Day 77 and I’ve been trying to pin down the feeling I have been encountering when reuniting with people after a long period apart. I think it is trauma. I saw it yesterday in the eyes of my sensitive osteopath — what a relief to finally feel my spine unwind. He looked haunted. And I’m seeing that expression in others too. What their faces are saying is that we’ve been through something big, pushed forcefully and shockingly into the strangest time of isolation, seeing our work and incomes dry up, cut off from vital human and work connections and propelled into falling back on the immediate family unit, or flatmates, or oneself, which was good for some and not for others and through it all and still now, ad infinitum, we've been dealing with an onslaught of negativity and alarm emanating from the reportage on the catastrophe. This takes its toll on the psyche. To my mind the pandemic has precipitated a profound change to the lives we have known since birth. I’m not sure we’ve fully acknowledged this to ourselves, that our sense of trust in the safety and constancy of existence has been threatened.
Only today, in the Guardian, a US infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci referred to Covid-19 as his ‘worst nightmare,’ saying he was astounded at the speed with which the virus spread across the globe, just four months, and infected 7 million people and killed 400,000 while leaving those more seriously affected unlikely to fully recover. And then he said, “Oh my goodness, where is it going to end? We’re still at the beginning of it.” His words sent a chill through me. While New Zealand is in an enviable position with no new infections for days and no community transmission of the virus we are vulnerable now that our borders are opening up a little. Fauci put the rapid spread of the virus down to its contagiousness and extensive world travel by infected people. And still there is no effective vaccine and no certainty of one anytime soon. In a way we are now existing in a strange kind of limbo waiting for the virus to strike again.
Sometimes when it all gets too much it helps to return to simple tasks and to work on breathing and quietening the mind and so I performed some household chores and found myself enjoying the act of folding washing, noting the fall of low raking light on soft fabric. Later a brisk walk around Takararo, three times, climbing up the paths bordered by low rock walls and swirling down the curving path on the other side, lifted me right out of the doldrums. The birds were singing fit to burst, it was the song birds — the riroriro, grey warbler and thrush and I’m sure I heard the piercing tone of pipiwharauroa, the shining cuckoo — giving full voice, voce piena, from the branches of a tall kanuka. They stopped me in my tracks, the sheer glory of their sound ringing on the still air. My son sent a photo of a giant humpback whale jumping in Sydney harbour this morning. Many have noticed an increase in the activity of sea and bird life during the time in freeze frame and it appears to be continuing. Although it is back to business and the economy is in swing again, we’re not quite at the volume of before and maybe the creatures are aware of this and continue to feel emboldened. I hope so.
My day ended at my friend’s home, cooking a meal in the glow of her yellow splashback. Together we watched a miraculous, experimental film, 'The Silence Before Bach', by Catalan director Pere Portabella. This was a blend of contemporary vignettes about the people who either perform, or love the music of Johann Sebastian Bach with dramatic re-enactments of his life and work and lots of his music, including his organ music performed in the Lutheran church of St Thomas in Liepzig where he was Kapellmeister from 1723 until his death in 1750. Sitting there feasting on the content it had me thinking maybe we don't need to travel so much when we have access to such experiences through online platforms. We're very lucky really.