With all that is happening in the world because of Covid-19 and the ramifications, it is easy to become anxious. Every day I wake up with a feeling of slight unease, and a sort of ‘Day of the Triffids’ sensation, like everything has irrevocably altered, and I slowly feel my way into ‘reality’ wondering whether anything new has unfolded overnight, what the government has said now, which new countries are in ‘lockdown,’ (horrible word) and what, if anything I need to do for my family. My elderly Mum is pretty stoic about things, and she won’t be bored at home if she has to self-isolate. Like her, I find the idea of self-quarantine not a problem at all, as a painter, and we are naturally inclined to self-imposed exile in order to create. I am filming more online painting classes and teaching English remotely now, as the council has told me that my Syrian students need to be protected due to what they have been through and some of them have health issues. I will really miss them. Those women are my true heroes and I genuinely love them.
The sun came out properly today so I decided to see what Hastings was like, as I haven’t been there for a week at least, and things are changing so rapidly, I don’t know how long we will have our relative freedoms. The whole notion of freedom seems so highly questionable, and in this brave new world it seems we are not free at all. My favourite country in the world, Spain, is in ‘lockdown’. It pains me even to think about that. Such a country of conviviality, community and exuberance. I pray it will return to its former character. I had made plans to be there for at least a month or two, possibly longer from this summer, and I have absolutely no idea if it will be possible. I have to be optimistic. I dream of cafes and people meeting and sitting outside, the old men sitting in rows, passing the time of day for hours on end. I dream of walking in the mountains and coming across new places and exploring. It will have to wait. Everything feels unknown. I have to find my centre. Luckily N is so calm and it grounds me to be around him. He almost seems to be enjoying the strangeness of it all. We are laughing again. Funny how life is.
Boris Johnson has some kind of herd immunity philosophy, probably acquired from weird maverick Cummings; a typical Tory mindset stiff-upper-lip, almost beseeching old people to take one for the team, and the rest of us to just ‘get on with it’. That could change too.. Now he is asking older people to potentially self-isolate for up to four months. No one knows what the fuck is going on.
In Hastings I passed two women with scarves wrapped self-protectively around their faces. Some of the independent shops in the old town looked joyfully decorated, holding on to a semblance of normality. I walked into the new town, which has always been semi-apocalyptic anyway, ever since Thatcher closed down mental health facilities and shoved people into the community. It has never really recovered from that, although some gentrification has taken place. There was a man preaching and beseeching everyone to ‘Repent in the name of Jesus Christ’. I had never seen him before. I bumped into some good friends and we consciously avoided kisses and hugs and we remarked upon it. We chatted about how weird it all was. There is definitely a feeling of solidarity and it feels good to connect in person. I walked to Trinity Wholefoods and stocked up on brown rice and turmeric, along with my fellow hippies and hipsters. It was busier than usual.
I walked along the seafront and enjoyed the gorgeous sunshine, and had a cappuccino in the Crown, which felt lovely and friendly. I consciously soaked up the atmosphere and felt how precious it all is. I was extra nice and friendly towards others too, consciously acknowledging their humanity and existence. It brings tears to my eyes, it really does. How we can feel free, but we never really have been have we? They can’t take away our spirit though. I hope this brings about a healing and solidarity, both to the earth and our relationship to it and each other. I hope it makes us more mindful of the food we eat, how it is sourced, how we treat animals, each other. I hope we slow down and reflect, and realise that the world has needed this collective slowing down and to end the pathological need to be busy all the time.
Details on my online art classes here: http://www.alicemason.net
Ten days later..
It’s surprising how I vacillate between a sort of elation to a well of despair, or worry, in the light of this pandemic. In so many ways my life hasn’t changed much, as I am still working on a few art commissions. The commission I am working on is slow as I can’t seem to settle, and just take to the cliff top and walk it out, where I sit in a special secret spot where somebody once placed a blue bench, hidden in the woods above the sea. It is the most magical spot and I used to take my kids down there in bluebell season. I feel so lucky to have this place on my doorstep, and sometimes you can hear the sea bubbling below when the tide is in. It is divine. Today I knew I needed grounding, and took off my shoes and stood above the sea in the woods and slowed down.
It is the most unbelievable and unprecedented time where so many have lost their jobs and bars, cafes and pubs closed. We are being told to stay at home. I have always freewheeled in life, choosing an unstructured life, while also enjoying the structure of life kept in place by others. I miss my friends, I miss the messy, chaotic joyous gatherings, the music, the coffees with friends and the occasional wild night of dancing and wine. For someone who enjoys the exhilaration of change in spite of my relatively solitary nature, I orbit people and places rather than being in the centre of things, I find the uncertainty very difficult. Time to acquiesce into this unknowing.
For some this enforced staying at home is even more challenging as the pace of life and frenetic running around has been instilled in us since birth. It feels like house arrest. We don’t have the psychological muscle memory. There is almost too much to write about and I can only reflect on a few things. Just the things that are nearest.. Even writing is too much. The ramifications so vast. There is such ambivalence running through me about what is really going on. I can’t seem to accept official narratives and the new vernacular……
Sometimes there is a deep peace where I can sense Gaia is breathing again. When I tune in with the earth I find peace.
This quote from Blaise Pascal comes to mind:
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
And so we must learn to sit with our uncertainty. And hope. As Arundhati Roy said— ‘Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.’