Day 211 in the time of coronavirus and after three weeks of silence I am returning to the keyboard to tap out a journal entry. There is a reason for this. I needed to pause and think about my process. When I made my initial decision to write this journal it was done impetuously under the pressure of an unprecedented set of circumstances. I started the journal with little time to seriously consider the implications of needing to think on my feet, write on the hop day after day after day? It did cross my mind that the edit or rather its lack might be a problem when delivering entries rapidly. Ideally, for something as personal as a journal, a writer needs days and weeks to consider the impact of what has been written on a high tide of emotion before making it public.
There were other pressures I couldn’t immediately foresee in the blind panic. The conventions of the journal form, for instance, require an intimate style of writing, one where the writer is in conversation with herself mining the day’s events, exploring the inner world, trying to untangle and make sense of the confusions of the day. Although I had kept a journal in parallel with my work for many years, that was a private sanctum, a place where I could stretch out and think and truly be myself. Posting a daily journal on Facebook is something entirely different, a peculiarly 21st century activity for which there is no precedent. And so without any theoretical discussion upon which to support my process I have sometimes struggled at hammering out dispatches from the heart under pressure of meeting a daily deadline, for an audience of familiars and strangers.
There was an even bigger dilemma, something I never considered. What would happen if I didn’t remain strong both physically and mentally, for the duration and was unable to honour my commitment? I could not possibly predict the future, then nor know how my personal life might impinge on the project for I was writing in the midst of a divorce, in a kind of double shock negotiating an individual personal struggle within the context of the wider pandemic. Would I manage to protect myself and my family from any outbursts of pain? It was a risky enterprise.
Yet despite my reservations I leapt in and over the weeks the journal wandered hither and thither following the course of the pandemic globally and the lockdowns here in our land. I'm not sure how well I have done. There are passages I regret and a sense of failing as the gap between entries has grown longer.
In the meantime the search for a new home followed by the renovation of this new space with breaks in building activity as we went into level 3 again have used up time and energy. The stress mounted. Even when at last I moved in, I was not prepared for the thunder bolts of pain as I began unpacking boxes of belongings, each item with a potent memory attached to a life, a union, a home now evaporated. The stress weakened my nerve. For a short time I wobbled on the brink of falling into a dark place and then, with some support, recovered.
Finally, ensconced in this new home overlooking scenes of great beauty, I am becoming acquainted with the rhythms of this place and beginning to experience a return of equilibrium. I gaze at the bay down below, slowly filling with water and begin to breathe easier. Across the isthmus I can see more water seeping in and covering the mud and mangroves of Ngataringa inlet and I feel my body relax. When my eye scans the sky and I see against the silken sheen of an eggshell sky the shore birds soaring gracefully on wind currents, I lift with them. Tilting around the big window where I work the welcome swallows, with their forked tails, are returning to the nest they built in the eaves. Their industry is a never-ending source of delight. It feels good up here listening to the wind, watching it ripple the trees.
There were times on the path that led me here when I cried out in despair. Driving the grey, desolate streets of the big metropolis, looking at houses, none of which I could imagine a life in, and wondering where I would end up I grew weary and hopeless. If only I could have put my trust in intuition and serendipity, believed firmly that saying yes to opportunities as they arose would eventually lead me to this setting, the right place to put down roots, in the sky, and flourish again, I would have been spared some of the anguish.
Maybe for many New Zealanders there is a similar easing of the spirit now, spared, as most of us have been, from the worst of coronavirus and secure with the results of the election just past now counted. A landslide win, one that took even the Prime Minister by surprise, where the nation, or most of the nation, through the voting, thanked Jacinda and her team for their sound management of the virus. Given such a resounding election result Labour now has the mandate to roll out social reforms that will benefit many of the stricken but especially the children who live in poverty. Is it too soon to predict smoother times ahead? Probably. I think what I can say with certainty about this moment there is cause for celebration.