When I wrote my blog piece last month, I couldn’t have predicted the isolation that billions of people around the world are experiencing today. I wrote about the importance of reaching out to people; the value of physical touch; the need for connection. One month later and the Coronavirus (Covid-19) has travelled from country to country, via the people. Bacteria hysteria has taken over our economy and our way of life. As it stands, the number of the virus-related deaths (according to the worldometer website) exceeds 79,000, but fortunately, and most importantly, the recovered cases exceed 298,000.
The first bit of advice in the UK to avoid catching or passing on the virus, was to wash your hands whilst singing Happy Birthday (a sure way to ruin the birthday song in the future!). The message worldwide now is very clear: Stay at Home. We have to avoid each other. The virus is strong. It can survive in an aerosol from a sneeze for over 3 hours in the air.
Now we’re in our 3rd official week of lockdown. We’re told it’s OK to go outside if we have essential work, or if we need to buy food, get medicine, exercise, or look after a vulnerable person. But anything else is a no-no. I’m craving the company of others. I miss tea and cake in a café. I miss my friends. When I go for a walk, it’s a little like being plonked in a human game of pacman: everyone in sight quickly crosses the road, fearful I might eat them. Sometimes I attempt to engage with a smile, a thank you, or an English nod of acknowledgment. Yesterday morning I received two smiles, one grimace, and about five nothings. Doing a food shop is a surreal experience, with orderly quiet queues to enter a supermarket and a 2-metre distance between people at all times. It brings new meaning to the term Mind the Gap. Buying a loaf of bread has become a stark reminder of what we are trying to avoid: death.
Nature seems to be one of our universal comfort blankets (for those of us lucky enough to be within walking reach). Countryside. Space. Colour. Air. Breathing space. It’s easy to stay inside and get absorbed in the stream of negative news online, so it is particularly beneficial to get outside and notice Spring now. The season of new beginnings. Blossom and daffs, buds and birds. If now isn’t the time to take notice and be appreciative for what we do have, then I don’t know when is.
An attraction to something new and natural can be a healthy distraction. Really looking, observing and writing might bring about some surprises. As an idea, if you would like to take a moment to be creative, why not opt for some nature tonic and sit and gaze at a natural object you find outside – it can just be something that captures your eye: a pebble, a flower, whatever. Then try writing an acrostic (a poem with lines beginning with the letters of the word). It’s doesn’t have to make sense or be grammatically correct, just think of it as a little challenge, e.g.
Sunshine penetrates the water
Trickling downwards towards the source
Every drop recycling
Away from itself and towards itself
Making headway when others can’t.
For those unable to go outside, or maybe you just want to stay inside, reading about nature can also help bring a sense of calm. The Guardian have a host of nature diarists – my favourite nature writer is Paul Evans, his writing can be found here.
I’ve also started dipping into the book, Women who Run with Horses – it’s an excellent one if reading lots at a time feels harder at the moment. If that’s the case, remember it’s OK to not do much of anything at the moment. A pandemic is not what we’re accustomed to. The mayhem and grief that has been bestowed on us, means we are having to adjust quickly. Some things might be out of our control, and with change comes a need for care. Self-care is something we can control!
So, stay safe everyone. Mind the Gap. Sing a song, it doesn’t have to be Happy Birthday. Write a poem. Breathe. Notice nature doing its magical thing. And if you do see someone wandering lonely as a cloud, try to smile : )