There’s a lot of talk about the birdsong, and how it can be heard now, along with the blueness of the sky, and the silences that descend at night. We all listen and look, and then listen harder because we like the idea that there is good coming from ‘all this’. My wise friend Dawn said of the clear, supposedly fish-filled canals of Venice, that the water clarity was because the mud had settled, with no boats to churn it up, rather than it being a reversal in environmental quality. She’s no expert, but for sure, there is something to be said for settling. And listening. And when the most pleasing of the available choices of daily activity is walking, it’s no wonder we can all hear the birdsong. Even in the city.
Going to the city seems like a distant thing now, let alone leaving the country. The island-ness of living on a island feels more acute. Whilst I can’t travel to the city, I do surreptitiously take myself to the water ‘s edge look at the sea, after a bike ride or on a walk. All the locals do, I dare say, and I wonder what will happen when the weather really heats up and there will be the lure of swimming.
So instead, there is reading and watching. I finished Joan Didion’s ‘The White Album’, a series of social commentary essays written in the late 60’s/early 70’s. I have been mildly obsessed with her since watching the Netflix documentary ‘The Centre Will Not Hold‘ which I have written of before. I have a tendency to loop back to writers. The essays speak the truth, and I suppose this is the best thing for an essay to do. On the same day, I binge-watch ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’ with my daughter, and feel smutty afterwards. But the exposure of modern life in these two mediums is the same; things must be recorded as representative of the time in which we live. This is the high/low referred to in the title of the best podcast for chat. Dolly and Pandora talk with such surety and cleverness that it makes me wonder if that is the product of a good education or genetics or societal conditioning. I remain as fascinated by Millenials as I am by teenagers. The truth of the generational divide never more evident in the response to this adversity.
I have turned my notifications off on WhatsApp as the noise of a hundred emptied out lives had become deafening. And ordinarily I love WhatsApp; I’d live for its inclusion in daily life. I am selective now, and only dip in and out of the good stuff. On rare journeys out in the car the radio is blasting, disturbing the peace, in what I see as a small act of anarchy, and it’s Marvin Gaye or Otis Redding and I am taken back back in time.
At dinner in the evenings, we sift through the Spotify playlists; my children know to skip certain songs, but then, in recent weeks, I find, I can actually listen to some. There is a gradual resetting of being able to hear music that triggers old emotions, or old habits, but we persevere and I notice they check my face for signs of response, and acceptance. Later on, I strain to discern my son’s nocturnal footsteps on the landing, in the middle of the night, as his teenage body clock has shifted to adjust. None of us are sleeping well, but for all sorts of different reasons.
What follows, of course, is the morning waking, an overnight inventory of sleep, and the messages from others who can’t either, and instagram posts from Australia, from those who have faced the day already, and turns out: it’s ok. Being tired matters less, but surely matters a lot more for those who are working through this, and I feel guilty for my inactivity. But, I can hear the birds and the weather is holding, and that feels like reaching the ground after a long fall.
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