The Covid Diaries 6.

THE PAUSE

Mother Earth has settled,

No longer rocked by our busyness

She embraces the new quiet,

Inhaling forgotten fume free air.

______

Her animals are curious now

Goats venture into a somnolent town,

Urban foxes relax

And explore our iconic buildings & bridges

_____

Ghost buses worm their way on deserted roads,

A lonely driver, sporadic passengers.

No chat, no muffled music,

Silent as a church.

_____

Cyclists claim the streets,

Walkers the paths.

Birds sing their joy,

In the new peace.

_____

Week after week of languid Sundays,

Tumbling slowly one after another.

Days without punctuation,

Devoid of deadlines.

_____

Life in suspended animation.

No planning, no looking forward,

Living in the moment,

In abundant time.

_____

We are all here

Calmly, waiting.

Not thinking yet of how this finally ends,

Or of how we rebuild our work.

_____

Because that’s too hard,

It will unsettle us deeply.

We need to stay still,

To stay compliant.

_____

So we focus instead on staying safe,

On staying sane.

On being quiet,

And sometimes it feels like we are healing.

_____

The Covid Diaries 3

Dublin Daffodils

Featured on Sunday Miscellany on 15th March 2020. (It wsas also already published on this blog. You can listen back here https://www.rte.ie/radio/utils/share/radio1/21734384

March is the month of the Dublin daffodils.  All over the suburbs of our capital city, in gardens, on grass verges, on roundabouts and central medians of our dual carriageways, there are great swathes of brave daffodils who seem to smile at us, regardless of the battering they may be getting from the wind and the rain.  They do their level best to remain standing, nodding their heads and bringing a splash of sunny yellow to our increasingly grey urban environment.

My father and my brother both died in March – different Marchs and many years ago.  My brother died very suddenly and in the immediate aftermath of his death, my world went very dark.  I found myself marooned behind a black wall of grief and shock.  Everything had seemingly changed and I felt as if nothing would ever be the same again.  Then one morning, about a week after he died on St Patrick’s Day 1996, I looked out my window and for the first time I noticed a large clump of daffodils, standing together in their bright yellow clothes that seemed almost irreverent to me, in my deep mourning.  What right had they to be so cheerful?  

But as I stared at them, willing them to show me some respect, something inside me changed.  Because it was those daffodils, on a piece of parkland outside my house, that made me realise how important it was for me to hold onto hope; the hope that although all may ultimately be changed, all will be well, in time. 

March is often the month when winter feels at its longest.  We are regularly becalmed in the cold, the rain, the storms and sometimes even the snow when we are longing to move forward into the sunnier, warmer, gentler longer days of spring and summer.  Sometimes we can almost smell those days which we know should waiting somewhere in the wings but which tantalisingly remain beyond our grasp.  But the daffodils know better.  They are fearless about breaking through the hard, frosty ground in order to deliver their message, year after year after year.

Last Thursday as I drove along the N11, listening to the radio and trying to come to terms with the new reality in which we all find ourselves right now, the bouncing daffodils once again caught my eye and made me think.   

They made me think that this too will pass.  These days of uncertainty, when many of us are fearful of what the immediate future might hold, will pass.  The Dublin daffodils, stand together in groups to give each other mutual support.  They dare to wear their bright finery while we are still in the grip of cold winds.  Their whisper remains as it ever was.  They say that even when everything goes dark, when nothing looks as it was, when we are unsure as to how to carry on, we must hold onto hope. We must stand together and encourage each other.  And we must never lose the belief that better days are ahead.

So, when it seems like we are all paralysed by the current crisis, when it seems that our world has stopped and our lives have been forced into some kind of weird holding pattern, we need to see and to listen to the daffodils. They tell us that all is not as we might think.  Beyond our awareness, this planet we call home is still turning, so that day still follows night and in time it will also deliver our summer.  And so, while we support each other through these uncharted waters and do what we need to do to stay safe and well, we need to remember that this time will pass.  And all will be well.  The daffodils tell us so.   

The Covid Diaries 2

LIFE, PAUSED..

Published in the Irish Independent, 17th March under the title, ‘Nature’s Message Is One Even Supermarkets Understand.’

And just like that it all stopped.  Life on hiatus.   We have sailed into the doldrums and are becalmed.  The brakes have been applied to how we live, which many us knew for decades was too fast to be good for us anyway. That most elusive of commodities, time, is now something that suddenly we have an abundance of. 

We have been pushed so far out of our comfort zone by all this inaction that some of us are meeting parts of ourselves that we had forgotten existed. It’s like our lives are being pushed through a sieve and all the nonsense is being forced out.  We are now beginning to realise that perhaps the stuff (and it is often actual ‘stuff’) that we have chased relentlessly for years, is really not important at all.  Are we actually being distilled down into our more authentic selves?

These days of enforced calm, of staying home, means that we have time to talk and to listen to those with whom we live.  And yes, I am aware that there is a slight feeling of Christmas about being corralled with your family for long days and nights.  But with all the constant remainders to look out for each other and without the pressure of enforced festivity, we are perhaps being kinder and gentler to each other right now, than we often are when supposedly celebrating the birth of that great teacher on loving one another other, Jesus.

Our dogs are delighted with this turn of events which has their humans at home to give them more attention than they usually get.  The jury is still out on what our cats think but those of us who share our lives with felines at least have constant reminders on how to remain chilled and relaxed. Cats generally aren’t bothered with stressing.

Supermarkets, who normally fill our Sunday newspapers with large ads full of their upcoming special offers, are instead advertising messages of reassurance and, most refreshingly of all, they are publicly thanking their staff who are keeping our shops open and stocked with food.  I like this new caring side of our supermarket giants. 

A look at my local supermarket shelves also reveals that we are baking.  We are baking a lot.  And nothing speaks of home, of security, of love, of comfort than home baking.  Our instincts are good.

We have been forced to walk away from jobs, to close businesses, to abandon a lot of what is totally familiar, to paddle in these very uncharted waters.  We are scaring the bejaysus out of ourselves, with no real of idea of what lies in the weeks ahead but we are so far coping in a way most of us would have doubted possible two weeks ago.  And under all this staying calm and carrying on, I am wondering if real changes are taking place. 

When this is over, what will we want to keep from this new way of living?  Will we demand more time at home with those we love and especially more time with our small children? Working from home is something that many companies have been very slow to implement but they have now been bounced into making happen for their employees.  Could this be game changer in how we work?  Imagine the time saved and the gridlock relieved by large numbers of us no longer commuting.  Our cities could breathe again. 

We are rediscovering the simple joy of going for a walk.  We are relearning the importance of nature to both our mental and physical wellbeing.  We are flocking to the beach, the park, the forest because nature, much like baking, soothes our souls.  She is oblivious to our travails.  The earth is still turning and spring in bursting forth in spite of our lives being in a weird holding pattern. Instinctively we know that Mother Earth’s message is something we really need to hear right now. 

Our global village reinforces just how connected we all are. Globally we are learning from each other and locally we are contacting our neighbours to assure them we care and that we can help those who may need assistance during this crisis.  We are staying apart, not just to protect ourselves but to protect those of us who are vulnerable. 

And our health service, broken in so many ways, is being kept going by some of the bravest and most generous of our citizens. They are the real heroes of this crisis.  We owe them a huge debt of gratitude for all they are doing and will continue to do in the uncertain days ahead. And when this is finally over, in tribute to their selflessness and the people’s sacrifice, we must finally ensure we have a health service we deserve.

Dublin Daffodils

This is the text of a my piece which was broadcast on RTE Radio One’s Sunday Miscellany on 15th March last. You can also listen back here

March is the month of the Dublin daffodils.  All over the suburbs of our capital city, in gardens, on grass verges, on roundabouts and central medians of our dual carriageways, there are great swathes of brave daffodils who seem to smile at us, regardless of the battering they may be getting from the wind and the rain.  They do their level best to remain standing, nodding their heads and bringing a splash of sunny yellow to our increasingly grey urban environment.

My father and my brother both died in March – different Marchs and many years ago.  My brother died very suddenly and in the immediate aftermath of his death, my world went very dark.  I found myself marooned behind a black wall of grief and shock.  Everything had seemingly changed and I felt as if nothing would ever be the same again.  Then one morning, about a week after he died on St Patrick’s Day 1996, I looked out my window and for the first time I noticed a large clump of daffodils, standing together in their bright yellow clothes that seemed almost irreverent to me, in my deep mourning.  What right had they to be so cheerful?  

But as I stared at them, willing them to show me some respect, something inside me changed.  Because it was those daffodils, on a piece of parkland outside my house, that made me realise how important it was for me to hold onto hope; the hope that although all may ultimately be changed, all will be well, in time. 

March is often the month when winter feels at its longest.  We are regularly becalmed in the cold, the rain, the storms and sometimes even the snow when we are longing to move forward into the sunnier, warmer, gentler longer days of spring and summer.  Sometimes we can almost smell those days which we know should waiting somewhere in the wings but which tantalisingly remain beyond our grasp.  But the daffodils know better.  They are fearless about breaking through the hard, frosty ground in order to deliver their message, year after year after year.

Last Thursday as I drove along the N11, listening to the radio and trying to come to terms with the new reality in which we all find ourselves right now, the bouncing daffodils once again caught my eye and made me think.   

They made me think that this too will pass.  These days of uncertainty, when many of us are fearful of what the immediate future might hold, will pass.  The Dublin daffodils, stand together in groups to give each other mutual support.  They dare to wear their bright finery while we are still in the grip of cold winds.  Their whisper remains as it ever was.  They say that even when everything goes dark, when nothing looks as it was, when we are unsure as to how to carry on, we must hold onto hope. We must stand together and encourage each other.  And we must never lose the belief that better days are ahead.

So, when it seems like we are all paralysed by the current crisis, when it seems that our world has stopped and our lives have been forced into some kind of weird holding pattern, we need to see and to listen to the daffodils. They tell us that all is not as we might think.  Beyond our awareness, this planet we call home is still turning, so that day still follows night and in time it will also deliver our summer.  And so, while we support each other through these uncharted waters and do what we need to do to stay safe and well, we need to remember that this time will pass.  And all will be well.  The daffodils tell us so.