Yesterday, as I marked day 3 of the lockdown on my calendar, I paused and wondered how many days will it be before I can see my children and my grandson again. I tried not to look into the future, tried not to predict a negative scenario. And then I put the thought to one side and set off down the driveway to the street.
As a person living on my own I am entitled to a walking ‘buddy’/friend. We met at the milk bar near Cheltenham beach and walked together down to the sand. And suddenly a glorious vista opened up. The sea, smooth bands of turquoise and blue, lay glittering in the autumnal sunlight. It seemed almost normal. People swam up and down in parallel lines out from the shore. A father walked by with a small child in a pouch out in front. A child in a yellow sweat shirt bent down to dislodge something from her shoe. Everyone was maintaining a safe distance of two metres and more. We found a place against a rock wall and sat apart talking. There is so much to say: checking in, discussing the family one by one and our separation from loved ones - my friend’s husband is working in Rome, my son has chosen to hunker down in Sydney. We discussed our work. My friend is employed in the public health policy team at Auckland Hospital and is very busy. We discussed our strategies for dealing with news updates: how many downloads of negativity can a human being stand? the dilemma of needing to be informed versus the need for peaceful input and time to build resilience. I say it was almost normal because it isn’t really. The framing around our conversation, the subcurrent whispering beneath the surface was altogether disquieting. I looked across the water to Rangitoto and realised with a jolt there were no yachts, no pleasure boats, no kayaks. The surface of the sea was empty. I’d never seen this phenomenon before and although one part of me delighted - this was how it must have looked to Maori centuries before the arrival of the colonisers - it felt not normal. Everywhere I looked, up and down the beach, scanning the northern slopes of Maungauika, North Head at the far end, I felt this disjunct between my recognition of how achingly beautiful everything looked and the knowledge in my head that everything has changed, we are on our own now, each one of us entering an an unknown landscape with an unknown timeline. Thankfully the scenes on our return, window after window filled with teddy bears and soft toys, lifted my spirits again. Human creativity, human resourcefulness, our infinite capacity to adapt to challenge and the gift inherent in the multitude of online media platforms available to enable connection between people, all these things will carry us through.