I feel very Jane Austen beginning a message in this way, but there’s something about our times – the visitation of challenges we haven’t faced for over a hundred years, the reminder that we remain vulnerable despite our technological sophistication and the call to treat each other with particular kindness and in a well-mannered way – that makes me feel a little bit Jane and a whole lot olde worlde. So…dear Reader…are you safe and well? Are people looking after you kindly and are you reciprocating? I sure hope so.
You’ve likely heard of C.S. Lewis, author of the Narnia Chronicles, whose character in the movie representation of his life, Shadowlands, says, “We read to know we are not alone.” He meant this in the existential sense, but it has quite practical import as we move into a time of quiet seclusion while the pandemic waves washes over us. People are in retreat from the danger of the virus, which – painfully for a social species – is present in the threat of contact with family, friend and stranger. We are witnessing the fear and stresses of this manifest in extremes of both beautiful and exceedingly ugly human behaviour. So how do we encourage the former and keep the latter in check? I think by actively nourishing the goodness in ourselves and the world – people, pets and physical place – and creating positive connections in all the ways available to us.
That might mean a whatsapp group for your street or apartment block, collecting groceries (but, please, only as many as are actually needed for a few days) for neighbours in need, tending your veggie patch and sharing its largesse, or listening to music and devouring books (dear Reader) that tend your soul, transport you to better times and reinforce your experience of being connected in that miraculous and peculiar way offered by the arts.
And I’m compelled to share another of my self-care tips. Creativity – telling stories in whatever way works best for you – is therapeutic. Most authors write because it heals them. It is cathartic, it makes sense of the world, it creates order out of chaos and it fosters a sense of being part of something bigger and purer than self. In short, dear Reader, especially at this time, I encourage you to be a dear Writer, or a dear Gardener, or Singer or Cook or Dancer (though I recommend 1.5 metres away from your beloved if you’re a tad feverish in a bad fever way, rather than a ‘you give me fever … fever when you hold me tight, fever all through the night’ fashion).
If you’re not quite ready to ‘write’ your own story, there’s a stack of great ones to read. Sing out if you’d like a recommendation. If you read mine, Desire Lines, and feel like a chat about it, I’d love to talk to you through the usual socially-distanced but nevertheless social channels.
Please take care – of yourself and others.
Yours from the raised garden bed Santa brought me for Christmas, from the healing that comes with making good things grow and the promise of fresh zucchini, capsicum and rocket when my non-stockpiled pasta runs out.