Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Walking for Joy

I can't help but feel I'm living in a post-apocalyptic novel, where people walk very early as the sun is rising, in the hope that the police don't find them, where we barter loaves of bread, and we ask our children not to cry too loudly. And that all-pervading sense of paranoia. I don't know about you - but wherever you are I hope you're safe and sane and coping with this isolation. How ironic that my last post, all those weeks ago, was about loneliness.

I can share with you a sliver of life from South Oxon. We are truly privileged and God, we're grateful to live on a farm on the Chiltern escarpment, surrounded by large fields of sheep, budding chestnut trees, daffodils and blue skies. Imagine, just imagine, if this had happened in January, I say to Charlie. Can you even imagine how awful it would be if we had all of this and the grey, damp, short days of winter. At least now we wake up to the sunshine and the birds singing.

The grief comes in waves; what we've lost, what might have been, what the future looks like, and the only thing I come back to each time is this: all we have is now. That we have to enjoy each day and be grateful for what it is; the birds, the sunshine, the people we love. Otherwise, the alternative is overwhelming.

So we start the day by walking, early as we can, and easier now to be early as the sun streams in. I wake at 5am - not unusually - and try to discard the anxiety that builds up in the night by going outside, in hiking boots, with dogs, and squelching through the grass. This morning was an epci pastoral painting. Sheep lay down in the sunshine and some very pregnant standing ewes gazed at us as we wandered through. And the birds sung! He said, when I was young I would go to the sea and watch the waves roll onto the shore, one by one. And when I was anxious, I would think of the waves, still there, still rolling in, whatever goes on in the world. So it is with the birds. They sing their hearts out for it is their nature.

And I believe it is our nature to be joyful. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There are many reasons not be happy now. Many, many reasons. And yet this seems to firm my resolve to get up and choose it, choose joy.

There are four of us in this house. The two of us and our youngest daughters. I think of how much art will be made at this time, how many plays about people stuck in houses together finding ways to find joy, finding ways to understand each other, forced into joviality and social behaviour within isolation. I think of all the dogs that will be adopted because people are lonely, how many more books will be read, how many cooks will be made, how many poems written and films devoured.

I believe we can do this together. I would love to hear your stories of sheltering at home and I would love to post them here if you will let me. Stay safe, dear friends. xo


Speranza said...

As an introvert, I do not have to wildly adjust to 'staying at home' and indeed, apart from angst about (future, possible) food shortages and the pandemic itself, my life remains relatively the same. My partner is a news fiend and I have had to tell him not to update me hourly with stats and further blasts of doom - my heart is at saturation point. Like you, I fear that The World Outside will revert to a kind of Planet of the Apes model and there will be looting, anarchy and complete loss of control. I fear that most, really.

I wake too early, often, feeling as though I have swallowed a stone, fretting about my boys, my very best friend who is a doctor and a stellar human being currently on the front lines of all this. Also my own family, my darling niece who has no immune system. I have to get up and pace sometimes - or clean the floor. It's why our mothers could never settle sometimes, now I get it.
And they went through WW2. I feel humbled, ashamed and wish that I had asked my lovely mum, 40 years passed, more about it.

But then, I reel myself back to the moment (all of my Buddhist reading seems to leave me when I need it most!) and notice the throbbing throat of a bird who has come close enough to let me see him singing, the round-eyed delight of my pup as he carefully tastes mature cheddar for the first time (he's now very discriminating about cheese!) the pleasure in still being able to have access to our beloved Vanilla tea when the shop delivered for free yesterday, listening to Agrippina for the first time on the radio, the love and care of my sons for myself and each other and trying my best to do MY best in these extraordinarily difficult times. May everyone be safe - and do what we are told.

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