‘The woods looked simply glorious in the morning sun, and all nature was at
its best. Fancy a war on in surroundings like this. It seems unthinkable.’
Private J.W. Graystone, of the 10/East Yorkshire Regiment, wrote of his camp
at Authie on the Somme.
There is a plague upon all our houses. A war of a different kind.
I have been silent for weeks – perhaps too disbelieving as to what was unfolding, uncurling like an evil, alien creature, to infect the world as we know it. Seemingly surreal, we witness life shut down, jobs dissipate, incomes flutter and space more and more limited. Sometimes I think that it wouldn’t matter what I say, would anyone be listening anyway, does it matter (it does to me) – and angry at all the awfulness that spills like an oil slick on a pristine sea.
I don’t really know – but what I do know is that my life, and everyone else’s, will never be the same again. I want to blame who I think is to blame, but blame is hot air. No longer matters. Human nature, in these circumstances, swings from jovial banter (the thousands of memes are testament to that) boosting our spirits as we distance ourselves, to the worst traits, fake news and crashing negativity. Not for a second can I be blasé about the situation we are in, we are burying thousands – but I also know if I want to keep sane for the days to come, fear will take me down.
Far from my family in isolation, on another continent, for the time being. This is what I find the most difficult to deal with. When all the fluff of life filters to the pavement, it is family and the people you love, you want to be closest too. Fortunate in that my children are all isolating together, with George, who continues to coax giggles and offer hugs as only an animal can, thus ensuring the adequate levels of love and optimism in their confined space remain high. They are together and that is a great comfort to me. Many are separated and find themselves in foreign climes, we need to be aware of that and pray they will get home when the restrictions are lifted.
This is the crossroads of choice. Common sense tells us to be cautious, self isolate and take extra medical and hygienic care. Washing of hands for 20 seconds (I have come to see doing this as my spiritual ritual). Much thinking and absolving and washing away of oh, so many thoughts … More importantly, the choices, of optimism and fortitude. There are generations below us who are facing more trials in the future – adding our woes to this tragedy does not help them. It has them worrying about us – if I am positive, no matter how fearful, at least it is one less voice of doom. Courage is my choice (though I do have the little melt down, in private, which is ok) as is refraining from sinking in the mire of tragedy lovers.
What I am doing is rising up to my renewed faith in nature. My renewed faith in faith. How long has it been since I really paid attention? I mean, really paid attention, as a child does staring into a pond, fishing for tadpoles, or studying a rock pool for ages? Not just listening to birds but attempt to learn their unique calls, coax my sickly icebergs back to life and lie on my back, in the afternoon, now that I have the time to do very little, and stare at the clouds. To the trees I go. If this sounds twee, that is exactly what it is – nature is calming and more importantly, it is the reminder that:
The ability of nature to endure, despite the bullets and blood, gave the men a psychological,
spiritual, religious uplift. The unconquerability of nature provided the reassurance
that life itself would go on, that there was after all a purpose and meaning to things.’
‘Where Poppies Blow.’
Our war right now may be different, the dread the same, but already one hears of increased birdsong, cleaner waters, less pollution as we go into hiding. Nature’s resilience and that gorgeous light in the morning is my song against the darkness. With calm, common sense and the beauty all around us in the natural world, we are going to be fine.
Already looking at my life, and the world around me with new, heightened senses. Still get scared, there is loss on a scale unprecedented, and then there is us … the breaking and the making of us.
What will you be doing during the lockdown to take the fear and keep calm at this time? Let me know, even if it’s just to share. We all need to support each other. Stay safe.
Quote from ‘Where Poppies Blow’ – The British Soldier. Nature. The Great War. by John Lewis-Stempel 2016. Published by Weidenfield & Nicholson. London.