We are very fortunate to have so many alternative ways of connecting in these times of uncertainty. Enforced physical distancing, signs and barriers everywhere, limited air travel to homelands: sometimes this strange 'new reality' can conspire against us, leading to separation and isolation.
The internet is a huge advantage in this challenging context, and while I have not been participating in zoom meetings as much as others, I’ve been able to connect with friends and family via Skype, Whatsapp, Facetime... Somehow this virtual form of communicating has upped a notch in light of the pandemic and often made life busier in a different way! It was rather novel at the beginning. Ironically, I was feeling greater connection with people than I had before! Funny how that is. As time went on, perhaps the novelty of the lockdown wore off, and then it seemed a case of moving from surviving to finding a new sense of structure, direction and purpose when all was thrown up in the air. Saying that, I’ve managed to keep some of the regular contact with people in this new way, which is a gift in itself and helps provide the structures that were suddenly found lacking. Perhaps it is when we experience forced limitations in areas of our lives that we make extra effort to maintain the things we took for granted, finding creative and new ways to do that. I experienced this recently when I gratefully but rather cautiously attended a 'Zoom Wedding', thinking it might be a little too distant, when it turned out to be surprisingly moving and joyful - a very welcome new experience of celebration and connection.
In recent days, I’ve been listening to a podcast called ‘Fortunately’ with Jane Garvey and Fi Glover. It’s a lot of lighthearted, but also meaningful, chat - a good listen. You can sense that Fi and Jane are enjoying the connection with one another and with those they interview in the podcast. There is a great rapport between the two of them, as they communicate with each other and the UK.
At one point, in a recent episode, they were talking about ways of coping if another lockdown hits us in the autumn. In the last months Jane mentioned that she and other old school friends set up an appointment to ‘meet’ via zoom at a certain time every week. This never really happened before, but she said that if another lockdown came upon us she would continue to meet with these special friends every Tuesday as it helped provide the necessary structure to spending days at home.
There are certainly extra efforts and steps to be taken in order to be able to connect. No longer can we rely entirely on reading someone’s face in a conversation and link it to what they are saying. With the face mask, we all have to talk louder and gesture more. There are many barriers to overcome. Not only is it a challenge to speak to the foreigner in real life, as we learn to adjust to their accent, but now we have a face mask and physical distance to make it that much harder. I will probably have to reintroduce myself to the nurse who took my bloods in the clinic here a few weeks ago. Having met for the first time, I don’t entirely know what she looked like and would probably not recognise her again without a mask!
I had the opportunity to step out of the Freswick ‘bubble’ to go to Orkney recently, keeping up with the distancing rules and the wearing of a face mask in public areas.
It was a relief when my friend and I were almost the only ones on the ferry heading to Shapinsay during a sunny moment in Orkney and we could take our masks off! To breathe properly again! To see fully. Surely there is something to be said about that too, as regards health and wellbeing!
As we were travelling across from Kirkwall to Shapinsay I felt a sense of re-connection, to the sea air, to a friend on the other side of the waterway, to new possibilities. When we were there, on the small island nearest to mainland Orkney, we went for a walk with our friend and passed by a hermit who had stepped out of his home. We chatted with him for a little while. He had a beautiful pet pony, which he had rescued from a difficult and lonely life. It was so touching to see how this lovely creature followed him around the garden and nuzzled up to him, halfway between a noble horse and a faithful dog! The hermit, living in extreme isolation, had a very kind and gentle understanding and relationship with his pony. I found an apple in my bag, which the animal munched very thoughtfully. It was another moment, which only nature can provide, of connection.
The big thing I've come to notice in this time is that we as humans really need connection, however it comes to us. If one form of relatedness is cancelled out, we will find it in other ways. If we cannot go to work, or see the people we usually see, we have to search for connection elsewhere. Not only do we find new ways of bonding with others at a distance, but we suddenly learn to connect more with ourselves, our environment, and God. That is, if we are willing to let go and explore those places. If we accept what is, and open ourselves up to new creative possibilities, we can begin to notice the rhythms of nature, where there is no spinning, labouring or striving; We can search our inner selves and evaluate places to change within. In all our searching for connection, there is a profound need to find an inner truth and inner peace. Perhaps some of our fractured connections in the world outside, whether before, during or after lockdown, arise from the lack of connection we have with our own true selves.
Now we have a chance to rediscover and reignite the sparks that make us come fully alive and make us fully human. To be human is to be connected, in more ways than one. And now, as our connections in person physically begin to increase up to a point, we can experience a new depth and sense of gratitude.