Southwick Hill

I’ve been in my new home, self isolating alone on the edge of town, a short walk up to Southwick Hill, for a week now.

It’s been non stop for three weeks, preparing for the move, moving and then getting set up here. Lying half awake first thing this morning I felt like I wanted to just be still and slow today but now I’m fully awake I feel the restless energy again. I think it must be the same kind of energy that compels people to stockpile food, a sense that I need to be more prepared for what’s ahead. A squirrel busily collecting nuts for the winter. So if I’m not cleaning or putting up curtains or weeding the garden then I should be earning money or working on some kind of support or safety net, for myself, my loved ones and community.

This is a big part of what’s driven me my whole life, fear of an apocalyptic future. Now that I’ve finished my move and I can stop and feel more, I think it’s rising up, this fear, and I can hear it whispering that I’m wasting my time being still and simply resting. But then I wonder how strong the safety net would be if the knots I’m tying are tied with fingers weak with deep physical and emotional exhaustion. It’s seems to me that this is one of the many contradictions that it’s necessary to wrestle with on top of everything else right now, and that it would serve me to let go of something, some idea about myself, my personal and our collective future… Perhaps the fantasy that I or we ever really had any control in the first place.

I’ve been up and down over the last few days after an expansive feeling weekend that I wanted to go on and on. By up I  mean reasonably focused and capable of work, by down I mean feeling lost and not capable of much more than staring into space. Going for a run has been helping to shift me from down to up, and I’m incredibly grateful to have Southwick Hill on my doorstep. Spring is thrumming up there and it’s beautiful. I’m beginning to notice the impact of self isolating alone, a need and desire to have another or others physically alongside me that telephone and video conversations exacerbate rather than easing, and the birds in full song right now, joyously celebrating in their own way the coming of spring, keep me company.

My move here was sudden and rushed and frantic at times. In one of those wonderful, often all too rare, moments of synchronicity I discovered and quickly became enchanted by the Peter Gabriel song Solsbury Hill just a few days before receiving the daunting news that I had to find and move into a new home within two weeks with the clock ticking before lockdown was enacted in the UK. Exploring Southwick Hill over the weekend I felt grounded in the feeling that I’m in the place I’m meant to be right now. Despite my daily ups and downs, my fears of an apocalyptic future, a part of me feels grounded in a kind of trust and hope for renewal.

It feels like wildness, or an aspect of it, is on my doorstep in a way it has not been before, and I’m thrilled and curious. My choice to live here on the edge of town and the edge of the countryside speaks to me of the value I seem to place on keeping one foot firmly in the mainstream world and one in the mystery.

And wouldn’t this be an incredible outcome of this extraordinary threshold time we find ourselves in right now? A greater capacity to honour the frailty, fragility and the mystery of the ecology our our planet, and the importance of balance between the human and the more-than-human worlds.

[The pandemic] is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.

Arundhati Roy

I have so much respect and admiration for the strength and grace with which so many of us are navigating this profound moment in the history of our civilisation, a strong sense of the necessity to fight for our individual and collective survival. And yet in the midst of this it feels so important to acknowledge and sit tenderly with our human frailty, particularly at this time when so many of us are feeling scared and vulnerable.

I hope all of us are able to find some peace, rest, joy and delight in the coming days, as the land is renewed by the coming of spring and the promise of new life and hope that Easter symbolises.