


Then haply I may think of writing this
And for a time my cares are turned to bliss

from Jeff L., of Portland
I have been reading Shakespeare with Ian Doescher’s Shakespeare 2020 project (https://iandoescher.com/shakespeare/) and was inspired to write a pastiche sonnet.)



Monday 13 April 2020


Before Now and After

Before, we were kind to each other.
Now, we worry about each other.
After, will we still care for each other?
Before, we nodded in passing.
Now, we wave and mumble behind masks.
After, will we guard against any contact?
Before, we held the door open for the person behind us.
Now, it’s each person to their self.
After, will we be polite again?
Before, people kept a friendly distance.
Now, we are “social” distancing.
After, will we be on our own?
Before, smiles, tears, grins, nods.
Now, masks, raised brows, blinking eyes, nods.
After, a friendly wave, kindness, a warm gesture, smiling nods.

from Lisa M., of Portland


Thursday 9 April 2020

from Karen C., of Portland


Thursday 9 April 2020

One, two, three… ACHOO!
Social distancing, boo-hoo-hoo!
Wash your hands and cover your face.
It’s coronavirus, so stay in place!
If I follow these golden rules,
then can I go back to school?
One, two, three… ACHOO!
Social distancing, boo-hoo-hoo!

from Jennifer C., of Portland.


Thursday 9 April 2020

All things considering, I’ve been very fortunate during this time. I’m developing an online business that supports artists who are also entrepreneurs. Curious to see how businesses evolve (or don’t) in this new climate. I’ve also finished writing a book of short fiction and look forward to finding it a home in this strange world. Forgiveness and prosperity have been at the forefront of my mind. Every day I’m learning how to balance hope and grief.


from Emily C., of Willard Beach, South Portland.


Thursday 9 April 2020


from Joanna H., of Parkside, Portland


Thursday 9 April 2020

The irony of social distancing and enforced solitude is how much it has reinforced the truth of our deep connection to each other and to the natural world.  In this country we pride ourselves on our individualism, and on the material benefits of competition, which to a great extent depend on extractions from nature.  For the last several weeks, in contrast, we have engaged in loving interactions with our grandchildren and dear friends, remotely but meaningfully.  And we have taken long walks in natural settings where it almost seems as if plants now have the benefit of more fresh air and animals have been liberated from their previous sequestration.

from Stephen K., of Portland





posted: , by Abraham
tags: Adults | Seniors | Portland History
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