No, not that Hamilton, this Hamilton. Here is a guest diary post from North Island, New Zealand – 36 days into lockdown – by Pete's mother, my lovely mum-in-law, who has kindly shared her lockdown experience.
We often communicate through plants so I've decided to illustrate her post with flowers and nature.
What is interesting for UK readers also is that NZ is now starting a gradual exit from lockdown and has recorded its first day with no new Covid-19 cases since before lockdown began.. We are way behind.
Any more for a guest post on their lockdown life? How are you doing wherever you are?
Hello from New Zealand
The setting: the semi-rural outskirts of the city of Hamilton, 125k south of Auckland, in a small home set in a quarter of an acre garden. It is early autumn, with gradually shortening days of misty mornings and warm sunny afternoons, leaves falling, camellias blooming, and the tips of Spring bulbs already showing.
The players: one male, one female; one younger, one older, either side of a 'big O' decade birthday; one with a health ‘condition’, the other without. So into isolation they both go!
The initial thought: ah, the perfect opportunity to go on retreat. Let’s set up a daily routine, do sitting and walking meditation, practice mindfulness, let go (after all there’s not much to hold on to for a while).
Busy, busy, busy. The outside walls of the house and garage have been washed; the inside of the house has been regularly cleaned; the lawn edges (there are metres of them) have never been so well trimmed; plants have been lifted, divided and replanted; the new model railway layout in the garage has moved on apace; there has been daily practice of the piano (will Grade 8 standard be achieved?); the sketch book has had an entry for each day, with only a few almost empty pages; a twice-weekly online yoga class has been regularly attended and found hugely beneficial (thank you Neal Goshal from Waiheke Island!); there have been more backgammon and scrabble games than usual; bread rolls and buns have been baked, these not usually being in the repertoire, and countless meals prepared, though nothing new on that score! The pantry and freezer were fully stocked well before Day one.
The one on the younger side of the big O teaches and has meetings online. The one on the other side of the big O spends a fair bit of time texting, phoning, WhatsApping, and emailing friends and family.
And on both sides there has been either daily meditation, deep relaxation, or yoga of one sort or another.
What has changed really?
The quiet, the glorious, glorious quiet.
The traffic on the fairly busy rural road and in the skies almost ceased. The birds sang, the sun shone, and we walked or cycled on empty roads every day, meeting and greeting previously unknown and unseen neighbours.
Our immediate neighbours became even more supportive; we learned to tolerate and accommodate each other’s presence and drew strength from a shared experience.
What is hard/tricky?
Managing fear and uncertainly is hard; all the what ifs, not just for oneself and for immediate family and friends, but for this community, for New Zealand, for the whole world.
And tricky? Facing oneself, watching the good and bad arise and knowing that the important other in the house had less respite and fewer escape routes than usual.
Coming out of lockdown
The last three days of lockdown in New Zealand have been at Level 3, rather than Level 4. This means that we stay at home, but 75% of NZ businesses are now functioning in a modified fashion, a tiny percentage of children are at school, and the challenge of maintaining social distancing is more significant.
Will we remain on the elimination path we have successfully trod so far?
To us, Level 3 simply means more of the same, just with a less quiet backdrop (can we stop the traffic please?), the chance to order more things online, and maybe to take a walk somewhere a little further away from home.
Friends and family in NZ have become just like friends and family in the UK and other parts of the world. Just as important and just as loved as ever, but just not physically close.
Today I am thankful for Sue's post. And for family far and wide, and hope they are all doing ok. Sue's last comment is pertinent for me because not being able to see family who live even a couple of hundred yards away is a bit like how I imagined it would be to emigrate. It's strange and different but the bonds are always there even from afar. The difference is, there is no new life to begin except one that forces you into being more and more with yourself. And I guess that is a difficult landscape to navigate for a lot of people. No wonder mental health issues are arising, quite apart from the anxiety created by living through a pandemic. As Sue says: "Facing oneself, watching the good and bad arise, is tricky."
My advice FWIW when you come face to face with yourself is:
- Be kind and try not to punish yourself.
- Empty your thoughts into a diary.
- Find something to love (or feel positive about), something to do and something to look forward to.
Take care wherever you are. Here's a petunia for the road.
And a Magnolia Susan from our garden for Sue. xxx
Commission/hire me: fiona [at] fionacullinan.com