Beneath the self-congratulations and thankfulness that we can hug family and friends and relax these summer holidays without the worry of catching Covid, anxiety gently tumbles in my mind like the towels in my front-loading dryer. This is surely just a period of respite now that a more transmissible variant has arrived in our managed isolation facilities. People and PPE are fallible.
The UK has announced a second stringent lockdown as its health systems beomes overloaded and workers worn out; the numbers in the US are soaring after Thanksgiving, Xmas and New Year gatherings; and here in New Zealand, the health ministry is concerned enought to instigate extra testing: both a pre-departure and a day 1 test for returing Kiwis. That news triggered a a sleepless night, reliving the seven-week stretch of solitude in my home, and trying to visualise whether the alternative, a studio cottage and company at my daughter’s rural property, would be better next time.
All plans are uncertain, contingent. A drive north to my cousin’s 70th birthday lunch turns into a long weeekend in the countryside, perhaps a last stay away before a second lockdown. I throw money that should go on the mortgage at the chance to have a few days in a charming cottage, exploring the rolling hills, bush and lakes of the area I spent much of my childhood. I’ll breathe deeply, walk and talk with friends and family, sit and gaze across the farmhouse garden and paddocks to the famed local mountain. The only long views from my Petone home are snatches of sky, blue today but often grey, between the angles of roofs. I’ve read that being in, or even imagining, nature boosts serotonin levels, exercise boosts dopamine levels, and just staring at the horizon for extended periods of time causes your brain to release endorphins. Perfect.
It’s not quite 1pm and the daily Covid update. What news will today bring?
Though every day and what it may bring is uncertain, mostly we delude ourselves that life is predictable. And often it is: one work day follows another, trips booked months ago go ahead, concerts are performed as planned a year before. It’s only in moments like uncovering breasts for a mammagram that I realise that life may change completely in an instant. I tell myself not to worry, to immerse myself in the here and now, look out the one-and-only self-help book, one on mindfulness, that was ever helpful.