Melbourne emerged from a 10-week lockdown designed to ‘flatten the curve’ of COVID-19 infections on 1 June 2020. Life was starting to resemble something akin to normal, when a friend commented over (a socially distant) lunch that she felt like we were walking along a beach, admiring how calm the water was, not realising there was a tsunami on the way. I’ve thought about that comment several times since the second wave of infections hit, sending us back into lockdown again after less than six weeks. And a hard lockdown at that. As of Monday 3 August, we are on Stage 4 restrictions. Limited to travelling in a five kilometre radius of home and only for approved activities, subject to a curfew from 8pm-5.30am, and required to wear a mask whenever we leave the house. As Anna Spargo-Ryan points out, ‘it’s worse this time‘. Her theory: ‘It’s not just that the actual figures are scarier. We used up our energy getting through the first round, had the fixed timeline in our heads and allocated resources accordingly. We didn’t realise (or denied, anyway) we would need to keep some in reserve.’
Like Anna, I believed that if we did the right thing the first time around, we would now be on the other side of this pandemic. In Lockdown #2, I’m finding it harder to hope that doing our best is enough to make a difference. The uncertainty is killing my creativity. For me, to create — at least, to write — means moving away from the familiar to the unfamiliar and not backing away when things get tough. To sit with the discomfort. To reflect. To find a way through. (Kim Wilkins speaks eloquently about this in her TEDx talk, Creativity in the Age of Distraction).
But at this moment, everyday life is unfamiliar. We are isolated in our immediate family unit. Our freedom of movement is drastically curtailed. Small things we took for granted — spending time with friends, going to bars and cafes, walking along a beach, walking anywhere without having to wear a mask — are not permitted, and its hard to see through to a time when they will be possible again. How can I wade into unfamiliar territory in order to write, when unfamiliar territory is where I’m currently living?
Instead, I find comfort in reading, crafting and cooking: small, achievable tasks that allow me to add in some small way to the sum total of happiness in bleak times. Following on from my Literary Birds initiative, I’ve branched out from knitting to crochet, and from birds to beasts, making critters inspired by my reading. Recent pairings include Meg Mundell’s eerily prescient and compelling novel The Trespassers with a young kraken from Genuine Mudpie; and Thuy On’s stunning poetry collection Turbulence with Kate Wood’s gorgeous, koi-like Fancy Goldfish Amigurumi. I have a quite few more pairings in mind, notwithstanding a brief hiatus to knit a beanie for my beloved (inspired by the one worn by Stanley Baker in The Guns of Navarone).
Given at least six weeks in hard lockdown, I might end up with a whole menagerie!
In other news, my Yarra Valley Writers Festival book club session with Brook Powell and Michael Veitch is available to watch here. I greatly enjoyed the chance to talk about my novel Mother of Pearl with both the hosts and participants, and appreciated all the thoughtful questions and comments.