My last blog on 14 January ended on an upbeat note – ‘I hope your own year has started well and that the returning light brings you increased energy and inspiration.’ And then news of the Corona Virus began spreading. The weeks in-between then and the start of the lockdown were spent in my studio continuing to work on my art exhibition, and in my study, continuing to read and write reports for my Poetry Therapy Practitioner qualification that I am oh-so-close to finishing. I continued to walk the labyrinth in my back garden, to play and experiment with different forms of creative expression and to spend time with friends and family. I also went to dance classes and Zumba at my local dance centre. Since Lockdown however, so much has changed. But then again, I am also finding that many things remain the same.
I read the news more – consuming it at breakfast-time along with my muesli. I want to know what’s going on not just in the UK, but world-wide. I’m on social media more; participating in a sketchbook challenge on Facebook to keep me creatively engaged; I’m Zooming with my book group and with friends in London; I’m face-timing with my creative partner, Fen; I’m learning more about oil and cold wax medium through YouTube videos; I’m video-calling over Messenger with dear friends who want to see a friendly face rather than just hear a voice; and I’m trying to keep dancing with live videos on YouTube Live but I just haven’t found anything with a reliable connection…yet! And it’s all amazing, technically. But I have also found it overwhelming, personally.
About five days into lockdown I experienced a resurgence of grief the like of which I have only experienced in the first year after my mum’s death. I felt overwhelmed and exhausted and weepy. It only lasted three days and I came out of it after a long walk with my daughter by the river near our house. But the message was clear – I was out of balance and needed to stop running away from my fear of what was going on by burying myself in social media and time spent with others. I needed time on my own for silence, and contemplation and connection to things that don’t talk at me. I needed time to connect to how I feel about things – I needed to hear my own thoughts. And so I’m going back to spending more time in my studio, and in my study, and in the labyrinth. But the biggest thing I’m doing is spending more time in nature. And that, more than anything, is what is making me feel able to cope with the uncertainty of the current climate. I’m making sure those around me are staying safe and I’m taking every day one at a time.
And then today, a friend posted a photograph on Facebook that stopped me in my tracks. It’s similar to the one at the top of this post but it was her photo of the word ‘breathe’ hung on a tree in the Wild Garden at The Barn in Banchory, Aberdeenshire. It comes from the time when I was Writer-in-Residence there leading the Flourish wellbeing project in 2017. Such a simple thing really – one word. But in times of anxiety and panic and pressure, that simple instruction can be so powerful.
That photo also answered a question that has been going round in my head ever since this outbreak started, ‘How can I help?’ I think the sense of powerlessness that this situation has brought to many of us can also be overwhelming. Especially those that are used to taking charge of a difficult situation or being the one to make things better for others. In my therapeutic work I am used to offering ways to enable others to help themselves, but being face to face is vital for this to be wholly satisfying and effective. I am looking forward to the time when I can get back to offering workshops in this way.
In the meantime I have decided to do something else. To celebrate the end of the Flourish project, I gathered together photos of the words I hung in the trees and the poem(s) I wrote in response to each in a book entitled, Temenos 23. (A Temenos is a sacred space or temple.)
I have decided to share a photo and a poem for each word on my Facebook page, Elaine Reid Writing over the coming weeks until all 23 are shared. You may not be able to congregate in the garden and participate in workshops there at present but you can view the photos, read my response and perhaps write one of your own. You could also use it as inspiration to find something on a walk you are able to do where ever you live and write something in response to that. I hope you find it helpful or soothing or simply a well-spent moment or two slowing down to breathe, to enjoy the photographs and to read.
I am sending my best wishes to you all. Keep safe and do whatever it is you need to do to find the balance that works for you.