Life in these strange times: Xanadu

Many people are now saying that the stay at home /quarantine experience is leaving them bored. And there is something to that.  Home is familiar. Maybe a litte too familar. The days feel as if they are all alike? Can’t tell the difference? There are always hints as to what day it is. I know that today is Wednesday. The garbage truck came, like it always does on Wednesday. First the recycle truck and then the regular garbage truck. Like clockwork, they always come and always in that order.

But who wants to sit around and watch the movement of garbage trucks? I admit that’s pretty boring. Should I write about garbage trucks? Well, garbage collection is good. Can you imagine the horrific type of pestilence we would have if the garbage wasn’t picked up on a regular basis? Think medieval times. Rats carrying the plague. Garbage thrown out of windows.

But I digress. Sort of.

I saw this on Facebook:

“I’ve sworn an oath of solitude until the pestilence is purged from the lands!”

What an awesome reframing of the quarantine. It helps me to feel powerful. It becomes heroic and dramatic. Plus there is that cool alliteration, which I like. I can reframe everything that I am doing as a battle against the evil pestilence, which sounds much more dramatic than “virus.”

I am not a doctor, a nurse, nor am I a scientist. So I cannot do direct battle with the pestilence. What I can do is use my overly active imagination to keep myself going while others purge the pestilence from the land. I can travel in my mind and think of those before me who traveled in their minds.

One such person was Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834). He was a great poet, who, with his friend William Wordsworth, founded the Romantic Movement in England.

From his imagination came
“Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and “Kubla Khan” and much else. He suffered from a lifetime of poor health, drug addiction, and mental illness.

Despite the challenges that he faced, Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote effectively and with a distinctive and unique voice. He created a romantic vision of Xanadu, a city that is now called Shangdu in Inner Mongolia. It was the city of Kubla Khan and it was once the home to more than 100,000 people.

Marco Polo in his search for silk is said to have visited Xanadu in 1275. Well, he must have been there because he wrote a detailed account of his experiences in Xanadu. If you’d like to read Marco Polo’s account of his experiences in Xanadu, check out this Wikipedia entry at: all about Shangdu/Xanadu. This entry also includes the story by Toghan Temur of the demise of Xanadu in 1368. It is a very dramatic tale.

So on a day when I await the vanquishing of the pestilence by the heroes of medicine and science, I can imagine times past. While I maintain my oath of solitude until the pestilence is purged from the lands, I can imagine places that exist now only in stories. Because stories are everything. They keep the past alive. The events that we are experiencing today will be the stories of tomorrow. And who knows? Maybe a future (preferably drug-free) poet will turn our story into poetic drama. Perhaps it will be set in a place like Xanadu. Or a place with a name that begins with X. 

9 thoughts on “Life in these strange times: Xanadu”

  1. I love how your mind is going to far away places as we cope with the change in our normal daily routine and your flowers are gorgeous. Yes I forget what day it is so I'm just saying it's today and taking things as them come, spending lots of time in our back yard in my little piece of heaven.

  2. I love how you wrote about such a difficult topic with such a sense of calm and authority.

    I hope you and yours are staying safe and healthy during this difficult time.

    J Lenni Dorner~ Co-host of the #AtoZchallenge, Debut Author Interviewer, Reference& Speculative Fiction Author

  3. Nice post for the difficult "X" letter. Plagues have been with us for all of humanity's existence. I expect at least one "for the ages" novel will come out of this – maybe you can write it. Our very own Decameron. With photos.

  4. Wonderful post, Alice! You've made excellent use of this challenge and time. Though, I've set out to chronicle my experiences, I've not lived up to my words.

  5. "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree." He did so, knowing it would inspire Alice years hence.

  6. First, the photos of the flowers are beautiful! I love the two-toned daffodil, and hyacinth are my absolute favorite!

    Next, I had no idea that there was a "real" Xanadu. I thought it was a place that only Olivia Newton-John knew about. 🙂

  7. That quote you noted on FB is so perfect for this times, and yes, pestilence is certainly more dramatic than all the other words we can use!!
    thanks for the trip to Xanadu

  8. Jeanine Byers

    Just so you know, I am now hearing Olivia Newton John (Xanadu) in my mind. Alice, thanks for sharing your quarantine experience during this month. You have helped me think through what it has been like for me, and how I have had to navigate this added stress on top of the others I was dealing with already. It has been good to see you!

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