We Shall Come Back Stronger


Article and image by Keiko Honda



The Salon Room

Our last in-person gathering was two month ago, to be exact, and it was the 154th Artists-in-Residence (aka. AIR) salon, which gathered 30 people at my home. The AIR Series, inspired by the 17th century French salons and Gertrude Stein’s salons, has grown since 2010 into a vital part of life-long learning for myself and many over the years. I never dreamed of discontinuing AIR before the COVID-19 pandemic came. No one can avoid the unexpected. 


This unplanned pause with the great unknown evoked some flashbacks of my long and dark days on the hospital bed about 13 years ago. Struck by the acute inflammation and sudden paralysis, I was homebound for at least a year, and went on to lead a 180-degree-turned life in a wheelchair. It was one of the rare moments of awakening in my life, to say the least. While I am still my own experiment, I have gained some personal convictions that this too shall pass and that a social support network is the key to thrive. It sounds cliche but holds all truths. Stripped down to the very existence, just breathing but not being able to move from my chest down, was a blessing in disguise, which gave me the permission to take good care of only the essential: how to relate to myself and others. I grasped the meaning of life and came back even stronger after my misfortune. 


A front door looking from inside

This time in 2020, my stay-at-home experience is not only a privilege but also a chance to put things in perspective. What is life? What is its purpose? What and why are we learning? Once again, I am reminded of the humility, kindness, creativity, and bravery of humans from all corners of the world as well as the generosity of nature. Every time I open my front door, I feel like the whole universe is unfolding right in front me – groceries picked up by my neighbours, One-Day Amazon Prime deliveries, some surprise flower bouquets, a cookie box with a hand-written note from my friend, and ever-changing front yard garden rush greens, random fresh scents and birds chirping. While staying at home safely, we are supported by the services and sacrifices of people some of whom we don’t even know. This period of self-isolation and physical distancing made us see so clearly how we, as individuals, cannot survive alone.

We Are Made To Communicate



It is interesting to imagine that each coronavirus, consisting of a tiny set of genes (single-stranded RNA) enclosed by soft protein capsules looking like a spiky ball, is a tiny version of ourselves. Or vice versa. Despite being vulnerable on itself, the virus, especially the 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), is so successful as an intimate symbiont with its hosts by entering and copying itself inside a host cell to replicate its genetic material and proliferate. Do you know anyone who behaves like that? A baby, maybe? Their natural super ability to unite a whole family and world are a bit like the coronavirus.  Jokes aside, what can we learn from the evolutionary capacity of SARS-CoV-2? Understanding the notion of interdependence and the dynamics of communication is paramount to the post-COVID aftermath. What are your wonderful ways of expressing who you are and connecting to others in this time? I personally find some silliness and humor instantaneously uniting and universally essential. Like viruses, we are made to communicate with each other in any way, shape or form in order to co-exist and co-create, not to compete or dominate. That is the only way to evolve as a life form. 


Stay Still

While I am suspending the long-running AIR series until the day we can meet again, I am reluctant to rush to turn everything into “ZOOM” events for good reasons. This reflective pause is a gift to everyone, and I am taking this opportunity to strip away the layers (my fears in particular) and to engage in more symbiotic relationships. I often hear the remark, “We cannot go back to normal or business-as-usual.” It may be true for the case for excessive consumerism and environmental destruction and many other harms. But in many cases, we should not throw away all the great ordinary things and certain rituals that give our lives meaning and happiness. I miss my local coffee shop that I used to visit. A Japanese phrase, “the moss-covered rocks,” values and underscores the importance of relational continuity and its beauty. I am literally and figuratively holding space for the revival of the AIR series and looking forward to celebrating a more resilient sense of collective self. Until then, please take good care of yourselves, too.








6 thoughts on “We Shall Come Back Stronger

  1. Keiko, I enjoyed reading the essay – deep insights and beautiful paintings. Looking forward to attending your AIR salon in person again.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Honda, you express your thoughts beautifully. I agree that this time does give one the opportunity to catch one’s breath and appreciate all we have around us. I spent most of my time in the garden growing my own vegetables and feel very lucky that I can do so.

    I think of you all at Kerrisdale often. Please give my best to everyone on the board.

    Stay safe. Camille

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Keiko, Beloved by so many of us. Your reflections are like time pieces that could be buried to tell future human beings what it was like, when a major catastrophe struck planet earth, but even more importantly, the spirit that epitomizes, what it was like to be fully human in response to such trauma and loss [acknowledging too, how important humility is to your character]. It represents for me what our great traditions world-wide of wisdom and compassion, have reached in their heights, and groundedness. The latter–that spirit–even more important, perhaps, than an epochal tragedy like the pandemic, is at grave risk at being lost in our times, and connected no doubt, to valueless exploitation of nature and of other human beings that is at the root of our present crisis. I know I am speaking to a former professor of epidemiology at Columbia Columbia University, and one of my dearest friends. With love, David Roomy

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I appreciated the thoughts in this essay as well. I have a friend who says esophageal cancer was the best thing that ever happened to him! I believe that with every crisis, every challenge, we have a choice to either become depressed and even defeated, or to become stronger and learn. The challenge of staying fairly isolated, of giving up many of my usual activities and commitments was scary and stressful at first: the fear of catching the virus, the strange science fiction feeling of a new way of living staying apart from people, and the worries of what the future would be like. But as we adjusted to using Zoom, to standing 6 feet from a neighbor, using up everything before we went shopping again, lining up outside the grocery etc, I began to appreciate this opportunity to have to slow down, to have to be at home more. I loved the cleaner air, the quiet, the sound of birds instead of planes and cars, families riding bikes together. Life slowed down to its basics. I found the things that were important to me again: family, friends (even if online for now), time to sit and think, listen or do the projects I always said I’d do someday. There’s so much out there that I don’t need. What I really need is connection to others, to be a good friend, to appreciate how lucky I am and what I have: a good home, family, food, and this beautiful peaceful spot on the planet where I live. Now I hope this virus gives us the chance to change the way we do things so that everyone can have that too.

    Liked by 1 person

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