Quarantine Discoveries

As long as change is constant, there is no immutability in solitude.

I have never before seen the shadow cast by the Monstera leaves on the floor at midday-I was never home when it happened. At night, I’d look down at the tiles as I took my shoes off and would only see a surface that needed vacuuming and mopping over the weekend.

I always wondered how we managed to make such a mess in rooms we were almost never in. And that was because it was only the dirt and the dust, the lint and bits of onion skins and garlic, and the bread crumbs and parmesan shavings scattered on the floor and the olive oil stains on the cutting board- signs of sandwiches eaten standing up at midnight and of bowls of pasta whipped up way past 9:30- that I would see, because it was only those that I had time to get to. The rest, a name which we have made a habit of calling ‘living’ by, could wait.

I never saw all the birds drinking from the dog’s water bowl, minutes after I filled it up- in the days before we all retreated to our homes, like doubtful armies of a world drowned in worry, I’d usually be annoyed at the key not turning in the lock properly before rushing to the car, as the birds started circling their communal water source.

I never knew three or four of them would land on the rim as soon as Jack had his first morning drink and dipped their bills, threw their heads back and gulped down the cold, fresh water as the wind ruffled their back feathers, before flying off; I never imagined he would look back, watch them and not chase them away. I only assumed he was always very thirsty during the day and finished all the water by himself; at one point, I worried that it might be a sign of diabetes and kept reminding myself to call and check with the vet.

In fact, the birds, as well as the dogs, knew of me, my routine and habits, and had established my role in their lives well before I was able to fully see them, as I always sleepwalked through my chores, every early morning for eight years and counting.

And speaking of birds, I never knew there were so many, and so different, and so busy and vehement, hard-working and small and large and brown and white and black and gray and loud. I would sometimes hear birdsong and always wished for more-but I never imagined there was so much of it and that the wind could carry it so far. Even to where I was, chasing thoughts and riding worries into the dark.

And the smells, of air and sky and leaves and sometimes, grass. I’d usually see the lilac in bloom maybe once a spring, in passing, and that was almost always at night, when I came home from work and the white flowers shone in the dark; I’d notice it once more, mornings later, when it withered. The dark brown crumbly flowers, and the silence after the bees and bugs had gone brought the sadness of having missed it that year, too- but that would be quickly interrupted by the incessant buzz of my phone as emails and messages poured in and again, drowned any other form of reality.

I never gave myself time to see, hear, feel, experiment with sadness or joy, welcome a feeling and let it sink to the pit of my stomach, twirl it up in the air and throw it to the wind, tie it to a thread and let it take flight, watch it soar the skies as it pleased and roll it back down when I needed it. Feelings had always been on demand, at the beck and call of external circumstances which pulled them out drawers and then tucked or tossed them back in, and I was of myself only, as our times would have it, a spectator.

Our mind is able to conjure the good and the bad with the force of a well-executed spell, and the spell book, we write, too. But only when it is clear, not empty.

We do not, now, live in solitude, but in the company of the many, many facets of ourselves and the world we never allowed our eyes to see. It’s all in and out there, changing, welcoming and discarding, making, shaping and sharing, and forever will be.