23 December 2022

Looking Back, Taking Stock

Categories: Life
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Listen to the new stories that begin every day.  
If light were not beginning again in the east,  
I would not now wake and walk out inside this dawn 
– Rumi –

I was sitting in bed a day or so ago listening to a bird calling in the garden, one clear note. I could see gulls wheeling and wheeling over the ocean and suddenly it was one of those moments when time seemed to crystallise. Everything slows down so that for once I really am in the moment and the moment seems to go on. I am right there in the joy of that moment, but I can see way back into the past three years.

I could see how I stood on the balcony when the the first lockdown was announced and looked down where all was as usual, the traffic below, the ocean and the mountains but I was so sure that soon I would be seeing bodies in the streets. Things seemed to be so bad in Europe, how much worse would it be for us here in Africa? I was afraid. I was angry. One went to sleep living in an ordinary life and woke up in a world where the plague lurked everywhere. This was the worst, a nightmare .

Well, no. Three years on and simply nothing happened as I foresaw. We struggled, many suffered but we were ok. The creaking health system did not collapse. We masked, we distanced, we raged when we were banned from using our beaches! And during that lockdown we made a plan: we were only allowed out for a short period of exercise and for shopping, so of course people went shopping in their running gear, carrier bags in hand and heading for a far distant store! And then we waited for vaccines. And waited. And when they came many of us rushed to be jabbed and others refused, and everybody said the other was wrong! But thankfully none of the above was along political lines.

My life was indeed turned upside down.  My grandson had lived a few steps away from my house since he was born but in his eighth year and the second year of the pandemic he and his mom moved away into the deep countryside. And we were utterly bereft! But the thing that struck me was that old persistent problem; being in the moment, being present. Of course, I had loved, loved, having all that contact with him, loving him, taking care of him, but did I really know it was a privilege? Did I understand that it was to be treasured? No, I did not.

And that applies to my life pre pandemic. I was quick to bewail the loss of normality, the lack of freedom. Of having my life change because of covid and having people close to me suddenly far away. Had been used to the luxury of having my son visit regularly and then there was covid.  I had had this huge stash of treasures, but I had stopped paying attention to, stopped being aware that everything is a gift. And everything is fleeting, everything can change.

cape fynbos

Did any good come from the pandemic and the upheavals? Yes, and yes, for me there did. Once more in my life the thing didn’t turn out as I had feared! I have to laugh at myself, stuff went wrong but not as I foresaw. I think I can just about count on it that what I am terrified of won’t happen, oh, something might, but not THAT thing. I should learn to make sure the snake that scares me isn’t just a rope seen in the half light. And then such a lovely consequence of the lockdown; close by here there is a wonderful national park and I had never really got to know it. But now because of the beach closures, the issues with crowds it has become a much-loved stomping ground. It’s an achingly beautiful bit of wilderness.

I am a slow learner. But I do notice when lessons pop up. And yet again I am reminded to savour the moment, to notice the pleasure, the luxury, the gift. And to say yes to the sorrow and the sadness, they are mine too and they take me somewhere.

fish hoek sunset

The Guest House
This being human is a guest house 
Every morning a new arrival 
a joy, a depression, a meanness 
Some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor 
Welcome and entertain them all
– Rumi –

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