by Chris Trigg
It’s a good thing we’ve got windows or we’d never see the sun. The virus leaped the wall and settled in amongst us. Not that we were sunkissed before it crept in. We’ve been in a state of modified lockdown since march. The modified meaning we got an hour out of our cells to access 1 ten minute call. 5 cells at a time. That reduced to 30 minutes. Then twenty minutes 1 cell at a time. Then nothing.
In the supermax where I spent years and years and then more years, meeting up with the sun was rare. We went outside 2 or 3 times a week to spend 2 hours in a cage like a dog kennel. We usually were out by 7:30 am and back in by 10 just as the sun crests the 30 foot walls to filter through the layers of fencing that caps the small patio-like area where the cages are.
Devoid of sunlight for years you begin to feel joint pain which you’ll attribute to age, or working out too much. You’ll experience drops in energy and a myriad of other effects. You’ll figure it’s just part of aging. I know I did.
When I finally left and reacquainted myself with the sun it made my skin itch. After a week or two the itch went away. The joint paint and all those attributes of age did too. After all I’m not that old.
We evolved in the sun. We take it for granted cause we get it here, there, and everywhere. Except in the darkest corners of America. Certain prisons, that is.
The people who run these prisons don’t know they’ve never gone months without a little sun. They likely don’t care either. I’ve traded the attempted risk reduction for the coronavirus for the regression of sunless senescence. I’ve been hearing people complain that they don’t feel right or well. Perhaps we’ve all been exposed to the coronavirus. We haven’t been tested but we pass regular temperature checks. Maybe we’re mostly too tough for covid. Hardened convicts and all. More probable is guys are beginning to feel the effects of being confined in a small space for months with no sun.
I’d be surprised if any real studies of the effects of long term deprivation of sun on humans beings have been conducted. Long term meaning years or even decades. Why would they? Who deprives human beings of sun and air for such periods of time, right? Haven’t the courts found such deprivations a violation of the 8th amendment? To not be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. Sure. But who cares, right? Hopefully you don’t because it’s done in your name and you pay for it.
One thing is for sure, the virus is inside this petri dish. They had 28 guys pop up sick in one unit one day. They created a quarantine unit and started moving people. They put them in white, paper-looking jumpsuits. I see them being escorted to medical sometimes from my window. I only saw one man who appeared to be struggling to get there. Or maybe he was just walking very slow to enjoy the sun.
Now, I bet you’re thinking that all I do is whine and paint an occasionally pretty picture. I take it in stride. I survive on optimism and imagination. I’m addressing stark realities here sometimes so I tell it like it is in case you’re interested. In case you’re listening and paying attention. No one paying attention is how we got to this current america.
I’m gonna tough it out and keep my soul and my smile. I regret that I haven’t been able to send new art. Along with the sun, all art programs are cancelled. I have been toiling with limited resources but we can’t order supplies or mail out art still.
I survived Hurricane Laura which put on a late night show here. I discovered the name of the coal black birds that live here. They’re called Grackles. Their song goes from car alarms to 80’s video games. They rode out the storm, too.
Everyday I get another step closer to the end of this long march. Closer to being returned to the people who love me and have endured what I’ve endured, to see an end to this era. A new beginning. I am aware that no matter what I go through, there are always people who have it a lot worse somewhere. I know as well people suffer who’ve done nothing to deserve their woe. I try to keep it in perspective. To be mindful.
About the contributor:
“My wildlife art is my story of redemption. My desire is to demonstrate respect, compassion and love can thrive in the darkest of places… Each painting captures the animal in its authentic habitat.
I am self-taught. I have never taken a lesson. I use wildlife photography from magazines and books for my source.
I do my paintings on the floor of my cell. I am not allowed an easel, high quality paper or any medium but chalk pastels. I use my thumb to blend and soften the background. Each painting takes many hours of layering colors to highlight depth and light.”