November 2020
“Pandemic Perspectives”
Challenges of Lockdown - Helen reflects on some of the challenges of lockdown time and place
As we face new restrictions, Helen’s second instalment reflects on some of the challenges of lockdown time & place. We hope you enjoy reading them, and will send in your own creative responses. These will be woven into a document about daily exercise, social and other forms of distance, seasonal shifts and more – further suggestions and contact details at the end. We were in a perpetual state of adaptation, to which body and mind responded at different rates - and to which front-line workers of course didn’t have the luxury of time to adjust. Body-clocks were out of kilter. Simple tasks, like unpacking the shopping, were exhausting because we were constantly in a heightened state of alert / vigilance. Routine activities became more demanding, and underlying anxiety about the raison d’etre of all this, the virus, grew. Bare shelves in Tesco brought home just how much food & shelter had become the immediate priority, followed by exercise & fresh air. There could be scant space left home-working, home-schooling, creativity. And sometimes, despite evident slowings-down, it could feel as though there wasn’t enough time. With dyspraxic tendencies that make co-ordination and being methodical hard at the best of times, my best efforts to sterilise everything in the right order felt too haphazard. In a manner more superstitious than scientific, I’d bargain that if I was extra-careful elsewhere, all would be well. New ethical dilemmas, a new territoriality, presented themselves in the hills as well as in shops. The question of what constituted reasonable etiquette exacerbated differences between people. Were you prepared to stay local, and not risk taking your contact-train further afield? Even if a farther field was only populated by sheep, it was lambing time, and farmers shouldn’t get sick because people go for a walk to make themselves feel better. In the nearest hills from home, the North Face of the Pentlands, I was as careful as I could be with gate fastenings, the main contamination-hazard, and became adept at using elbows and even walking poles. There was some (online) occupation of moral high ground from those sticking to the lower ground. Fire risk increased. I tried not to think too far ahead. It became even harder to imagine further ahead. For the first few weeks I resisted Zoom and the apparent rush to take all of life online. As others embraced remote working, and Hillend and everything beyond it vanished, I was unable to write. Instead I stilled a constant internal chatter by reading others’ poems out loud to the emptying cleughs. Everything I read seemed somehow apposite, prescient of this time. Then I started to become bombarded by my own words, started a journal, blogged, transcribed exercise itineraries and walk routes, wrote a dozen poems, plus dozens more haiku. Six weeks in I became acutely aware I was speaking my thoughts, or fragments of them, out loud, as though my unconscious were seeping up from under my breath. Deprived of a normal range of in-person communication, and surrounded by the clichés and metaphors of Covid, it was as though I was finding an - uncomfortable - way to externalise a concentrated interiority. Weeks divided into walk-time, that could generate a kind of euphoria, and a more anxious home-time, when I worried about the collateral effects of the pandemic: income, faulty and temporarily unfixable appliances or teeth, the thought of being in a crowd, or on public transport, again. Domestic plans would frequently be postponed by unplanned therapeutic walks. At this time of year I’d normally be ready to travel further. My ambition now was to watch the very-local change over the season. Would I settle into this, contented, or find it too limiting? The Future . . . . . . is over to you, readers and residents of Colinton, Juniper Green, Currie and Balerno, and others with an affinity for the area around the upper Water of Leith. How has the pandemic affected your relationship with the area? How would you voice or otherwise express this? What do you notice (hear, feel, smell, taste) when out exercising locally? What would you like to continue and what further changes would you like to see? Do you know more about places I’ve mentioned, or have a new connection since lockdown to somewhere else in the area? Send your poem, story, picture (photo – it would be great if you could caption it - drawing or painting, map or design) to
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Helen Boden 01