A Delicate Balance

This morning, the heat was already shimmering in the fields and now it is too hot to think. I have finished a project and am weary to the bone after a broken night’s sleep. Yet I feel I ought to keep on going: I am lucky to have work, I am fortunate that I can easily work from home. But right now, I simply crave the sea and that sense of stillness carried on the breeze at the shore.

All around Britain, people are flocking to the beaches, and who can blame them? If you and your family have spent most of this year locked in by an invisible disease, wouldn’t you be keen to escape outdoors too? However, I probably won’t be joining them just yet. Not until the crowds lessen.

Much at the moment seems to be a question of balance: of the numbers of deaths, loss and potentially life-changing aftereffects from this terrible new virus offset against those suffering because of cancelled medical appointments and delayed treatments; of livelihoods gone and the futures of the young put in jeopardy; of oceans polluted by waves of PPE; of the price of loneliness set against the risk of infection.

To find our way in this altered world, many of us seem to be adopting a form of doublethink, holding others accountable for breaking the ever-changing rules while protecting ourselves with justifications for doing the same. The challenge is to remain self-aware; in retrospect, I think I can see where I’ve projected anger and frustration onto those who didn’t altogether deserve it.

This isn’t going to be easy – tiptoeing our way into an unstable future; finding the balance and how to live in the world. While 2020 is turning out to be a year of plague, fire and flood of biblical proportions, nature itself is neither inherently good nor bad; it just is. It doesn’t sit in moral judgement of us. If Nature is a goddess, she is indifferent to prayers and responsive to actions. After all, why should she be any more moved by our petitions than the clicking of a beetle, or the roar of a lion? However, we humans do need to be morally accountable, both to this planet we inhabit and to each other.

At least I know that the sea and the breeze will still be waiting.

Small Treasures

I went to walk the dog at lunchtime and realised that sheep were grazing along the ridgeway where I had intended to take him. So I kept him on the lead and meandered along the lanes instead, past a clear, shallow stream and around a pond where we startled a pair of  ducks, hidden under the branches of willow.

Behind the hills, the sky was bruised blue, but the steep grassy slopes glowed in the winter sun. I paused and thought how lucky I am, to be here, in such a beautiful place.

Earlier in the week, a friend reminded me that happiness springs from gratitude, rather than the other way round – advice I intend to take with me into this new decade. I want to remember to use gratitude as an active principle, seeking out the good and then treasuring it.

In a year baptised in fire and flood, warmongering and violence, whatever else 2020 brings, I hope it brings you many small wonders to light the way through the dark.