Day 22 of lockdown and the big news today was that we can expect to drop from level four to level three by the middle of next week, thus ending a four-week period in lockdown. It seems incredible. We have been in our bubbles for almost a month and we’ve survived and oftentimes thrived. For that we can feel proud. As a nation we‘ve shown fortitude and endless creativity — the craft projects, the bread making, the Easter buns, the gardening projects, parents and children growing their own vegetables and flowers, the new songs, paintings, poems, short films, photographs, the art made from recycled materials, the curators talking and writing about favourite artworks, the opening up of archives, bringing out the treasures for perusal and discussion, not just from galleries and museums but on Instagram and Facebook people have been sharing their own treasures — just a glorious tide of inventiveness to occupy our minds and raise our spirits through this strange time.
I think for myself what I take from this experience is an increase in confidence that I can do this on my own. Until I tested my resilience, the thought of living by myself in this way, cut off from the pulse of life, from the people I love and from the social and cultural activities that warm my life, was utterly abhorrent, something that had me turning on my heel, psychologically, and running, my mouth in a scream shape, desperate to get away. The pity of my pessimistic thinking is that it kept me trapped in something dark and destructive for far too long.
Now I think there are aspects of having successfully navigated the strictures of lockdown level four, the slow accessing of inner resources and the increasing mastery within that have the feeling of a monarch emerging from its chrysalis. The process takes time. At first, the butterfly tightly enclosed in a kind of straight jacket struggles to break out of the cocoon. Then the spinning starts, the strong impulse to be free and find the sun. Once out of the tight embrace there is a pause to dry the crinkled, slightly moist wings. There follows a beat and another beat, and then miraculously the wings stretch out and there it is, a butterfly is born, a butterfly with the most beautiful antique orange velvet wings gloriously etched with black lines that have a look of leadlight. You hold your breath and wait. And then up she flies free.
But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Will alert level three be very different? We can go swimming and surfing again, just as the weather is turning cold and the days are shortening. We can shop online and receive deliveries but wasn’t it good to be denied the opportunity to indulge our acquisitive tendencies. I don’t see any great advantage there, although for retailers and café and restaurant owners, of course, this is their chance to reinstate their livelihoods. When you analyse the new scenario it appears for many of us, it will be more of the same. We’re being asked to stay in our bubbles, to continue working from home and continue observing social distancing. I certainly can’t spot an opening in the level three guidelines for me to see my grandson, to sit him on my knee and have a really good cuddle, nor an opportunity to see my daughter and watch the fabric of her dress lifting as the baby in utero wriggles. I think instead I must draw on more patience, more acceptance of what is and wait for the tide to turn.
In the meantime I will keep on writing, keep on walking round the park in a state of receptivity ever alert to the beauty to be found in unexpected places. I will keep on photographing, keep on watching out for shadows, keep on keeping on.