Spring – a time of new growth after the dark depth of winter. Australia doesn’t really experience the depth of winter. Unless you live in Ballarat. Just kidding.
Where I grew up, in North Wales, winter was a very dark experience. Rain, sleet, snow and very short days. The sun would go down early and we would be in darkness long before bedtime. Once we arrived home, after visiting family in South Wales, to find our house completely snowed in. Dad had to dig his way in to find the front door. My brother and sister and I thought it was a huge adventure. Mum and dad were not impressed. Even the water pipes had burst because the water in the pipes was frozen. Not what you need after a five or six hour drive, through a blizzard, with three kids and a dog in the back of the car.
Daffodils are the national emblem for Wales and I’m beginning to think they’d be a good symbol for a global pandemic. Think about how bulbs work. They die back after they have bloomed. The goodness from the leaves is sucked back in to make the bulb, which lies dormant under the ground, invisible. You might even say, ‘In lockdown.’ For that beautiful flower to bloom it has to go through a cold, dark winter before it feels the earth start to warm and pushes its way back to the surface. It doesn’t see the sun until it has pushed through the earth’s crust.
Like everyone else in Melbourne, I was hoping to be out of lockdown by now. It sucks to be fully vaccinated and still confined to a five kilometre radius and a curfew. It’s hard to stay focused, motivated, productive, efficient. Don’t all those ‘doing words’ give you the heebie jeebies?
Today is the second day of Spring, here in Australia, and the sun has shown up. It’s a glorious day. I am sitting in my writing space with open French doors and the scent of Boronia wafting in on the gentle breeze. It’s not going to last long. Wild windy weather is predicted for the rest of the week.
Life is like that isn’t it? We get the sandals and shorts out and the stormy weather hits. One step forward, three steps back.
September 2019, I was on a ship in the Mediterranean, with my feet up on a lounge chair, on our private balcony gazing at the ocean. It was our fortieth wedding anniversary and Glyn and I went to the UK and Europe for a six week long holiday. Perfect timing really. We beat the pandemic back to our shores by a few months.
One of the many stand out things for me in Europe, was not just the sense of history, although that was huge, it was the indomitable nature of human beings. The ability to create something beautiful, despite the circumstances.
This struck me most when we visited the Colosseum in Rome.
We admired the architecture and the fact that it’s still there at all. It was completed in AD 80. I wondered how many people had been killed in the name of entertainment within those walls. The horror of what had happened there was juxtaposed with the most beautiful art. Intricately carved, lovingly and painstakingly gilded, and completely over the top. We went from one breathtaking creation to another.
Hadrians tomb was covered in art work. Faded yet beautiful. I wondered about the lives of those artists. How did they live? What motivated them to keep making art?
If you look closely at the arch, built for Constantine the Great, Emperor of Rome, 306-337 AD, you will see it’s not a simple arch made of bricks but a densely sculpted piece of art. Why? And what were those artists lives like? Living in a time of constant upheaval and military rule. Invasions and battles were the norm. How did they bring out so much beauty when everything around them was not?
In France we visited Le Chateux de Fontainebleau, where we saw opulence that defied logic. This is a picture of one of the rooms. Queen Marie Antoinette’s bedroom. It was she who allegedly said, ‘Let them eat cake,’ when told her people couldn’t afford bread. People were starving in the streets and losing their lives to Madame Guillotine. I felt appalled by the decadence. What were the lives of those artists like? What motivated them to create the most amazing art I have ever seen?
Creativity lives cheek by jowl with suffering.
Now I’m not saying this global pandemic is anything like the suffering some people have experienced in history, what I am trying to say is that we, as a human race, have brought beauty from ashes again and again and again. It’s a choice.
If we tune in to it, the media will keep us in a state of constant anxiety. Will I get sick? Will my children die? Will I die? How many people got the virus today? When will lockdown end? Are the borders shut? What about Christmas?
I decided very early on not tune in to all the pandemic hype. I watch the news only when I have to. My dad would be horrified. I can almost hear him now. ‘You have to stay informed.’ Actually, I don’t. It’s better for my mental health if I decide how much information I need. It’s actually more informative, and hilarious, to watch Jimmy Rees ‘Meanwhile in Australia.’ (YouTube or Instagram) I find laughter helps me enormously at the moment.
I have decided to create more, the artist in me is fighting back. I am in lockdown physically but it isn’t going to define me. I have decided to draw something every day and I am writing a book and maybe I’ll write some poems. Whatever the inner artist in me feels like doing. I am pushing up through the earth and choosing to bloom.