Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Woonsocket North Smithfield 05-14-2020

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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21 AT HOME / ENTERTAINMENT MAY 14-20, 2020 | VALLEY BREEZE LIVING EDITION hoods and communities," Kate Wells, curator of Rhode Island collections at the Providence Public Library and one of the project managers, told The Valley Breeze. Following a relatively new trend called rapid response collecting, all Rhode Islanders are encouraged to document their experiences and obser- vations, whether ordinary or extraordinary, during this historic pandemic and sub- mit them to the archive at RICovidArchive.org . Project leaders are looking to see how individuals and communities are affected by social isolation, quarantine and illness, and mutual aid. Submissions can be anony- mous, and materials can be in any form including pho- tographs, videos, voice memos, jour- nal entries, art pieces, and poems. "It's been really diverse as far as how people are expressing their experiences," Project Leader Becca Bender, who works as a film archi- vist and curator of recorded media at RIHS, said, noting that there are photographs of empty aisles in grocery stores and people sewing masks as well as creative expressions such as poems and songs. As of last Friday, there were 173 items uploaded to the archive. Local materi- als include essays written by Smithfield and Pawtucket students as part of Write Rhode Island's COVID-19 flash nonfiction program Our Lives Now; photographs of an empty toilet paper aisle at Target in Smithfield and a closed Cumberland Public Library; and a video of Mercymount Country Day School staff placing yard signs on the property of every fam- ily enrolled in the school. Given how quickly the situ- ation is changing, materials contributed in week one are already quite different from what's been submitted in week five, Wells said. To help inspire ideas, the site includes weekly contribution prompts. Last week's ques- tion was: "What has changed about how you're shopping/ eating/preparing food during COVID-19?" The site not only allows for the collection of materials to be used by future researchers, but it's also a digital communi- ty space that lets anyone view the materials in real time and see how similar or different people's experiences are from one another, Bender said. One of the benefits of approaching an archive this way, Wells said, is that it gives people an opportunity to share what they want folks 100 years from now to remember about this moment. A quick survey of collections at RIHS and PPL about the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic contain nothing that tells personal stories, she said. "It's not up to us to decide what's important. It's up to you," she said, referring to R.I. residents. Greater access to technology and digital platforms makes it easy for people to "record this moment in real time," Bender said. "So often in the past, his- tory has been archived after the fact." The project leaders said they want to make sure that voices that aren't typically in his- torical archives are included to make this as expansive a story as they can. In order to reach more voic- es and folks who may not have access to technology, they're beginning to reach out to and partner with community orga- nizations, such as schools and cultural heritage groups. Among the groups of people who haven't been contribut- ing, Wells said, are essential workers, such as medical pro- fessionals and grocery store employees, which is under- standable. She said they would love to include those people's stories, maybe as personal reflections when things ease up. While there will be a spe- cific national narrative about COVID-19 in the future, local stories about lived experiences are important to telling the his- tory of this pandemic, Bender said. "The national story isn't cohesive," Wells added. "How Rhode Island is coping (with this crisis) is very different from Georgia or Florida or Michigan." Whittier, although I doubt he would mind me taking liberty with his words. I have regular hyacinths that were growing here when I bought the house more than 30 years ago, as well as grape hyacinths, part of a birthday basket of plants from my friend Nora two years ago. The herb garden came to life shortly thereafter with three clumps of chives that are now also preparing to flower, and oregano that is once again enthusiastically growing everywhere, and I mean everywhere. The French tarragon, miracu- lously renewed since being moved out from under the shade of the lilac, has already produced enough for me to snip a bit with which to liven up my scrambled eggs in the morning. The heirloom rhubarb, descended from the one my father grew in his yard more than a half-century ago, is not only up and growing, but has already had a few stalks large enough to cut. It put a great big smile on my sister Bev's face when I surprised her with it last week. I'm not a big fan of rhubarb myself, but Bev loves it, and since for some reason it refuses to grow in her own yard, I har- vest mine all summer long to keep her supplied. The big perennial flower bed on the front lawn has already started filling in, but it still needs a bit of clean- ing up. I was happy to see that the bee balm from my friend Sue's garden is already starting to perfume the air, although it's still kind of early for some of the new plants I babied along last year to show up. I'm just hoping they survived the winter. Heck, I'm not even sure if some of them, given to me by my new friend Sandy, were annuals or perennials, but my fingers are crossed because they were real beau- ties. Time will tell. The lilacs that were just beginning to bud not long ago are now blooming as we speak. They grow in both the front yard and the back, a gift from a total stranger who appeared at my door one Sunday afternoon years ago with a small plant in a pot. He said he had read one of my columns in which I said how much I missed the lilacs I had left behind when I moved here from Blackstone. Not having a permanent spot for it at that moment, I stuck it in the ground right next to the front corner of the house, adjacent to my herb garden. A few years later, when what I thought would be the per- fect spot opened up, I trans- planted it right outside the sunroom. It took forever for it to finally reestablish itself there, but in almost no time flat it also grew right back into an enormously healthy new bush ... you guessed it ... right out front where it had been planted in the first place, from roots that had inadvertently left behind. It was so obviously happy there, I didn't have the heart to try moving it again. And it would do your heart good to see my bleeding hearts! They are spectacular this year. They make me smile every time I look at them. The newest one was a gift last year from my friend Jeanne, and it apparently likes where it is, under the living room window, because it is now dripping with deli- cate heart-shaped flowers. I also have a bunch more in a different bed, along the back fence. Three different variet- ies, grown from plants given to me by my friend Marion who had grown them from plants given to her by her mother years before. I take a picture of them every year at this time and send it to Marion with another "thank you," both for the flowers and her friendship. And so it goes. The lock- down goes on, but so, too, does life. You just have to look for it. I had originally titled this column "Flickering Glimmers of Hope," aiming at discussing how the ran- dom glimmers of hope are what keep us going rather than the still elusive light at the end of the tunnel. However, the more I wrote, the more it occurred to me that what I have growing all around me is actually a garden of memo- ries. Memories of friends and fellow gardeners who have enriched not only my gardens, but my life, with beauty and amazing color over the years. Rhea Bouchard Powers is a writer from Cumberland. RHEA From Page 18 The bleeding heart bush in Rhea's garden is full of blossoms. PHOTO COURTESY OF KATE WELLS KATE WELLS, project leader for the R.I. COVID-19 Archive, took this selfie of her wearing a mask she sewed for the @ Mask_up_RI initiative, which encourages folks to be proud of wearing face coverings. ARCHIVE From Page 18 BENDER

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