‘The sun, softly adrift between the creamy puffs of a nearby cloud, ends her day shift and is welcomed by the ever-twinkling, silver hue of the nightime moon.’
That detailed description of what is, quite simply, just another sunset comes to mind more often than you might think. As a writer, I am blessed with the ability to find the truly wonderful in what may, at least at first, appear to be nothing worth noticing. This gift is inclusive of all things - objects, animals or even people – particularly people, in fact, as they generally need help in order to see truly wonderful things, especially if that wonderful thing is, well, them. You might be asking how this has anything to do with the pandemic, but I can assure you it has been, and continues to be, crucial to my emotional and mental survival thus far.
For many of us, myself included, hope was the chosen response when COVID-19 first reared its ugly head. We spent time in each other’s company, whether we enjoyed it or otherwise, and we laughed at the idea of a pandemic until it was pushed forcefully from our homes, an unwelcome intruder.
Until March arrived.
Rather, March had broken through our once-stable door, rebellious, the virus its weapon of choice and us, its long-time victim… not that we could’ve known. Could we? We still held onto hope, stuck ourselves to it like bees to honey, confident that it would shield us from the truth of the situation, and yet it was not nearly strong enough to overwhelm the intruder.
This threat resembled a chameleon in many ways. It sought out hosts upon which to feed, weaving between unsuspecting individuals, appearing suddenly and sporadically while occasionally preferring to remain anonymous – invisible, camouflaged – as was eventually the case with my partner. For now, comfortable in this little Lancashire town, we were innocent in our self-assurance that we wouldn’t run into the intruder.
Admittedly, I’m not particularly keen on using hashtags but I can appreciate their use in drawing attention to whichever topic it may refer. For weeks, months, this hashtag became ever the more popular among the hundreds of thousands already floating around the chasm that is social media. With it came an abundance of outdoor photographs, following a surge in exercise as a result of our united sense of unending boredom, and more importantly, a newfound respect for the little things in life – the little, truly wonderful things, exemplified in the sunset I described above.
Speaking as a collective, we were grateful that our first lockdown would be lightened by the warm, ever-the-more sunny days of spring and summer. Once again we were met with hope, but she instead presented herself in the blue of the sky, in the emerald stems of freshly mown grass and in the beautiful, gentle bleeps of new-born lambs in the fields that encompassed our home. We were grateful for those little things and we welcomed them with a sigh of relief, as though they had once been lost to us but had promptly returned.
Much as the florist’s flowers are fed by her hand, so must our happiness be fed by our care. If we choose to put aside our happiness, we put aside the initial care that we so require in order to bring about that happiness again. As we hastened quickly towards winter, the happiness we had grown accustomed to was indeed put aside, through no human fault, but by the consequence of our falling quickly into colder months. The brisk embrace of autumn seeped through the heat we had known, breaking open the hope-shaped shell that we had hidden so comfortably hidden within.
December. An intruder calls.
To my family and I, the intruder insisted on a formal introduction, leaving little room for doubt of its presence. For two weeks, it worked through the anatomical labyrinth of our bodies, exploiting weaknesses that could be found in my asthma, or in my parents’ age. Then, no faster than it had caught us in its infectious gaze, it made an abrupt exit, taking with it our sense of taste and smell in exchange for an unfathomable feeling of weighted exhaustion.
To our initial surprise, in the days that followed, we began to regain our stolen senses, finding our solace in copious amounts of Christmas food and appreciative that we could once more taste the velvet texture left behind by chocolate.
Snow didn’t fall for us in December, but would instead trail behind in flurries that delicately enrobed the darker days of January and February. These days, held together by the seemingly permanent frost that halted our most enjoyable outdoor experiences, were spent in finding hope within the confines of the home.
The little things were different but shared one, unmistakeable purpose.
I saw it in yesterday’s frozen footprints, left by partner as he had walked to his car.
I heard it in the whistling robin, his red chest puffed, proud of his personal symphony.
I smelled it in the bubbling, rich aroma of beef stew, smiling at its unmistakeable British-ness.
I tasted it in the snowflake I caught on my tongue, its pointed sides disintegrating as it melted away into water.
And I touched it in the calming hug, excited cuddle and gentle cheek-kiss of my mother, father, brother and partner.
These little things are my purpose, my unmistakeable and truly wonderful purpose.
They are the beautiful little things we experience every day, inside or outside, alone or with company.
There is beauty in every little thing – one need only look closely enough to see it.