Stay-at-Home Diaries | Laurie Sowd, Student and Supporter

On Thursday, March, 19, Los Angeles residents were asked to stay in their residences and limit all activities outside of their homes beyond what is necessary for essential tasks. Days later, PCM adapted its lessons and programs and launched a “distance learning” spring quarter.

For this series, we’re checking in with students, instructors, and staff members to see how they’re managing and how distance learning (and teaching) is working for them.

Laurie Sowd with guitar

PCM: Where are you sheltering in place and what does a typical day look like for you right now?
LS: After commuting from Santa Monica to The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens for 24 years, I finally moved to Pasadena a year ago, so I’m happily sheltering in my sweet little house. I have a small bubble of friends with whom I take distanced walks and enjoy BYO picnics. My house came with a peach tree which bore me about 200 peaches, all ripe in one weekend! So I quickly acquired some new (old/traditional) skills like canning, freezing and making jam—thank heavens for YouTube! On a more typical day, I spend a fair number of hours on zoom meetings with colleagues at the California Science Center, planning for a day when we might welcome guests again to see the space shuttle Endeavour and our amazing animals.

PCM: How are you feeling and how have you adjusted to this time?
LS: Up and down, like everyone else, I suspect. Occasionally I am tempted to pull the covers over my head and ignore the sunrise. But mostly I’m pretty content (“situation adjusted” as a friend of mine would say!). I’m so lucky to have productive work I believe in, a little garden I enjoy, friends close by, and wonderful PCM committees to participate in.

PCM: How are you engaging with music right now?
LS: A million years ago, I was a professional pianist and vocal coach. I was thrilled to get back into choral singing by joining PCM’s Cantare Chamber Choir a year or so ago. Now alas, singing is a high-risk activity—who’d have guessed? So I decided to start virtual classical guitar lessons with PCM’s wonderful Brian Barany. It’s humbling to be trying to play a simple C major scale on those strings—buzz, click, thump! Brian is much more patient with me than I am with myself.

PCM: In what ways (large and small) has the current situation impacted your everyday life? Any new hobbies?
LS: I really enjoy my work at the Science Center, and go to the office a couple times a week to see colleagues. But I found I needed something else to focus on—other than binge-watching Outlander and Killing Eve! So a pal from Cantare and I took an online writing course, I dove into the guitar, and I enjoy PCM’s wonderful online offerings, and Salastina’s Tuesday night virtual musical happy hours.

PCM: What are you most looking forward to when everyone returns to campus? What, if anything, will you miss?
LS: Don’t tell my boss, but I really enjoy the flexibility to pick up the guitar for 10 minutes in the middle of the day, to mix up some bread over lunch, pop in a load of laundry—things that are possible when working from home. But I dearly miss popping into the office of colleagues for a chat, and I truly miss hugging my friends! It’s so weird to greet people you love and not be able to hug or get too close. And I miss hearing live music in Barrett Hall and cooking for people. I’m not that great, don’t get your hopes up, but I love having friends around my table.

Laurie Sowd playing guitar