Swampscott: Life in Quarantine

Welcome to the Swampscott: Life in Quarantine archive. It’s a bit like a time capsule, except it won’t be hidden away somewhere for several years and can be viewed at any time. 

We know that this is a moment in history that will never be forgotten, and we would like to know what people were up to, what they were thinking and feeling, if they started any projects, or created pieces of art while sheltering in place. 

We are looking for the following:

  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Creative endeavors (art, poetry, music, writing)
  • Short Diary Entries

If submitting a piece of writing, please make it no more than one page, and if you are submitting a piece of music you played, created, etc., please no more than three minutes long. 

We encourage more than one submission – several if you like! Plus, they ask that content be kept clean for various age group consumption. 

If you have any questions and/or you’d like to submit something, please email swampscottlibrarydigitaldiary@gmail.com. We hope to hear from you! 

We will review and post your entries on this page so check back here for submissions!

Janina’s Paper Towels

Janina here! So, along with TP and Clorox, I was unable to procure paper towels and I had just run out. My best friend sent me some from her home in New Hampshire. This is the video I took and the uber-talented and amazing Caroline laboriously added the audio.

Jenn’s Quarantine Diary

It’s been just about 2 months since everything shut down or changed due to the quarantine.  At the time I was halfway through my first semester of graduate school, and also working a full time and a part time job.  First I was told not to come in to my part time job because what I do there isn’t essential for operations, then a week or two later I was told we would all work from home for the full time job.  My classes for school were already fully online, so there was no real change there.  I have spent the past 2 months doing school work, and working from home.  Working from home now involves watching a lot of training and informational webinars, filming craft videos, and making lists for when we are given the okay to go back into the building.  With the lack of a commute or any of the extra things I normally would do at the end of my work day, I found I had more time to spend on my final projects which were due last week.  My cats seem happy because now they can spend all day sleeping next to me or begging me to pet them.  With some crafty couponing skills months before this all happened, my groceries were well stocked.  I have only been out to the stores a few times for things like milk and salads.  I’ve been planning my shopping trips for times when the stores have less people, so only had to wait in a small line once at the checkout register.  Now that the weather is getting nicer, I’m going to have to start doing yardwork.  Unfortunately, I can’t get my lawnmower started!  Also with all the wind we’ve had the past few months a few shingles ripped off my porch roof.  I guess I’m going to be learning 2 new skills during this quarantine, lawn mower repair and how to shingle a roof.  With school being done until the fall, I’m reading a lot more books, and also blasting through jigsaw puzzles.  I put on some Netflix, currently I’m watching The Office, and work on a puzzle for a few hours.  My only frustrations with this situation are the ignorant people and that I can’t just run to the store when I need something.  Hours have changed, and most places are closing earlier or are closed fully for the time being.  I have a few acquaintances (met through my boyfriend or other mutual friends) who don’t seem to think this is a big deal.  One girl actually said that because her cat had some kind of cat corona virus last year, she thought it was the same thing.  I’ve actually seen my close friends more over multiple Zoom video chats than we had in person in the past 6 months, so that’s a bonus.  The state is supposed to be reopening things in phases starting Monday, so I’m hoping that things can start to get back to a regular routine.  It will probably take some getting used to having to wear a mask all day at work.  Overall I think I’m surviving the quarantine pretty well.  My routine hasn’t really changed much except for the not going in to work.  I’ve been trying to keep the same sleep schedule, and I’ve also kept to the same eating schedule.  No quarantine nineteen for me!  I’m learning things from the work webinars I may not have attended, and I’m also learning some fix it skills around the house.  Hope everyone is staying safe, happy, and healthy!


Laurie’s Photos

Two months into quarantine, Laurie figured out how to make these photos of her pets and her friends pets!

Janet’s Song

Janet plays us a song!

Margaret Eckman’s Poetry

Ode to COVID’s Finale
I am singing hymns in my heart 
to the days when this is over.
I am writing songs of praise 
to friends walking shoulder to 
shoulder, to jubilant dinner parties 
and riotous play dates, to movies 
shared in the dark and beaches awash 
in sun worshipers, to jam-packed 
subway cars and half-empty coffee cups 
on real conference tables, to libraries 
humming with quiet activity and 
civic groups and town meetings alive 
with grand plans and impassioned arguments.
And to Choir, that great 
communal sharing of music 
and breathing, I am humming 
the softest of tunes until the day
when we can gather again 
as one body, to fill our lungs, 
to shout for joy in full harmony, 
to create together that most potent 
and ephemeral of arts and 
bless the world with our breath.
– Margaret Eckman

Worn out
My plague shoes are falling apart,
the leather stretched and stiff, 
the soles worn thin from countless
walks in rain, through dirt, scuffed
with sand, soaked in saltwater. 
I walk alone, or with my husband
in the one pairing allowed, or distant 
from close friends as we navigate 
our six-foot separation. I kick 
these shoes off the moment I step 
back to safety, abandon them to 
quarantine, carefully sidestep them 
as I shuffle the house in slippers, 
until I reluctantly require their armor 
to risk venturing out, anxiety 
driving my footsteps faster.
When the all-clear finally sounds,
when the air is sweet again,
when my pulse stops racing at
the sight of a stranger too close,
I will hide these plague shoes deep 
in my closet, covered by cast-off 
sneakers and broken-strapped sandals,
just in case I need them again.
– Margaret Eckman

Table for ten

As the virus spews out its massive dose
of panicky fear, blowing us all to our 
quarantined corners, she wanders her 
jewel-box of a house, contemplates 
the little four-top she’s had for years, 
impulsively orders a full dining set 
in warm oak, enthusiastically adds the 
drop-in leaf so the table can mushroom
out of the dining nook to include everyone 
and their cousin at her next Thanksgiving 
feast, and blissfully inoculates the world 
with a tiny, potent vaccination of hope.
– Margaret Eckman

Coronavirus mania
has ballooned past all borders, swept 
the face masks and hand sanitizer and 
TP right off the shelves, slammed shut 
the stadium doors, slowed the Marathon 
to a standstill, and made the lights go out
on Broadway. It’s spread wide its infection 
of panic and hysteria and bored into my brain 
with fever dreams of sweat-soaked sheets 
and gasping breaths.
We are both over sixty, told to 
stay home, bide our time, wait it out.
So on this wondrously blustery 
March day, we abandon our 
shelter to let the chilly gusts 
cool our delirium, climb the 
byways of Little Nahant, watch 
the gulls wheel and dip, their shrieks 
piercing the ocean’s steady roar, 
and marvel as the wind whips 
the wave crests to spindrift, wild 
manes that stream in the stiff breeze 
till the sun, entranced, catches them 
up and braids them with rainbows.
– Margaret Eckman

I don’t want to hear about life before this happened.
I don’t want to remember when only kids wore masks.
I don’t want to acknowledge that once I would have been 
baffled at discussions of spiked proteins, lipid shells, 
crowned viruses, Covid toes, cytokine storms. I want to 
trade my former blissful ignorance of all things viral for 
a new forced amnesia, anxiously guard it to keep it intact. 
If I pretend that mingled breath was always a threat, if 
I block out how simple it once was to run to the store
when I ran out of sugar, if I refuse to acknowledge the
utter freedom that used to ease my every action, allow
my thoughts fly to any height or run unencumbered 
down whatever rabbit hole presented itself, then 
I can settle more readily into this stifle that has 
no end in sight, I can let my four walls be 
spacious enough to define my existence, 
I can be content with the company of 
the three of us, no more needed, 
forget that trip to Seattle 
to see family, no desire 
to eat with friends 
at the new Italian 
place with the 
great wine list, 
who needs 
them anyway. 
I’ll just hole 
up, stop
this has
been my
– Margaret Eckman

Julie’s Garden

I have noticed recently how important caring for plants and for my dog has been to my mental and physical health while in quarantine.

This is both our first spring in our new house and owning our new puppy, Fern. 

Each morning, I look forward to seeing the changes that happen in our yard. New growth shoots up from under dead leaves, green buds emerge from the branches of barren and skeletal trees, and brilliant colored flowers splash onto our shrubs that we’ve passed by a hundred times on our way inside. I’ve always loved to be outside, but I thought I loved to be outside far from my own house, beach-combing or hiking with magnificent views behind me. It’s taken spending more time at home than I ever have to realize that I love outside anywhere and especially outside here, observing and treasuring, and completely in tune with our yard. We’ve spread mulch, weeded, and built a vegetable garden and a fence to enclose it. We’ve moved rhododendron bushes, planted flower seeds in hanging planters, and willed the patchy grass to fill in where it’s missing. Of course, it helps to have Fern running around (and sometimes trampling) all this new growth as well. As we move into late spring, I have valued getting to witness the show that our yard puts on for us daily. With all the unknowns of when this pandemic will end, at least we are able to live in awe of this space.

– Julie Travers

Denise’s Positive Thoughts

I work part-time in the library, and I also work as a teaching paraprofessional in an elementary school. I’m one of the lucky ones who, for now, is getting paid while working from home. Sounds like a sweet deal, right? Not as sweet as you might think. 
Generally, people who work in libraries have a love of books. We want to share them with others, we want to show them off, we want to organize them.  We also enjoy seeing our patrons, sharing stories with them, helping them find just the right book, movie or music, providing technology to patrons that have no other way to access it, watching young children discovering the joy of reading. All that is gone for now, and I miss it.Then there is the school job. Days can be very long sometimes in a classroom, but when you meet young women and men that were in your class who are excited to see you and tell you how well they’re doing in life, the long days are worth it. It’s sad to think that some students will be moving on to a new chapter in their lives and, even if school resumes in the fall, the moment to celebrate them and encourage them on their next phase, is past and can’t be recovered. Online schooling and zoom classes only go so far. It’s very frustrating to know you could help a student, if only you could spend a few hours a day showing them something that just can’t be communicated through the internet.This isn’t a relaxing vacation. Between zoom meetings and webinars, some days it seems I spend most of my time in front of a computer. Also, far too many lives have been lost too soon.
However, there are still things to stay positive about. Luckily we live in a time where we are able to connect and see each other even from a distance. Spring is here, nature is showing us some of the best parts of the season, and whatever happens, we’re resilient, we will adapt. At the library, we’re doing our best to offer virtual services-book clubs, staff picks, story times, ebooks, community resources,and a variety of videos-that let you know that we’re still here. When it’s safe, we will welcome you back to the building, but until then, try to stay safe and look for the silver linings! An appropriate quote: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” —Vivian Greene

— Denise Runyan

Home Theatre

In early March I began rehearsals with Connecticut’s Flock Theatre for a stage production of Jane Eyre that I adapted from the novel. The pandemic has postponed the live production, but we are rehearsing via Zoom in preparation for a filmed version to be presented online sometime this summer (updates will be posted on Flock’s Facebook page). I’ve also been using this time to explore other creative ways to engage with the show and with my character, Jane Eyre. At home, with the help of my husband, Bryan, I created these photos of myself as Jane, exploring the mysterious Thornfield Hall.

–Julie Butters

A Teacher’s Perspective

I’ve been teaching here in Swampscott for 30 years and not for one second during those years could I have even remotely pictured what is happening now.

On March 12th, I said “good afternoon” to my Second Grade class at Stanley School not knowing that those were our last few moments to be together in that room. The next day the staff all went in and we were given the charge to create a folder of enrichment activities and ideas and resources that the parents could access while everyone stays at home. It was all so surreal.  I applaud my colleagues for how quickly and effectively this was all done.  We had a few meetings during that day but nobody could foresee what the immediate future would hold. Since then, the closure has been extended and the expectations of students and staff has changed. The Swampscott Public Schools tech department has been going full throttle to train us all in the different platforms that we can use to keep the learning going.
Now, at the elementary level, teachers are having class meetings on Zoom with their students, we organize a weekly lesson schedule for the students to work from at home with links and files.  Teachers record themselves reviewing the lessons and modeling skills.  Parents take photos of their child’s work and attach it to emails. Faculty meetings, committee work, grade level team meetings fill our days. 

Teaching on Zoom with 7 and 8 year olds is beyond challenging. They like to show off their pets quite a bit and start running around the room they’re in for no apparent reason. I am so proud of how well the kids overall, have acclimated to this new crazy normal.  The days, believe it or not, do fly by!  Teachers are working many hours per day on lessons and communication with families and then have meetings to discuss what the future will hold and how we will manage to have school next year. It is quite exhausting! Sitting in front of a computer for hours on end is certainly not what I imagined.  I joked the other day that if my 22-year-old self knew that this is how my 52-year-old self would  be teaching, I would have become a King Crab Fisherman.

Luckily, my family has been healthy and my children are older, but I feel for the teachers who have young children at home or who have had to deal with ill family members, I can’t imagine how they schedule it all.  

One of the more negative parts of this whole experience is the fact that the Swampscott Education Association is still in bargaining negotiations for a COLA.  We have been working without a contract since June, 2019.  It would be nice if this was handled quickly and in good faith.  I also feel badly for our HS seniors, that they’ll be missing their graduation, etc…

As we wind down this school year we continue to wonder what will be. Many families have been embracing the simple pleasures of life: hikes, bike rides, cooking, art and crafts, board games, puzzles, etc… so that’s been nice.

— Allison Norton

What is it like to work at a hospital now?

An interview with Howard Abrams, MD where he speaks about his perspective working as a psychiatrist at the Salem Hospital.

Morgan’s Outdoor Sketches

One thing I have enjoyed about lockdown is being outside and watching the season change. I’m no artist (clearly!), but wanted to try something different, so I drew some of the things I’ve seen and small ways in which life has changed.

We’ve never successfully grown many vegetables from seed here, so this year didn’t try that and got some vegetable plants instead. I’m appreciating the ecological benefits of local food and having a reason to get outside more! There’s a longstanding discussion in my house about getting chickens. It’s a big jump from plants, but maybe  that will be next… 

I used to pet a very friendly cat that belongs to a neighbor – he would literally chase me down the sidewalk – but during the pandemic I’m sadly staying away from animals, just  in case. He doesn’t know that it’s for his own good as much as mine, and has been miffed at the lack of attention. 

Kayaking may become my favorite form of exercise this summer. If I can find a sufficiently quiet place to set out from, it certainly will be compliant with social distancing!  

One of my favorite things that haven’t changed are lilac trees, which are in bloom now. 

— Morgan Clayton

Susan’s Aussie Apple Tart

What to do with a single layer of leftover pie crust and only two apples?  It didn’t seem worth a trip to the grocery store for more apples, so I searched the Internet where I found a recipe for Aussie Apple Tart.  It used one layer of pie crust, two apples and some applesauce which I had on hand because my sister sends me homemade applesauce from her own tree every year for Christmas.  Voila, perfect quarantine dessert. — Susan Conner

Corona Madonna by Moira Farrell

Meeting Newborn Grandson May 12, 2020

Kelly’s Rock Painting

I rediscovered my love of drawing when my daughter found a painted rock in the woods while walking her dog. It made her so happy during these difficult times that I decided to start collecting rocks and let my imagination take over. It has been relaxing and fun!  Occasionally I see posts about rocks I painted making someone else smile. It’s great. Here are some that I have painted and hidden.

What is it like to be a high school student?

Laurie Souza, Reference Librarian, interviews her son, Oliver Raycroft and his friend, Audrey Antonelli about their recent high school experience.

Ella Shriebman is thankful!

Trudi’s Quilt

This is a quilt I made for a dear friend in Virginia, who was in the terminal stages of brain cancer. I had been want to make a black and white quilt for some time, inspired by the Ansel Adams exhibition at the Peabody Essex Museum about eight years ago. But as I was making this for my friend, it seemed to me that all black and white was too somber, so I added some primary colors. — Trudi Olivetti

Shelli Jankowski-Smith’s Poetry

The Visit
Shelli Jankowski-Smith (May 2020)

Our first visit
since the pandemic began,

ten weeks since we’ve seen them,
our grandbabies, never

so far apart for so long.
We’ve all been isolating…

we’ve all been healthy…
we think we can risk this.

Our son drives them over
steers them to our back yard

where we stand 8-to-10 feet apart
on the lawn, as tiny maple buds

rain down on our heads.
The sun is out. It’s all too bright.

We talk for a while.
The kids run around and around

the Peace Pole in the yard,
having fun and burning off

this nervous energy we all share.
The urge to reach out, to tousle hair

grown long, to hug, to touch
and look close at their faces

overwhelms me
until I drop to my knees

just to be two feet closer
down to the grass, down

at their height.
As they prepare

to go
I watch my son tenderly kneel

to place face masks
on each child,

first the 3-year old
then the 5-year old

elastic looped behind their ears
with such care…

their small faces disappear
like sun behind the clouds.

But as they walk away
after last goodbyes,

my grandson turns back
one more time

and says “Grammi,
don’t we look a little like Ninjas?”

and I can hear the smile in his voice,
see it in his eyes.

“Yes sweetie” I say,
“you look just like two amazing Ninjas.”

And then, in a flash,
they’re gone.

13 Haiku in a Pandemic
Shelli Jankowski-Smith, Spring 2020
During this period of social isolation I’ve been staying mostly in my house and yard. I find myself becoming ever more aware of what’s going on in the yard, the nuances of the changing season filtered through my own awareness in this strange time. Overall, a condition conducive to my favorite form… the haiku.

Microscopic crown,
you shine in awful beauty…

Like reading tea leaves…
how to scry the tangled signs
scrawled by waves in sand?

Snowdrops in the rain
still waiting for something new…
not spring, not winter.

Sun, wind, rain and then
snow on daffodils… no end
and no beginning.

Washing the dishes…
through the window a small dove
watches me watch her.

With tender green buds
maple tree holds the whole world
out on one branch tip.

Just baked my first bread.
the process was delicious,
the bread… not so much.

Wind’s rustlings die down…
even the trees grow silent
in awe of spring rain.

In brilliant spring sun
one hundred tiny bees dance
but not one shadow.

Letting the lawn go
I feel so scattered these days…
dandelion seeds.

This fat bumble bee
zigzagging around the yard…
is he lost or found?

In a quiet room
I sip tea from an old cup…
painted violets.

My house’s silence
broken by taps on the door…
spring rain visiting.

News Is: All Time by Susan Horkan Ruth

Music and Lyrics: Susan Horkan Ruth
Vocals, Guitar, Violin: Susan Horkan Ruth
Recorded in- home studio – mixed by Steve Yost, Spring 2020

Poems by Laurie Rosen

A Cool Covid Spring 

of chaos and dread.  

Rain falls in drizzles 

or downpours. Sharp winds

whip my red fleece. 

I waver, then wander 

the beach for tide pools, 


My eyes scan, arms swing,

I dodge dogs, neighbors.

Avoid stopping 

to say hello, or give hugs. 

Hop over heaps 

of rocks, mud puddles. 

The sea surprises, 

splashes my sneakers. 

Soaks my socks. Sans

sea glass and solitude, 

I leave, pockets empty. 

Let the Grey Branches Stay Bare a little Longer. 

Pause the buds bursting to life, white, yellow, and pink barrages, 

with their vernal aromatic scent that lightly tingles my skin, 

tickles my nostrils, evoking an eagerness 

for hikes in greening northern forests.  

Pause the birds crooning outside my windows,

the seagulls swooping down in my yard, arousing a pining

for strolls on the beach in search of solitude. 

Pause the opening of outdoor cafes, awakening reminders of jazz 

resonating in balmy Cambridge courtyards or Newport forts,

strangers bunched together, eyes closed and bobbing heads.

Pause the uncovering of pools and garden chairs,

and with it a yearning for friends, barbecues and margaritas; for noisy 

family dinners by bonfires, while we swat away 

mosquitoes and lick melted marshmallow from our fingers. 

Pause the slowly creeping sunsets eliciting the ache 

for my son’s gentle hands squeezing my tension filled shoulders, 

to hear my daughter’s deep, unmistakable laugh undistorted by microphone.

I’m not yet prepared for a season, 

eclipsed by yet another, 

devoid of the moments 

that make it most wonderful. 

View From Our Window

Last year, my husband and I thought we are the luckiest people in the world. Martin got a job offer in Peabody, mid-November we got our Visa (we are both German citizens) and we were ready to move to lovely Swampscott in January – there was no way for us living the big city life anymore, we wanted Swampscott.

I left the US end of January as I had to wait for my EAD and I wanted to be able to continue work in Germany. Beginning of April, Martin traveled back to Germany when everything shut down, to be with me. Now we are trying to get back into the US, to our apartment in Swampscott, but nobody can enter the US right now who has been in the Schengen area in the past 14 days due to the presidents proclamation. It was announced as being for 30 days but the proclamation never had an end-day. Luckily, he still has his job as he is working in the healthcare sector helping to improve and keep standards of medical devices for US and global patients.

We are getting quite desperate but try to keep up the good spirit. So I wanted to share the view of my window I have here:

Wishing it would be another:

— Martin & Birthe from Munich