Counting Lockdown Blessings
We’re on the cusp of coming out of lockdown. This will be welcome of course: the chance to see friends and family with ease, to go where we please, to make plans again after so many were cancelled. But before we get caught up in the whirl of whatever the ‘new normal’ will be I’d like to name and remember some of the blessings that have come in this time so they don’t get swamped and forgotten.
This is not in any way to downplay the exhaustion, loneliness, frustration, claustrophobia, sickness, sadness and loss that have accompanied this pandemic. The suffering has been very real for many. Here at Cae Mabon we’ve been extremely lucky. It’s as good a ‘home’ as anywhere to have to ‘stay at’; especially in the sixty days of unabated sunshine we had in April and May. Perhaps as a consequence we’ve been keenly aware of the silver linings of Covid 19. Maybe they will turn out to be our greatest teachers.
On the 3rd May I put up a Facebook post inviting people to share their positive spin offs. I said it was important to be aware of them and to amplify them when possible. ‘They might be key ingredients,’ I said, ‘when it comes to reweaving the world.’ The response was rich and diverse. Here is some of what people said mixed in with my own thoughts. Again, with the acknowledgement that many people have been busier and more stressed than ever.
Ten Positive Spin-Offs
For those working from home, furloughed or in some way ‘at ease’, the pace of life has slowed down. The sky and the roads have been quiet. Free from rush and social obligation we’ve been able to take time, be present, go slow. We’ve noticed what’s happening under our noses and been more aware. This pause in the daily whirl has a positive effect on mind and body – less stress and pressure favours good health. There is soul food to be imbibed.
2. Moving Outside
The one thing we’ve been allowed to do outside the house is exercise. So we’re keen to get moving – walking, cycling, running – and if we didn’t know it before we know now that it’s good for our health. It’s as if we’ve been told, or reminded at least, to do it. And because it’s our one excuse to get outside people are keen to do it. Around here many more local people are walking than usual.
3. The Beneficence of Nature
When we start walking we pretty soon realise that the best places to go are the parks, woods, beaches and wilds… Mother Nature. She is our first home and she reminds us who we are. She heals us. If we are lucky we have gardens in which to work and play with Nature. We can prepare, plant and nurture seeds, watch them grow. Gardens have never been so well tended. And we’ve been able to observe at close quarters the unfurling of new life. The birdsong has been more vibrant than ever. It’s been ‘a spring like no other’. It’s like we’ve given Mother Nature a breather and she – and her creatures – have bounced back: mountain goats on the streets of Llandudno, wallabies hopping through the Adelaide boulevards.
4. Essential Services and Key Workers
We’ve come to realise what people and jobs we can’t do without. Farmers who continue no matter what; supermarket stackers and checkers; van and truck drivers, postmen; nurses, doctors and carers; those who keep communication networks running. And more, of course. But a lot of us are doing work that is not necessarily critical to basic survival or society. We’ve come to value more those on whom our survival depends.
5. Getting By On Less
Supermarkets have been advising us to ‘only buy what you need’. In other words, don’t stockpile, make sure there’s enough for everyone. Usually their advice is to the contrary: ‘buy more than you need’. This has provoked a wave of making do, growing your own, looking after hens, baking bread, making cheese, elderflower champagne and more. We have more time to think creatively about how to do things differently and perhaps even become more self-sufficient.
6. Neighbours and Community
Because we’ve had to ‘stay at home’ we’ve become more identified with our places: our homes, neighbourhoods and communities. Some have learned they can work from home. Many have been forced to explore the possibilities of home schooling. This may have been challenging but parents are also saying they’ve enjoyed having more time with their kids. Alongside this has been a rise in neighbourliness – more friendly conversations, talking to strangers and mutual aid. There is more appreciation and generosity. For example one of my neighbours, an experienced baker, offered to bake sourdough bread for his neighbours who’d like it. He’s been knocking out a dozen artisan quality loaves every week for nearly three months now. It is a community connecting activity.
7. Downturn in Transport Use
People have been relieved that there’ve been fewer planes in the sky. And the roads have been quiet. Usually bustling city centres have been like empty ghost towns. ‘Stay at Home’ means ‘don’t travel’ so no need to go anywhere. Or at least journeys have been radically reduced. I filled my car with fuel on 5th April and two months later there was still half a tank left. As a result of this reduction in traffic there have been fewer accidents and, apparently, fewer cardiac arrests. Less stress, I guess. And of course there was also a reduction in carbon emissions. For a few brief weeks the usually polluted skies of big cities were clear. People could breathe again. It wasn’t enduring enough, but it was a bigger sudden drop than we’d ever managed before.
8. Zooming Round the World
It’s almost as if the virus waited until our technology was so fine-tuned that we could see, and be seen by, groups of people from almost anywhere in the world. We are discovering new ways of doing things online. It may not be as good as being in the room but it can be surprisingly effective. And in some ways it has improved communication and relationships. A group of my men friends – the Gaffers – normally meet once or twice a year. Now we are meditating together and talking once very two or three weeks. Songs have been recorded with musicians simultaneously contributing lines and instrumentals from their rooms all over the world. People stuck at home have been forced to be inventive. The children in one family who come regularly to our Open Weeks have posted ‘Kids Tell Bad Jokes’ on YouTube. Some of them are almost funny. Like: ‘What does a dinosaur call what he puts on his chips? Tomatosaurus!’ See more bad jokes here!
9. A New Creative Spirit
As we’ve had more time home alone, we’ve been forced to find things to do. Some are learning something new, like weaving or Latin. Others are catching up with decades of paperwork. Many are finding new ways of being, learning, connecting and expressing online. One dear friend of mine, Dafydd Davies-Hughes, already an outstanding craftsman (he made the windows and doors in the Cae Mabon Barn many years ago), storyteller, artist, in fact, genius, has used this time to create some beautiful visually illustrated poems. Here’s one, about his father. So, as the old Chinese saying has it, this crisis has also been an opportunity. With old routines dropped, new habits have begun to form. We’ve surprised ourselves how much we can change and grow in just a few weeks.
10. Viral Evolution
It is believed that up to 10% of the human genome is of viral origin. Viral genes are likely to be an important factor in evolution and may influence how we perceive and react to the world. Could Covid 19 mysteriously be contributing to the process whereby consciousness seems to continually expand? Scientists will probably let us know sooner rather than later. Meanwhile it’s a different way of looking at this pandemic: as Nature at its brilliant best. How else could we effect change in all people at the same time, all over the planet?
My friend Ali Bates has summarised the impact of Covid 19 rather well. He says ‘it’s like a magical new entity that has already brought about a change we’ve all been craving but not able to implement: enhanced relationships within families, new attachment to locality and community, appreciation of nature and planetary interconnectedness. We’ve rediscovered the spirit of the welfare state, the role for government to provide security for our basic needs. We’ve reduced travel and consumption and we are being encouraged not to buy more than we need. This is all a fundamental challenge to an old political philosophy which accepted the exploitation of people and planet in the interest of the wealthy few’.
Let’s water the flowers that are poking through the pavement!