And I sit. I just sit.
For years I’ve been saying I want to ‘do nothing’. For me though, ‘doing nothing’ is never doing nothing. It’s just not going out. I tell myself I’ll ‘have a day off’ which means I’ll be catching up with things; doing something. There is no down time. There is no free time. There is no respite. I don’t write paper lists, but I have a long, always longer, list in my head. I wished I could have a day off from myself.
And then Corona happened. Bliss, I thought. Finally, I can get everything done. I asked friends for book recommendations. I googled virtual tours through museums, looked forward to National Theatre productions on Thursday evenings and thought of all the online courses I could do.
But I did start a twenty-minute meditation every morning. Guided. It felt too full-on to launch myself into a chasm of unyielding silence. I listened to Oprah and Deepak talking about gratitude. And through a friend I found the lovely Kim from Serenity Retreat in Wales. Something happened. I listened to them and I started to listen to myself. My head rebelled and went into free-fall. Thoughts came thick and fast. Nonsensical stuff, anything to break the fall. But there were pin-pricks amongst the noise. Not always, but enough. Moments of stillness. Moments of connection – with my body, with what felt like my own real self. I began to look forward to the meditations. They felt like “me time”. Like quiet time. That elusive thing that I had claimed I wanted for years, and never did anything to try and achieve. I tried to be in the moment; to stay with ‘what is’. Only for that twenty minutes. And that was twenty minutes too much. But that paying attention, created movement. Something is shifting. I do not know how, but change is afoot.
Most days I walk. The woods start at the end of the street after our street. The trees are glorious. Long avenues of them marching across the landscape. At the start of lock-down they were brown and bare. Scuffed trunks, and skinny arms raised in supplication. Often static. Sometimes waving madly in the wind. Masters of ‘what is’. I listened to nature. Anchored to the present. Trees cracked and rustled. A woodpecker, tap, tap, tapped. My shoes hit the dry, loose earth with a soft ‘pff’. At dusk one night, I caught sight of an owl, high on a branch, head turned away from me. He too was engaged in the act of ‘just being’. Once you start a thing, you’re constantly nudged towards it, and you wonder what took so long to start in the first place.
The walks are beautiful. I venture deeper into the woods, deeper into myself. The beginning of the greening starts. Wisps of colour wrapped around bark, like a scarf knotted against a neck. Flecks of moss at the base of trunks. There’s an aliveness to it. The growth of the green defies logic. Blossoms bloom. Every day the palette deepens. Dandelion yellow. Speckles of blue. Splotches of pink. And so much white delight. The lace of cow parsley. Hawthorn hedges. In these woody walks, I loose the noise and find some peace. Trees always make me feel better.
I start a gratitude journal, noting down five things a day that I’m thankful for. I hesitate to say it. I know for many this is a time of suffering, stress and pain. But I’m thankful for this Corona time. Thankful for this time of withdrawal, of going within, of listening, of being, of hibernation. A time of discovery, reconnection, recognition and peace. A journey like no other.