Squeezing More than Lemonade from Life’s Lemons, 2020-2021 -- Mari Howard
|'Off my branch, young squirrel!' Just look at that pigeon's face!|
Depending on the place, the era, what’s fashionable, your face conforming to the ‘look’, whether revolution or conformism is in the ascendent, being the most popular person in your group takes work. Learning the latest lingo, and using it correctly. Wearing what’s on trend. Being seen where it matters. As a writer, you learn (or defy) the memes: taking a (pretty) notebook everywhere, all-day pjs and writing in bed…Popularity, ironically, can and often does come to those who conform to the memes of the age and stage… and includes nascent ‘leadership skills…’
So, once ‘lockdown’ was achieved, memes shot around, people inevitably were picking them up. One popular stance was resentment: you were bored, you felt like a prisoner, you were buying jigsaws to do, or flour to play baking with the children (flour, for a while, disappeared). Whatever it was, nobody should welcome lockdown, and those who did were in danger of being defined as eccentric. We who prefer wearing pjs for sleeping than for work, who love their home and garden over travel and new places, (I am one) were not going to be popular or in the forefront of the latest thinking.
Coming to write this, I am missing lockdown: zooming with friends living in faraway places and not seen in years; radio presenters broadcasting from home under the stairs, or in their garden shed, padded with duvets; performances by feisty, inventive theatre companies with interaction; exercise classes on-line, so nobody to observe one’s uselessness at balancing on one foot, arms in the air, one leg extended forwards…
And yes, missing the space in the business of life it gave to get stuck into writing that had been suffering from my being, well, not by nature the most solitary of humans and way too fond of keeping a clean house, while the cleaners were furloughed. I have really enjoyed lockdown and made use of it, spicing up an almost-abandoned first draft, with time to get to know my characters. Re-discovering stories I wrote 30 years ago, when the kids were small, and finding they are actually good enough to publish, with a bit of editing. Caring meticulously for the garden through the winter, weeding, hoeing, digging, pruning. Watching each stage of plants waking after the coldest time, putting out tentative leaves, clearing away those which have not survived, caring for the rest, watching for seeds to come up.
|Dawn, early April, |
from a back window
And finally, Nature: now this may be a meme, but for me and I would guess for many us, getting into nature has meant taking up again what we loved and knew as children, way before adult life got in the way, drove us into offices and cities, turned up the need to hurry rather than to stand and stare.
Photography* came to the fore, whether out of the window, charting sunrises from January (6.00am) to April (7.30am) as clouds parted and re-formed, and the sky turned gold, then pink, before heralding a rainstorm (again), or catching birds and squirrels doing funny things up trees...
|Bluetit, on a high branch, in a gale....|
Observing the first flowers appearing in our local nature reserve, buds almost hidden close to the ground.
Or appreciating how dedicated swan parents are, even before the cygnets emerge. This swan had patrolled the pond for weeks, taking turns with its mate who sits on the nest... and is seen chasing away one of a pair of Canada Geese.
|'Out of our pond! Shoo!'|
|A Jay, one of a breeding pair|
|A fly which suddenly landed as a Brimstone butterfly rested on the grass|
This picture of a huge Bumble bee, one of several who were buzzing around a Berberis bush in the garden, was simply a lucky try which turned out better than hoped. It's been an interesting time, stuck at home exploring the possibilities of the local area...
|Large bumblebee seeking nectar from a flowering Berberis shrub..|