Isolation & Madness

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Isolation & Madness

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The last time I traveled before the Pandemic shut down the world was November of 2019. I spent 11 days, quite literally wandering around Italy. I went with no plan - other than to visit the Vatican. I spent time in cafes and walking around the city. I made random conversation with locals and tourists alike. I allowed myself to listen to other's experiences to see if it was a venture I would like to experience. It was such an exciting experience. I actually made friends with a photographer who was travelling to Sicily for a nature shoot. She allowed me to tag along. We took a bus and once we got there we explored the small village. We had fresh fudge and freshly ground coffee. While she was at her photo shoot, I walked along the water and explored the remainder of the village which would easily have fit within 3 city blocks in New York City. As I describe that adventure, it has nothing to do with the pandemic and it's completely unlike what we are experiencing now. I was free to wander; something about being out in the open with no general plan is exciting and calming all at the same time.
As I reflect on that time, I remember what happened right after. As people got sick, businesses shut down, people were restricted to their homes, I could think of nothing else except for this view from Doge's Palace. Casanova was the most infamous prisoner, especially since he was the only one known to escape. Just imagine what it must have been like. Making this walk over this bridge and this little sliver of light is the last you saw of the outside world. After that walk, it was just stone and candle light. I took this picture on my cell phone and as the course continued this term, I kept thinking about this picture. In a place like Italy, where religion is part of the culture, they were hit so hard by the pandemic. What must it be like there to be restricted to your home and all you can do is look out your window? The idea of only being able to see a small piece of reality while the world around you changes in extreme ways, not knowing what comes next or when it was going to happen. Imagine what went through prisoners minds in the early 1600s as this small image is the last thing they say. Do you think they found solace in a deity or faith? Those who were confined to their homes and were getting sick, what must have gone through their minds? The reason I wanted to submit this picture is because this pandemic really showed us, we are all human. By nature there are things we cannot escape and things that we come to appreciate. When we become restricted and slow down, we begin to appreciate what's around us no matter how big or small. The pandemic restricted me from travelling abroad and I lost a number of friends and family members but I had no restriction on my view of the world. I could still experience nature and explore and appreciate. The pandemic was a humbling experience. This picture is a visual representation of that experience. There's so much out there but only when we cannot explore at our leisure, do we stop to notice and take it in. It's only through isolation that we miss the world around us. Is it the isolation that caused madness or fear? Only being able to see such a small part of such a big world, it could drive anyone mad.
The photograph is on The Bridge of Sighs at Doge's Palace in Venice, Italy. It is completely enclosed except for small slits which allow prisoners to see a small glimpse of life outside the prison for the last time as they make their way to their windowless cells which would be home for the rest of their lives.

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This item was submitted on October 8, 2020 by Melissa Siew using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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