I notice that I love this slowed down world, even as I sometimes feel grief and worry, or even guilt for appreciating the leisurely pace of life.
I notice that I am breathing more slowly.
I notice that after a week of steady Covid 19 news, I had to shut off the radio and social media for a few days to let my head and heart clear, to give myself time to really take this in. I felt too full – of information, of statistics, of black humour, jokes and diversions, of helpful philosophical takes.
I notice in a new way how deeply grateful I am to live where I live, to have discovered the richness of a small piece of land across the road made up of shelterbelt and wetlands, marsh grasses and willow, ruffed grouse, rabbit, fox, coyote, deer and more. My “noticing walks” take more time because I don’t have to rush off anywhere.
I notice my joy in the easy companionship with our two old dogs, Lady Lucy and Hercules, who are the reason I walk here. Noses to the ground, ears alert, tails awagging, their body language reminds me that I am missing so much.
I notice the male ruffed grouse who has lived here all winter, successfully avoiding the fox, and who is drumming for his mate. I haven’t seen her yet! I notice the pairs of hungarian partridge who I disturb as they sit together near where I walk. I notice the magpies, the ravens, the spring call of the chickadees.
I notice the marsh grass and the brome grass and how the posture and bearing of each is unique. I spend longer than usual looking at dried weeds and I take some home to paint. I become completely captivated by their forms and paint dead plants and their seed heads for several days.
I have always wanted to paint plants at this time of the year, but I have never taken the time to do so before this quarantine. I like to befriend wildflowers and plants – getting to know them better in all seasons and stages is an investment in this rich friendship.
Each day I notice things that I have given a fleeting glance to before, but which I have never before given my full attention.
It’s a little like my gradual understanding of Covid 19 and being quarantined. The other night I dreamed that I was at social gatherings and no one was social distancing. I didn’t have the right language to tell them they must. In this way, Covid 19 has entered my dreams and my sub-conscious world. But in so many other ways, it feels surreal.
Each day, I learn about how the threat of Covid 19 is affecting others – the homeless, those in prison, those seeking shelter from abuse. The cracks in our society are more evident – people being paid minimum wage, losing work with nowhere to fall. The moms who are working at home, and homeschooling, and holding it all together – or not. How this might feel for those in poor or compromised health. Businesses on the brink of shutting down. The grocery store and pharmacy workers, some elderly, going to work day in and day out. The cleaners and laundry workers, care workers, nurses, lab technicians, nurses and doctors who are keeping our hospitals and long term care facilities open and safe. Just yesterday, I read about a woman with breast cancer whose scheduled mastectomy has been cancelled, and who cannot learn how her breast cancer is progressing. I hear these stories as if through a layer of fuzzy wool, distantly. Somehow, these realities are not fully penetrating my being.
I suspect that this will change with time. It will most certainly change when I or someone I know contracts Covid 19, or is affected in some direct way by this pandemic. We learn by degrees. Our minds are absorbing so much. It takes a long while for our bodies to catch up, to fully take in all that this pandemic means. In the meantime, I will accept the gift of time to truly notice the beautiful world just past my door. To be truly here.
It seems fitting to close with this beautiful poem by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer called “Here”.
Even as the snow was falling,
the birds in the branches
kept singing into morning,
easing their bright notes
into the thin gray spaces
There are days, imagine,
when the birds go unheard.
And it isn’t for lack of song—
the single note chirp
of sparrow, the bass of raven,
the chickadee’s hey swee-tee.
Some gifts come only
when we stay in one place,
come only when we are alone,
come only when we stop praying
to be somewhere else and instead
pray to be here.
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