Montreal

Everyone's an artist in residence now

As a writer in residence, K.B. Thors tries to offer up entertaining angles on this town and its characters, comings, and goings. But we haven't been out in weeks, so she is inviting you, the reader, into her living room.

CBC/QWF writer-in-residence K.B. Thors is finding ways to ward off the doldrums of being at home

Step into the living room of K.B. Thors, who is one of many artists 'in residence' these days. (K.B. Thors/CBC)

This is the second in a series of blog posts by the 2020 CBC Montreal/Quebec Writers' Federation writer in residence, K.B. Thors.


Spring has sprung. The ice is melting, trees are budding, and Montrealers are cooped up inside, doing our part to moderate a deadly pandemic. That is what we're all doing, right?

As a writer in residence, my job is to offer up entertaining angles on this town and its characters, comings, and goings. When we haven't been out in weeks, that takes some doing. So I'm inviting you into my living room.

I never thought I'd spend back-to-back evenings watching arias in my sweatpants, but I recently met La Fille Du Régiment, a French orphan Annie raised by soldiers — and the namesake of the opera that has been called the tenors' Mount Everest.

Played by Natalie Dessay, La Fille was projected onto my wall as I made the most of the Metropolitan Opera's free streaming schedule, grateful that my co-habitant dissertating across the room prioritized that Kijiji projector.

It was the comedy I didn't know I needed — there are less-fitting librettos to familiarize oneself with while holed up in Montreal. I didn't know operas were allowed to include lines like "the bobsled team!"

Natalie Dessay is La Fille Du Régiment. (K.B. Thors/CBC/The Metropolitan Opera)

From comic-relief memes to old-fashioned arts and crafts, social media is full of people sharing adventures in at-home activities.

Baking, fort design, Arnold Schwartzenegger's relationship with Whiskey and Lulu, his mini pony and donkey — the list goes on. Amid so much stress and uncertainty, people are reconnecting with art's ability to ground and connect us.

I teared up after stumbling upon a post of a balcony saxophonist in Barcelona joining in on a rooftop pianist's rendition of My Heart Will Go On. Up the street from me, Martha Wainwright is leading a weekly balcony singalong. The arts are here for us, and Montrealers are chiming in.

There's solace in acknowledging the beauty of the hobbies we suddenly have more time and need for as we focus on staying in and staying healthy.

Wherever they are, everyone's an artist in residence now, creatively warding off doldrums in ways we can share and celebrate.

For me, it started with plants.

I have new poems and writing projects in the works, but my last real outing was to a hardware store for seeds. I'm currently helicopter-gardening pots of greens and herbs, checking multiple times a day to see how the spinach is doing.

I had intimate knowledge of my houseplants' growth before isolation, but now I find myself moving pots throughout the day, maximizing sunlight. Is that compulsive? I think so. But I'm leaning into my coping mechanisms, and mentioning it in the hope it helps someone feel more comfortable with their own tics.

I don't know if anyone is neurotypical, especially lately. We're swimming through these days together. So what if I'm tracking my purple heart's new leaf like it's the first carrot on Mars?

Why yes, this is a new leaf. Thank you for noticing! (K.B. Thors/CBC)

Somehow it's been weeks, and there's so much I haven't done. A stack of clothing to mend. A cheeky cross-stitch project I started not last Christmas, but the one before. Rope and knots to get to know better, not to mention the museums and materials made available online by the day.

So many ways to try to chill after reading the news — in this moment of unnerving loss, art is accessible like never before.

Pop Montreal has compiled a list of Montreal-based musicians affected by the outbreak, some stranded overseas on cancelled tours. We can check out their albums and help them out here. James Goddard has launched a calendar of local musicians who are live streaming shows—a work in progress, but an initiative to watch.

We can tune into readings from authors across the country through CBC's list of online literary events, get some free art therapy from the Museum of Fine Art.

Spotted on the way back from buying seeds. (K.B. Thors/CBC)

I hope we make some fantastic messes as we wait for our collective Godot. In the meantime, Dolly Parton has offered to read us bedtime stories from her Imagination Library.

About the Author

K.B. Thors

2020 CBC/Quebec Writers' Federation writer in residence

K.B. Thors is the 2020 CBC/Quebec Writers' Federation writer in residence. She is a poet, educator and translator from rural Alberta. Her debut book of poems, Vulgar Mechanics, is out now, from Coach House Books. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @kbthors

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