Washington graphic designer Debra Naylor kept a visual diary during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic. She recently published the sketchbook, titled “The Corona Diaries: Sketches From 400 Days of the Covid-19 Pandemic.” (Debra Naylor)
4 min

In one regard, March 19, 2020, was no different from any other day for Debra Naylor, a graphic designer who lives on Capitol Hill. She has always made sense of the world by drawing. As she does every evening, Debra took out her pens and watercolors, opened her sketchbook and began to create.

“Quarantine. Day 1,” she wrote in the upper-left corner of a two-page spread.

More than a year later, Debra was still going, keeping a visual diary of the coronavirus pandemic. It was for her own sanity, and for friends who looked forward to the sketches she posted on social media.

And now it’s a handsome, hardcover book from Debra’s own Anchovy Hill Press: “The Corona Diaries: Sketches From 400 Days of the Covid-19 Pandemic.”

As I paged through Debra’s book, I felt a weird mix of amnesia and deja vu. Was it really three years ago that this all started? I could swear it was two.

Debra experienced something similar: the way revisiting a diary can remind us of things we may have forgotten.

“When I scanned the pages to make the published book, I found myself looking back at the early days and thinking, ‘Oh, gosh, I wore gloves to the grocery store,’” she said.

Her book captures the binge of homemade mask-making, the onset of “four-wall fever,” the sudden fascination with backyard birds and squirrels, the proliferation of new terminology (flattened curve, herd immunity, PPE), the excruciating wait for a vaccine.

“I think everybody had a wide range of ups and downs during lockdown,” said Debra, 64.

Debra was fortunate that neither she nor her husband, Peter Boundy, ever tested positive for the coronavirus. And she was able to work remotely. Because she’s done design work on various science, medicine and public health publications, Debra found herself working on several coronavirus-related projects.

Day 48 in the diary finds Debra trying to decide on the right typeface for “COVID.” Does Sans Geometric look serious enough? Is Humanist Sans comforting but too retail?

“After you've done five or six publications, it starts looking bad in all the typefaces,” she said.

“The Corona Diaries” — $38 — is being sold by the DC History Center, 801 K St. NW, or online at shop.dchistory.org.

“I enjoyed taking some artistic license doing this,” said Debra. “My husband and I joke: I never draw him with gray hair in the diary. And I draw myself thinner than I am. But the cat is always respectfully drawn, of course.”

Squirrel photos, please

In the spring, this columnist’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of squirrels. And not just thoughts of squirrels: photos of them.

Next month will mark my 13th annual Squirrel Week. And it can’t be Squirrel Week without my Squirrel Photography Contest. Now, this isn’t photographs taken by squirrels — although that would be cool. This is photographs of squirrels, taken by you.

What do I look for in a winning squirrel photo? First of all, a squirrel. With close to 300 species of squirrels in the world, there is surely one near you right now, unless you live in Australia or Antarctica, where, sadly, there are no squirrels. (If I ever do Kangaroo Week or Penguin Week, you’ll be in luck.)

Don’t forget that chipmunks are squirrels. So are groundhogs and woodchucks. Squirrels come in all shapes and sizes.

I’ll post my favorite photos in an online gallery at washingtonpost.com. The grand prize winner will receive a $100 gift card.

The contest deadline is April 3. You can find the complete rules at wapo.st/squirrelphotorules. Basically, each image should be no larger than 5MB and should be sent as a JPEG attachment to squirrelphotos@washpost.com. Please put “Squirrel Photo” in the subject line. You may enter as many photos as you like.

Now get out there and focus, people!