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Pandemic, Year One: Laurie Barrett of Brookville: Art As Stress Relief

courtesy of Laurie Barrett
Mel Thrush Photography

We asked WPSU listeners to share their experience of this past pandemic year. WPSU’s Kristine Allen brings us their stories for our series, Pandemic, Year One. For today’s story, she talked with speech language pathologist who had a stressful year but found comfort in creativity.

“Honestly, for about a solid year my eye was twitching,” said Laurie Barrett, with a laugh. “You know, just stress, being a working parent of teenagers involved with extracurricular activities.”

Barrett is a speech language pathologist from Brookville, Pennsylvania. When the pandemic hit, her school district was closed for two weeks.

“So this was a very strange paradox of you get a vacation, but there is this deadly disease out there that you never know if you are carrying it – it’s very contagious, we don’t know yet how it’s contagious.  And it’s scary. So it was this very surreal, weird time.”

For Barrett, there were home stresses, like her two kids sharing one laptop for schoolwork. And when she wrote to WPSU, she mentioned that “racial and political tensions” over the summer added to her stress level.

“All I could think about was boy, this year, like it just keeps coming and coming.  It just feels like a giant Band Aid has been ripped off of all of those wounds that we just keep trying to quick fix.  And that’s not working.  We really have some hard work to do.”

She says the racial and political tensions had an even greater effect on her daughter, who was 15 at the time protests began over the killing of George Floyd.

She had never experienced anything like this. And I don’t think honestly I had. I had learned about some of it in history books through the 60’s and the Civil Rights Movement. But for her, she really felt like the world around us was just crashing and burning.  But this means that we can address it now.  And there are people now starting to pay attention. And it’s not just those people who’ve been hurt. It’s a more diverse protest than what we’ve seen in years past. We are moving in the right direction. But we have work to do.”

Credit courtesy of the artist
Moon Phases - Watercolor by Laurie Barrett

Amid all the stressors of the past year, Barrett found an outlet that proved soothing, and helped beautify her home.

“I needed some artwork for some of the walls of my house. Just being at home staring at the walls, you know, now’s the time to do something. So I pulled out some art materials and I did some pastel works and some acrylics, and tried to occupy myself as well.”

Barret enjoys the alone time doing artwork at home.  In fact, she says she describes herself as an introvert.  So she really didn’t mind the cancellation of large gatherings during the pandemic.

“No, I didn’t.  It felt like almost a relief. And I think just carrying such a busy schedule ahead of time, too.  That like “Oh, I don’t have to do that.” “I can’t do that, so there’s no sense in even worrying about it.”  So I did not mind that. And I can appreciate that if you were extroverted, or you lived by yourself, that loneliness and isolation could be really challenging. But for me personally,” Barrett said, laughing, “it only confirmed my introversion.”

Credit courtesy of the artist
Floral - Acrylic by Laurie Barrett

You can read Laurie Barrett's blog, "Laurel Rising: a Soul in Bloom," and see some of her photography here.

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