So as lock down eases (for now) what is it that we have discovered, that we don’t wish to lose or forget?
When I posed the question on twitter, I got a wonderful compendium of replies; such different stories, but each contains gold; and maybe there are one or two which particularly echo with your experience.
For one person, it has simply taken them back to a different time: ‘Blue skies without planes or contrails remind me of what it was like 60 years ago.’
And all our days have been different, of course. So how has that worked?
‘I’ve discovered that unstructured days are both extraordinarily long and pass too quickly; that bluebells almost exactly reflect the colour of the sky on a May morning; and that birdsong reawakened in the city is sweetest of all.’
To which someone added: ‘I think the birdsong was there. What is reawakened is our ability to hear it.’
For some, it has been very practical and shopping-related: ‘I’ve discovered the wonder of local shops. We always did use them but now they are our default. They do deliveries too – a lifeline when supermarkets fell short. We now also get doorstep milk deliveries.’
Meanwhile, ‘notice’ was one of the Buddha’s great words. And many of us seem to have been noticing more, particularly nature.
‘I’ve discovered noticing, paying attention to small things, especially in the natural world: wild flowers, insects, birdsong, the unfolding of the season’
‘Ditto the above,’ adds another, ‘plus an appreciation for the apparently mundane and ordinary things of life like being able to shop for food as and when, being able to meet friends in person – I was always grateful in a rather “automatic” and “well of course” sort of way before.’
‘The detail in our tiny garden – it’s so small but packed with stuff I’ve never noticed – even the cracks in the fence where the neighbour’s ivy is pushing through. There’s so much to keep me entertained for hours and I’d never have noticed had we not been locked down.’
Well, they do say that ‘God is in the detail’ – even if it’s the neighbours ivy.
‘The intensity of birdsong, butterflies and the sound of silence,’ are also celebrated; oh, and the discovery of outrageous colour. As one of you happily declared ‘How bright green the trees are!’
Another respondent has noticed four things in lock down:
‘The increased birdsong at 5.30am; how blackbirds and thrushes like to come down and bath in our small new pond; the fab views of the universe at midnight in the clear sky at night and how time drags during the day if you are not focused.’
Though it hasn’t all been daffodils and night skies. For one tweeter, it has been about economics: ‘I’ve realised that ‘we’ are the economy – it doesn’t exist apart from us, hence it’s okay to prime the economic pump and austerity was always a crock.
While for others, lock down has brought some reclamation of their truer self: ‘I discovered that all I really wanted was time and space to contemplate, Julian-style; and that I did not need to be so busy. I’ve found the quiet place at last. Ironically my word for the year had been ‘anchorite’ since last July – and I read your brilliant Julian book as a result.’
(I’m sorry for the arrant self-promotion here, but in the interests of journalistic integrity, I chose not to edit her. Indeed, none of these comments are edited; they are all here in full.)
And the theme of self-recovery is there in another: ‘I discovered I am still an artist. I was beginning to wonder after four years of running a gallery/ People’s Republic of Stroud store. I’m loving having the space and time to create again.’
The gallery door closes; a creative door opens. And as we have all slowed down, there has been some inner journeying:
‘As a temperamentally early-adopter who’s learnt to curb their enthusiasm for possibilities, in order to accommodate the more ‘conservative’, I’ve discovered that there is a season for everything and a time for every remote potential under heaven.’
Or another, ‘I’ve discovered that not being OK is actually OK and can be vocalised; oh, and not being OK passes.’
This echoes another comment to me yesterday, when asked what the lock down has revealed.
‘I’ve learned my feelings matter. I have never thought this before; it has never crossed my mind.’
While another respondent has come home to the idea of home; of being home to themselves.
‘Contentment at home. ‘My lines have fallen into pleasant places’. I do realise I’m extraordinarily fortunate, but to be content with whom I am, and where I am, is novel.’
That’s a big coming home.
‘What don’t I want to lose?’ says one of you. ‘I don’t want to lose chats with my neighbours and dropping round cakes; less driving; enjoying more bird songs; crafts with my daughter and family bike rides; walking more to and using local shops; less busy diary and catching up with friends online if I can’t see them in person.’
And from noticing to notes, there have been some musical discoveries.
‘Trumpet practice actually makes a difference!!’ said one of you – truly, a shock to us all. That good musicians actually practice?
While another celebrates finding ‘the two-five-one jazz progression on guitar – the simple key to an endless new world.’
And we all need keys like that.
I’ve certainly enjoyed finding some new chord progressions on my much-more-visited piano; it is like drawing back the curtains, light flooding in.
Meanwhile, Sundays have been very different for priests. Oh my word, yes! And it’s certainly made one of you ponder the future: ‘It’s lovely not rushing around between churches on a Sunday. I think it’s neither pastoral nor missional. I’m praying for courage not to go back to what we did before.’
While another of you celebrates bite-sized achievements in the constriction of lock down:
‘I’ve discovered that big extended (academic) projects are impossible around small children, but in their place I’ve been able to write poetry. That bite-size achievements can amount to something and bring great pleasure.’
And perhaps all these stories are in some way related to a three-word discovery one of you has made over this time: ‘Slow is good’.
So what now? It is unlikely society will change very much; there will be a rush to return to the normality of rush. There will be great pressure towards that.
But it may be that we change a little; that aspect of life we have more power over.
So inspired by the heroic voices above…
… what lock down glory are you taking into the future?