Like you, at this (*Do not use the word unprecedented! DO NOT use the word unprecedented!*) unprecedented time (sorry), I’m noticing the mood swings. I guess we all are.
Some days I feel sad and pensive, weepy even. News of the spread of the virus, of the death toll, of friends who have contracted it or people in hospital – all this is like a bad dream from which there’s no waking. At these times, I do not want to read amusing things or watch funny videos. I do not feel like ‘making the best of it’, seeing the positives. Smiling or laughing feels wrong, a lack of respect for those who are suffering.
Other days, I feel OK, (guiltily) happy. The sun’s kindness, time to write, the heron on my neighbour’s roof – all these things, normal things, fill me with a lingering pleasure. I want to walk, bake, laugh at silly things. I find it fascinating how quickly we adapt to new situations. Like when your holiday house, on Day 2, already feels like home.
The truth is, the slow days, the reading and gardening, the Whatsapp video coffees – this is my life now. And, you know, all things being equal, it’s not a bad way to live.
But of course they’re not. Equal, that is. If I needed to work or was ill, it would be different. I think a lot about people in these situations and send up heartfelt ‘Please help them’ prayers. One man’s meat is another’s poison. I took the above photo of a heron on the roof in an ecstacy of excitement and sent it to the neighbours who live under it. Look at this heron on your roof! He often sits there. Thought you’d like this…They (politely) told me they are not happy with the heron. It has already killed two fish in their pond despite the netting. Also, the gulls in the wood wake them at 6, protesting loudly at the heron’s presence. I felt as though I’d rubbed salt in the wound. Oh dear 😦
On my walks, I’ve been seeing rainbows. You will have seen them adorning the windows of the houses near you. You may know the idea began in Italy where children made rainbow pictures and placed them in windows with the slogan “andra tutto benne” (“everything will be alright”). It has now taken off all over the world in places like Canada, Spain and the U.S. as well as Britain. There is a Chase the Rainbow Facebook page and even an app where children can work out where to go rainbow spotting. Schools are encouraging it and this follow-the-rainbow game for kids has become a simple way of cheering us all as we wonder the streets, looking for a new walk. Unless you’re on a bad day. In which case you want to paint a picture of a massive thundercloud to put in your window with the slogan “Non va tutto bene, per niente!”. (I have no idea what that means – I distrust translation apps).
On my Wednesday walk, I saw some children that I’ve taught. I was walking past their house and they were in their back garden on a trampoline.
“Hello, Mrs Jenkins!” Seeing me seemed to be an enormous treat.
“Hello! How are you?” I smiled, careful to keep my distance though to be fair there was a fence, a pavement and several feet of bouncing air between us.
“Fine!” one of them called on an upward bounce,
“But,” downward bounce, “we,” upward bounce, “miss” downward bounce, “school!” upward bounce.
Their mischievous faces and flying hair made me laugh. “Me too!” I called back, “I miss the children and teachers so much.”
We chatted for a while in an up-and-down kind of way. By the end of it, they were bouncing in unison and I found myself joining in, extending my upper body on the up bounce and bending on the down one. They told me they wished they were at school but were working on their packs and having fun at home. There’s a rainbow in their window.
I counted twenty rainbows on my walk that day, twenty households where a childish spirit (or a child) had taken the time to create a curve of colour and put it in a window (I hope they used blu’ tack. Sellotape’s a bummer to get off). I began to feel happy about the rainbows, even though lots of people had died the previous day. And what I realised is, it’s OK to feel down and it’s OK not to. It’s alright to ignore something that annoys, one day, and let the same thing inspire you the next. There are no rules in a pandemic. Except, stay home. Obviously.
One day, we’ll look back at this extraordinary time (see what I did there?) and remember the heartache, the fear, the uncertainty and horror. But we’ll also remember quiet skies, on-line choirs, family meals on Zoom. How the lazy warmth of Spring made blossom plump and children bouncy. How on weekends we went to theatres in our front rooms and on Thursdays, we clapped. We clapped to say thank you and we clapped to say please. Please keep them safe. Please may it end. Please send a rainbow.
So, we watch, we wait and we pray. Ignore rainbows on bad days and count them on good. And on the inbetween ones, when we don’t feel much at all, may their stubborn declaration of hope work magic, help us fly, bring us warmth.
A rainbow is after all, just an upside down multi- lipsticked smile.
Note to self: Some people dislike herons.