Monday Motivation: Journal of the Corona Year
We’ve slowly been adjusting to this strange new reality. News of one restriction is followed by news of another, more stringent requirement. We wonder what the consequences will be, short term and long term. We weigh the dangers to those closest to us… then to the community we live in… then to the world.
We say there are no precedents, and that’s true in many respects. (Except for those of us weaned on post-apocalyptic science fiction, of course.)
I thought I might find an experiential precedent in Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year, which recounts his fictional experiences of the year 1665, when London was laid siege by bubonic plague. Although there are parallels – sequestered households, pubs closed, etc – the times are so different that I’m not sure a full reading of his novel would yield many lessons.
Because that’s what we’re looking for, right? Lessons to be learned from the great plague of 2019/2020?
And of course lessons there are aplenty.
The one that I think I like best (at the moment, since everything changes day by day, and I assume that the lesson that appeals to me today will be superseded by other more urgent lessons down the pike), is the opportunity that coronavirus affords us to focus.
Both on what’s important, of course (life, family, friendships) – but also on the inconsequentialities of the everyday. Our focus has narrowed and, in narrowing, sharpened. Or least, I like to think that’s what’s happening.
A sharper focus is to be welcomed by all writers, since it keeps our eye on the detail. We’re living on our houseboat at the moment, tethered at the end of a long jetty in the middle of a lake. We have no immediate neighbours and, despite the chill of early spring, take the air most mornings on our deck which looks out onto the marina. One detail that catches our eye these days is the ever-changing textured surface of the water. On some days it’s dimpled, on others ruffled, on yet others, under the onslaught of a brisker breeze, it seems to scud along at a rate of knots.
So convincing is the impression that the water’s rushing by that we observed a few items of flotsam on the surface: a clump of grass, a feather. Neither of them was moving, despite all the airy agitation.
In time I have no doubt that we’ll accumulate a veritable thesaurus of words that more accurately describe the waters that surround us. Just as the Inuit are said to have fifty words for the infinitely varied conditions of snow, so might we, on Priory Lake, find ourselves with a quiverful of words to describe the water’s swiftly changing moods.
Now that’s something that money can’t buy, as Aunt Agatha used to say.
And let me also remind you of the meme that’s doing the rounds: William Shakespeare wrote at least one of his most powerful plays – King Lear, was it? – while he was in flight from the plague. Or the reflection that Newtown had fled the outbreak of the plague in Cambridge when he wrote his ground-breaking treatise on light: Opticks: or, A Treatise of the Reflexions, Refractions, Inflexions and Colours of Light…
Times of great uncertainty, times of crisis, confront us with danger but, as the Chinese say, also with opportunity.
Read Jo-Anne’s latest blog: ‘Writing Secrets: Writing in the time of Corona‘