Learning and re-learning is the theme of my lockdown. Perhaps ‘remembering’ is a better word. Like finding lost moments I used to have in my life, it’s been a process of unearthing forgotten pleasures. Simpler ways to spend my time, a calm and peace I’d forgotten to give myself. I’ve rediscovered nature in my isolation. The sun rises around 6am here (5am in Summer). Solitary pre-dawn walks are now routine. There are less people about, so distancing is easier I think, as I walk beneath ghost gums beside the flowing creek near my home. I sit on the bank, sinking my fingers into leaves and earth. I meditate, trying to feel a world I almost forgot existed when I was busy rushing into the city office, or running for the bus, or hurrying from school to supermarket to gym…

Always a Princess

Always a Princess

…or perhaps I didn’t forget. Perhaps I simply did not appreciate the beauty of leaves catching the light of sunrise, and the laughter of kookaburras after rain. I breathe slower these days, listening to silence more often. If there’s a blessing in this mess, a silver lining in these dark days, it might be that I’ve learned to experience silence and languor in a way I never used to notice.

As a writer, I spend a great deal of time alone. This is not difficult for me to do, but I still enjoy socialising. I find I forget ‘how’ to socialise these days. Slowly reconnecting with ‘out-of-house’ family members I haven’t seen in months seems surreal now. We meet tentatively, at a distance, masked and careful as per requirements -- only a few of us at a time. Sometimes, we wave. Hugs and kisses seem like some distant memory. It’s a little like a creature emerging from hibernation after the Spring thaw.

Reading is as much an escape as it is part of what I do. Between figuring out new ways to absorb literature (audio books took some doing but I managed it, and podcasts are my new favourite thing), I’m noticing a return to ‘the old ways’ of entertaining myself. The simple joy of phone calls are undergoing a renaissance in my home. It’s a deliberate choice to reject texting in favour of actual, human speech. Voices are so rich and warm, or cold and distant; other people’s speech is connection, reality, and life-affirming. Their words are so…people, and people are such strange creatures. We adapt almost too well, as human beings do.

When I was a kid, I used to savour the feel of fresh, unopened covers and that new-book smell. (These were the days before Kindle, Amazon and – dare I date myself? – the internet itself?) Under Lockdown, I’ve rediscovered reading in this ‘old-fashioned’ way. No longer needing to lug bags to and from the city for work, I am enjoying paperbacks again.

From a creative perspective, it’s been my most productive year yet. I’ve written two novels and a novella, securing a publishing contract for my first historical romance, Always a Princess. I’ve also mapped out the final title in this series. Would this have been possible without the lockdown? Possibly, but it would have been a much harder juggling act.

This has been a year unlike any other for everyone. Learning online yoga under lockdown has been a revelation. Jigsaw puzzles have made a comeback in my home, and board games are like old friends brought down from the shelves for a visit. I hope these connections stay forever.