Day 29 in lockdown and I sensed this might happen, that the announcement of the easing of levels might be interpreted by some as permission to return to normal. It was mostly the same as usual at the supermarket today. I hadn’t shopped for nine days. The challenge of planning ahead and then eking out my provisions has provided a welcome diversion. I feel almost like a pioneer woman in that respect, although I can’t make bread in a pan on my one-plate induction cooker. The settings, of which there are many, are all very hot, apart from the milk boiler. Food cooks rapidly and burns rapidly too.
The change at the supermarket was the appearance of more staff at the checkout. Previously I’d felt stressed by the scramble to throw products into the trolley and scoot off quickly, so the next shopper can start their process but today a good person packed my groceries. It felt like a gift and I thanked him.
I’d noticed a feeling of happiness on my journey to the supermarket. The news earlier this morning that I can view a home next week, on my own taking every precaution to be safe, was welcomed. Perhaps it really will happen. I might find something I like. Not having been in my car for nine days the Scandinavian jazz music that greeted me when I switched on the engine put me in an even better mood as I glided down Victoria Road. Reaching the supermarket and starting my rounds, however, the good feelings soon evaporated. It was on aisle three when I noticed the music. This is the problem. It’s the love songs over the speaker system with their overriding themes of broken hearts and unrequited love. It upset me, made my heart ache. This is the reason why I play the one jazz album by Ulf Wakenius, 'Forever You,' in my car, on an endless loop. It’s been playing there for the past year. No lyrics, just gentle, mellow, unhurried sound - gorgeous. I never tire of it.
Something else lowered my mood. Shopping for one. I feel like a failure. I’m convinced that other shoppers can see it in my trolley and in my demeanour. The one broccoli, one capsicum etc. I’m certain they’re thinking, ‘Look at that sad woman shopping for herself.’ I really do feel this way even though it's possible everybody around me is also preoccupied in their own unique thought train. Being single in a heteronormative society I've decided is not for the faint hearted. I didn’t know any of this until I fell out of coupledom.
It was during my walk in the park later on, that I noticed how Jacinda’s good news seems to have been taken as an invitation to congregate again. At the bottom of the walk I heard them before I saw them. It was the sound of a gathering. Of teenagers. There was a sharp scent. A whiff of marijuana. Walking up the narrow path, between the low rock walls, that I now consider my own — I’ve always been alone here, not a soul in sight — I came upon ten young people in a huddle, smoke in drifts around them. One lovely young man looked up, his dark wavy hair, worn loose and long as is the thing now, and said ‘Two metres.’ I smiled and said, ‘Yes it sure looks like two metres!’ It was not my place to do more. I felt outnumbered. For the rest of my walk I went up and down, up and down, using the other side of the circular path, doing a semicircle instead. And then found my rocky nook and sat there quietly, contemplating Takarunga and the figures like insects scaling the green wall. It was regenerating to do this even with the noise of the teenagers blocking out the sound of the tui.
On my way back to the house I came upon a woman in a soft scarlet jacket. She was bent over gathering pale, delectable mushrooms from the grass and putting them in her red cap. ‘There are more, would you like some?' I’d already planned my meal and said, ‘No, you make the most of them.’ We chatted. Her name was Jude. She lives alone further down the slope.
The sight of this woman in her soft orange-red jacket reminded me of my mother. She had a rainproof jacket like Jude’s. It will be three years in May since my mother’s death from pneumonia in Christchurch Hospital. Mum's jacket was made from a silky fabric with a dull sheen and it suited her, the warm red colour contrasting with her pale skin and ash hair. She looked even more striking when she applied her lipstick. As a child I remember watching her. She’d stretch her lips into a round and purse and relax as she ran the colour stick over before pressing her lips together to 'seal in the colour' she said. Mum was often in a hurry and this was her last task, grabbing the lipstick from the shelf on the small wooden mirror that hung on a wall in the kitchen near the back door, before leaping out to a meeting of the Women’s Institute, or to school where she was the remedial reading teacher, or to church to do the flowers, or to the township of Leeston to pick up provisions. When she put on her lipstick her whole face lit up and her green eyes glowed. I loved witnessing that transformation.