A Change, Felt.
The emotional rollercoaster we are all riding, has its calm spots. There is much about ‘the new normal’ I am at ease with: home, family, staying local. So much so, I wonder if I haven’t got off the rollercoaster entirely somedays and found a quiet field somewhere, behind a gate and through a wood. I am in a fortunate position, and self-isolation comes naturally to me. But of course, there are many things, people and places that I miss very much and this situation, fringed and feathered with real anxiety and fear, is neither normal nor sustainable. But then neither is what went before. That has been thrown into sharp relief.
Dropping off a prescription to Mum, my hand on the gate latch, something like a dark jewel glinted in the cherry hedge; at eye level, close enough for her to feel my breath on her back, a hen blackbird’s eye caught mine. Sat tight to her beautifully made mud-cup nest, like the lid on a pot, I recognised something of her anxiety. Stay put. Sit tight. Stay home, don’t move. I snuck a sideways glance at the details of her nest; a half-inch thick deep bowl, lined with woodpigeon feathers. Then averted my gaze and moved through the gate. If you act like a predator, you will be perceived as one. She did not move.
On the way home, we stop to chat to friends, falling naturally into a socially distanced quadrant, as if we are about to begin a country dance. While we are talking, I hear a wave of alarm from the birds around us – the piping shrill of a blackbird, the alarm of swallows, and feel a slight disturbance, half-imagined, of the air. The frisson of a sparrowhawk passing through.
Similarly, the weather changes like that, with a surprise, as surely if someone reached out to pat my arm with cold fingers. Though I know it is coming, the first hint I get is when a finger of wind touches my forearm, alerting me to a hole in the newly leafy hedge. On investigation, I discover a small thoroughfare for muntjac deer, fox and badger. And just like that, the new green blades of corn, just high enough to show wind direction, tremble begin their running-pelt wave towards the south west.
The cow parsley is lacing the frothy edge of hawthorn in blossom, and down a newly tarmacked piece of lane, the chalky prints of a badger’s evening activities are recorded.
I feel like I’ve shed a layer of skin; everything is so sensitive, so connected, so urgent and enduring; comforting and vulnerable. As we begin to make our first, tentative, anxious steps out of this, we must find ways to live lighter and better, Kinder, more generously, more aware of all our neighbours, of inequalities, wild or human. I do not traditionally like change, but, as I read in I Am An Island by Tamsin Calidas recently (a book for our times) tradition can be ‘a wearisome, coercive thing.’ The planet is our next disaster. In fact, it’s a current, ongoing disaster that we ignore at our peril. We must make a new contract with nature, and there will be a cost. But we have shown we can change, adjust, accommodate and reach out, and we can put all we have learnt and been through to good use, beyond the controlling of this virus.
Something wakes me in the night and I lean out of the window. Under a moon so bright in a night so clear, woodpigeons are calling a soothing lullaby. I wish I could show you how deep the moonshadow is, of the wood below the down. It is profoundly dark; a mirror image pool of spread ink. An upside-down cumulous of black cloud. So dark, if I went out, I might be inclined to walk on the diamond-bright field of flints and moon-rubble chalk, and circumscribe its unfathomable depth.