The year 2020 Trumped them all. It began with a blaze of fire, quite literally. Australia was burning and bushfires wiped out over 18 million hectares of land, 34 people lost their lives and much wildlife was destroyed. Major cities were filled with smoke and people had to wear masks to go outside. Little did any of us realise at the time that face masks were going to become part of everyday life in the months to come.
In our household, we moved into 2020 with big plans, not least of which was to sell our family home of twenty five years and purchase a property closer to the heart of Sydney. Selling the family home was one of the hardest decisions we had ever made and I won’t pretend that it wasn’t stressful. There were tears of both sadness and joy, our emotions shifted between feeling temporary elation, then having sellers regret, followed by experiencing excitement, then buyers remorse. This occurred all before 2020 changed in a way that none of us could have ever imagined.
A mystery virus no one had heard of or seen before took hold in every corner of the globe. It was called Coronavirus and the havoc it would create going forward was inconceivable. Our lives would change in ways that were unimaginable, whilst many lost loved ones, others were forced into lockdown in their own homes, whilst some people lost jobs as businesses closed their doors, others worked from home and spent hours connecting over Zoom. Major milestones such as Easter, birthdays, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day were celebrated without family being able to come together. It was a time of turning inward, for many of us it was lonely and confusing, whilst others enjoyed the opportunity to slow down their lives. With time on their hands some reverted back to the golden times of baking bread at home. I got as far as purchasing yeast, a commodity like toilet paper which was hard to come by and high in demand. I failed miserably at an attempt to make some cinnamon scrolls in the slow cooker and never did get around to baking my own sourdough. The bulk packet of yeast I purchased still sits idle in the pantry. Heaven knows what I will use it for. I became good at online shopping and my grocery items would go into quarantine for a few days after they had been delivered and before I relocated them to the kitchen. I longed for human touch, to hug and to hold my children and to see my mother again. When I was out for a walk in my neighbourhood, which was one of the few times I would leave home, I noticed that people had become much friendlier, life had slowed down a notch, and like myself, they craved human companionship and would smile and stop to say hello. I also noticed an abundance of bird life, nature strips were often covered in a carpet of white cockatoos. The air was cleaner and the streets were quieter. How ironic that going forward we would now have to wear masks in public places. It was certainly a strange year. I cried a lot in the first six months as I adjusted to the big life decisions and the uncertainty that had fallen upon us.
Well, in-spite of the unexpected twists and turns, we did eventually move to a new place to live, temporary accommodation in a two bedroom apartment in a nearby suburb about fifteen minutes away from the family home we had sold. It was our intention to stay here for at least the next twelve months as our new home was being built in a suburb closer to the city. Whilst feeling sad at first, relocating had opened up the door to new adventures. The additional time allowed me to explore my new neighbourhood. I would walk the streets for hours on end and admire the beautiful period and modern homes with established gardens, and this change brought with it a new enthusiasm for being outdoors. Seeing the beautiful gardens made me miss the gardens at my previous home and encouraged me to create a new outdoor space on the balcony of the apartment. In the enclosed space of the balcony which was protected from the destructiveness of possums and brush turkeys, I summoned the courage to grow vegetables in large pots, and inject some colour into the outdoor space by planting both flowering shrubs and annuals. It wasn’t long before my balcony became my outdoor haven, a place I was both proud of and enjoyed pottering in. Biophilia really was nature’s medicine and an important part of my mental well-being, at least until the caterpillars started to take over.
Ironically 2020 has not been all bad. I’ve learnt to enjoy my own company and the space it has given me to try new things, including the writing of this blog. When seeking out new places to visit, I look for places offering relaxation and solitude rather than places that are hurried and rushed. I’ve learnt that the real joy of experiencing new places is about the people that you share the experience with rather than the place itself. I’ve learnt that human suffering isn’t always negative and it can change the things that we value the most, that love and connection is a fundamental part of life, and that freedom is a liberty that we should never take for granted.
As we swing into 2021 with both uncertainty and anticipation, I look forward to more opportunities to learn and to grow. I hope that we will come to value kindness over capital, and be grateful for the things we do have rather than complain about the things we don’t have. Staycations will become the new vacations and we will seek a holiday at home rather than abroad. Upon reflection, Australia really is the lucky country and a place I feel blessed to call my home.
Swinging into 2021
Wishing everyone a Happy New Year, or as my children once exclaimed Happy New Ear. Maybe there is a message here, to listen is to learn.
Until next week may your days be both serendipitous and enjoyable.