I’m in a funk. It’s another day in Victoria. Just like the last 39 days in Lockdown 2.0 but a bit sunnier. I imagine scratching a tally onto the walls of our house with my nails.
The first lockdown was exciting, I was buoyed by a sense of altruism: we can do this. Staying at home for a noble cause; finally clean the cupboards out, sort my art supplies.
I reveled in chance to be antisocial, to kick around in my ugg boots all day in the name of saving lives. And now it’s September and I wake in robotic autopilot to drift into the kitchen and put my daughter Matilda’s bottle on.
Time is flabby and shapeless; an amorphous beast devouring minutes and hours. There’s nothing to look forward to, no brief fantasies of summer Christmases with family eating mangoes and prawns to get you through another load of washing.
We’ve realised just how much we depend on the fabric of social connection.
It feels abhorrent to complain about lockdown when families around the world are experiencing such tragedy, being denied their final goodbyes with loved ones.
But, I write in order to chronicle this window of time for future generations, as someone, like most of us, watching from the sidelines.
I gather Matilda and pack her in the car. We drive to Geelong to look in some op shops. She squirms and protests, indignant that she should have to bear my hobbies. I storm out in frustration: I can’t even do this one thing I enjoy.
We walk over the road to a cavernous pet store. We step inside and Matilda becomes quiet.
We step through the sliding door and into the aquarium; humid like the tropics, the sound of a million bubbles bouncing off the walls. I instantly feel calm.
Wall after wall of fish tanks stand in rows up and down the room, packed with flashes of colour.
There are phosphorescent fish with luminous stripes down their body, translucent fish, their innards visible, stripey tiger fish, thin fish, fat fish, bulbous eye fish, splotched, speckled, electric fish, tiny fish darting around and big lumbering fish lying sedentary on the bottom.
Fish that are aggressive and fish that come up to the glass and try and suck on your finger. Cleaner fish, fighter fish, rare fish, exotic fish.
It’s the conundrum of the human condition: we are blessed with an ability to imagine a future and create it, but anxiety for that same future is a weight which can drag us under the tides of time.
There is a solace in nature: flora and fauna simply exist. They are not watching the news with gritted teeth or reading ‘How to Make Friends and Influence People’.
These fish lifted me out of my funk; the myriad of thoughts bouncing around in my brain like pesky flies. I can pay attention to those, or I can pay attention to the world around me.
“Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination,” Mary Oliver.
There’s a creek at the bottom of our street. A rocky path wends its way around the khaki green water, submerged paper barks sitting eternally as the wind whispers through the branches.
The whir of wings from a kingfisher hovering nearby and the crack of branch as a creature scurries deeper into the bracken.
This has become my pilgrimage, every day. A place which offers itself up to my imagination, vivid in simplicity.
Every breath is a gift which is a meaningless platitude until a global pandemic where hundreds of thousands of people are losing theirs.
Nature reminds us that to be here, right now, is a gift and we are part of a much bigger picture.
Our lives are not made up of queues and bills and the nightly news, as much as it feels they are at times.
The bigger picture is playing out on our doorstep, tiny ecosystems full of life, oblivious to the worries of man.
Just like fish, darting by, unbeknownst that their every move is being watched.
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