Updated on April 28th, 2020
Self-isolation has turned into lockdown, but my life has remained the same. After nearly a month of staying in, the power of new habits has softened my initial shock at what is happening in the world. Perhaps it’s easing my loss of freedom, too. I live simply, learning to savour a different, humbler kind of freedom. I’m filled with a gratitude I’ve rarely felt in my life. And, whilst I mostly stay indoors, the trees outside light up in opulent clouds of white or pink, in the warming spring days. Magical.
Yesterday I watched from the balcony, as police closed down the sports ground behind my mum’s house, and part of the park nearby. They sent home the youths that were hanging out there, or playing sports, supposedly too close to each other for safety. Firemen in bright orange gear cordoned off the area with tape of red and white stripes, which unmistakeably says: Stay away.
The air turned still and quiet then, as the clatter that had been the backdrop to my balcony afternoons died down.
Life just got another bit smaller.
But in the far distance, I can still see the beautiful, blue horizon-line of the Alps. There’s snow still on the peaks.
And today, I chatted with a neighbour, across the gap between my sixth-floor balcony and her fifth-floor window. We’ve never done that before. Later, two security men passed by, slowly patrolling the sunny, empty park. As they looked up to me, I said Happy Easter! And thank you. They smiled and sent up their good wishes. We’re doing the same work, after all – trying to stop the spread of this virus – each in our own, different way.
In sticking to the rules, as we all must, there is space at sunrise and sunset, and in the daytime stretching out in between. I’m finding myself savouring a different kind of freedom:
I watch the sun birthing its glorious, golden brilliance into the sky. It fills me with a wondrous anticipation. I give myself permission to take time for all that I do: time to cook and share meals, to care for my mother, to clean her home, to nap when I’m tired, to have conversations with neighbours and friends, to play cards with my mum.
All this nourishes more than my body. My mind has calmed down. I have fallen into step with my soul.
There is freedom in the simplicity of my life, too.
As I have stopped many activities I can’t do online, my focus is on keeping my mother as safe and comfortable as she can be. It’s on being present and spending real time with her. It’s on keeping myself as healthy, loving and hopeful as possible. Getting through our own fear is work, too…
I support those who are close by, or a call away, as best I can. I meditate and I pray. For the rest, it seems that my contribution to beating this virus mostly has to be staying at home.
I am conscious that all this is grace, when others are sick, are losing family members, or bear the challenge of working in the frontline.
In the evenings, when the sky is tinged in the rich, orange glow that the sunken sun leaves behind, I sit on the balcony and watch the bats criss-cross the darkening sky with their agile flight manoeuvres, feasting on the swarming flies from the nearby pond. They come so near! I can almost hear the flutter of their wings, the caress of air on my cheek as they dart past. I feel the exhilaration of their freedom, the quick beat of their tiny hearts in my own, grounded body. Later at night, I know I will hear the frogs sing their croaky song in the pond.
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Photo: Monica Castenetto