VOICES OF DAVIDSON
Lily, Limericks, and Lance Armstrong: Creativity in the Time of COVID
The Editors welcome longtime Davidson resident, Nancy M. Slagle, to our Voices of Davidson.
Covid created an unusual time and unusual actions. When the pandemic officially began and we were locked down for what we expected to be a few months, many of us reached inside our gut and told ourselves we would get through this time with a positive attitude and would do all those things we never had time for before.
Were you one of those? Did you start a trivet with all the wine corks you tossed into that large bowl in your cupboard? Did you dutifully log your daily exercise to submit to the contest you and your friends created? Did you learn the intricacies of ZOOM by realizing that your co-workers were looking at your nasal hair or your messy desk instead of your face? Did you dig into those dusty boxes, determined to purge, cleanse, and organize? Were you one of those unfortunate folks who contracted Covid and had to quarantine away from your family?
But when those few months morphed into an unknown time warp, our resilient spirit began to wane. We discovered that homecooked meals had lost their appeal, that curbside pickup was no longer a treat, that waiting for a turn to speak on ZOOM became a reminder of how much we missed spontaneous, disorganized conversation.
So, once again, we had to go further, to reach beyond the familiar and stretch for the unknown.
The irony of discovering our inner spirit during difficult moments is nothing new, nor is it a phenomenon to be dismissed as ordinary. Three residents of our community turned the ordinary, monotonous dreariness of Covid isolation into extraordinary personal pursuits.
In our grief we often find peace.
Lily Westendorff’s husband, Bernie, died at the age of eighty-three during the early months of the isolation. Bernie was larger than life, a German whose family had been impoverished by the war when his architect dad refused to join the Nazi party. He arrived in the US in 1960 with 38 cents in his pocket and began a creative journey that resulted in the design of a revolutionary knitting machine, guaranteeing him a successful career in the textile industry.
Because of Covid restrictions, Lily and her children were not able to celebrate the joy of Bernie’s life with his friends here nor with his family in Germany. Lily searched for a way to move forward. In her words, she returned to the “therapy of art.” Years ago, she participated in a few art workshops at a local community college but had not pursued painting because she and Bernie were always busy with life. Most of her limited art in those days reflected their mutual interests. Now, within the long days and nights of isolation at her condo on Lake Norman, she refreshed her watercolors and began to paint anew, art that is uniquely hers. Her new creations are reflections of her interests and of scenes that give her solace. There are winter landscapes of snowy days in Boone, memories of German scenes, the apple green of spring on budding trees. Many of her paintings are post card size, an intentional choice because she often gifts them to friends or sends them to family in Germany.
There once was a teacher named Pat,
Who knew a lot about this and that…
Pat Watson, a former educator at Davidson IB Middle School, also returned to an earlier creation and gave it a new life. In one of those dusty boxes that often live in classroom closets and then eventually move into a retired teacher’s home, she found her alphabet limericks. She wrote the limericks in the early 80’s while teaching poetry to high school students. With a new eye, she edited and tweaked.
She convinced her artist brother, Lee, to illustrate the limericks. Adventurous as his sister, Lee taught himself how to design the characters by hand on the digital board with the program, Wacom Intuos.
Their collaboration produced Welcome to Shady Lane Zoo: Lovable Limericks from A to Z, self-published in 2020.
The limericks and the illustrations, like Pat and Lee, are delightful and full of surprises. Don’t expect an alphabetical litany of farm animals nor rhymes like cat and hat and bat. No, the rhymes may appear nonsensical but make perfect sense: a hippopotamus who eats quite a lotamus and now is notamus, Mel the Mosquito who would bite everybody she’d meeto, and a fox who lives at Fort Knox.
Even the animals she chose are serendipitous: a unicorn who has no horn, a vole who plays the viola, and a newt who plays the flute.
Lance Armstrong is alive and well and still stoning his friends.
Lance Armstrong is a local entrepreneur who has lived on Lake Norman all his life but has traveled to many parts of the world. When he became ill with Covid in June 2020, his busy life came to a halt. He spent early Covid days as a “master mulcher,” spreading mulch in every nook and corner of his lakeside home. Now quarantined to the bedroom in his home, he had no idea how he was going to spend the long days. His daughter, Ava, gave him a small rock and an old fishing tackle box of paints that were probably as old as the box. And thus, his stoning began.
Unlike Lily and Pat, Lance was unaware of his artistic bent. “I only painted houses.” Now this A+ personality looked at rocks differently; they became canvases for his boredom. His first stone was inspired by a meme figure in a HAZMAT suit, holding a vial of Corona virus. The more stones he painted, the more his creativity grew and so did the size of his art supplies. Once out of his quarantine, he began to take long walks and picked up rocks along the way. His paintings are now his own creations, inspired by friendships, or shared moments with friends. There are realistic animals the size of a half dollar or a hot dog the size of a finger or a box turtle replete with ornate ridges and a smile on its face. For an 85-year-old fisherman friend, he reproduced a photo of a fishing scene.
“I have been stoned!!!! Keep on spreading the love,” are the responses that he receives from his friends when they find the stones on their doorstep.
Lance has kept a detailed log of each stone, why he created it, to whom he gave it, and where he got the inspiration.
As we read their stories, may we all be reminded of how a creative spirit can be discovered, or rediscovered, and shared during challenging times.
Nancy M. Slagle
Nancy McAmis Slagle has lived in Davidson since 1980 and spent many years as a teacher of Spanish. After her retirement she continued her work as a consultant for an international education program.