My daily lockdown habit became an unexpected gift

We’re sorry, this service is currently unavailable. Please try again later.

Advertisement

Opinion

My daily lockdown habit became an unexpected gift

By Susan Wyndham

My Facebook memories remind me that on March 25, 2020, I first posted “Five simple good things”. Five photos with captions that summed up the best moments in a surreal day. I’ve done the same every day since then as an antidote to big bad events beyond my control.

I didn’t have a plan, but I reacted spontaneously as COVID-19 spread into Australia and Sydney went into semi-lockdown. Needing to turn away from the news, I began to focus on ordinary details that reminded me the world hadn’t ended yet.

Getting out for a daily walk, I wandered the streets and back lanes of my suburb, noticing mysterious doorways, graffiti and shadows, picking up autumn leaves and feathers.

Getting out for a daily walk, I wandered the streets and back lanes of my suburb, noticing mysterious doorways, graffiti and shadows, picking up autumn leaves and feathers.

That first day I posted photographs of the book I was reviewing, a tub of gelato, fallen camellia petals, our cat Leo asleep on the sofa and on me. I added a few quick words: “Five simple good things – OK, four really. There are many others, for you too, I hope. I’m not being Pollyanna or an ostrich but trying to look at the stars.”

Nothing much, but people responded. “Keep looking up and out,” one woman urged. I’ve always enjoyed the gentler aspect of Facebook, connecting with friends and acquaintances round the world, and virtual friendship was suddenly essential.

As my life shrank and slowed, I began to look more closely. At home I photographed a spider’s web catching the sunlight in our garden, my first Zoom conversation, or the soup I made as my husband and I set out on the 5:2 diet to counter COVID-eating.

Getting out for a daily walk, I wandered the streets and back lanes of my suburb, noticing mysterious doorways, graffiti and shadows, picking up autumn leaves and feathers.

There was always something new to see: a restaurant selling Italian toilet paper and takeaway negronis, teddy bears propped in windows, abandoned shops and trails of discarded masks – not so good, but interesting to a journalist.

I watched dogs catch balls, oblivious to the pandemic. I stared into the miraculously COVID-clear sky and waters of Sydney harbour. In Centennial Park there was plenty to celebrate as the ponds filled, grass greened and birds flocked after a desiccated summer of drought and bushfires.

In another park I stopped to watch a flamenco dancer rehearsing on a wooden veranda. Transfixed by her solitary performance, I asked if I could photograph her ruby red shoes in motion. The dancer said yes, I snapped her feet, and when she put on a real show months later I was in the front row.

Advertisement
Loading

At sunset one winter evening, we watched residents of a large apartment building stand on their balconies to give a concert of popular songs. I knew I was obsessed when I couldn’t wait to share those moments with my Facebook friends. If they lifted my spirits, perhaps they would lift theirs too.

There have been many symbols of kindness and community: jars of homemade jam dropped off, flowers sent, books shared. With an old friend I delivered food to homebound asylum seekers. A neighbour planted cuttings in the beds on our footpath, cultivating a garden and a friendship. Real-life time with family and friends became more precious than ever.

I have photos to remind me of all these unexpected gifts. My Facebook posts create order and distraction, they are a lasting diary of an extraordinary year. People say they anticipate my posts every morning as I do theirs.

None of us has a following as huge as groups that have sprung up such as “View from my window”, started by a Belgian woman. Millions of people stuck at home, from Italy to Brazil, have posted photos of their views spectacular, mundane and moving as a way of saying “We’re all in this together”.

I thought I’d stop “Five simple good things” after a few months. But as the pandemic has rolled on, along with political mayhem, protests and floods, I continue to edit my days into neat reports.

Most popular are posts about our charismatic cat, and my 96-year-old father, which my friends can relate to their own experiences with pets and parents.

Loading

There were stretches when I couldn’t visit Dad during aged-care lockdowns, and I worried that in the fog of dementia he would forget me. But most weeks I’ve been able to go with his favourite biscuits and yellow flowers. We sit in the sun, drink coffee, hold hands and say “I love you”. Our poignant and funny moments make the gruelling ones easier to bear.

Over Easter I wrote about Dad munching on his chocolate and a dry old hot cross bun we found under his hat. “He was in good cheer and said the green-centred daisies I took were the best flowers he’d ever had. ‘They’re beautiful. You’re more beautiful…Why are you so beautiful?’ ‘Well, I have a beautiful father.’ He looked amazed: “That would do it! ‘And I had a beautiful mother.’ ‘Oh well, you can’t go wrong!’”

This morning I watched a flock of black cockatoos settle into the pine trees in Centennial Park and chomp loudly on pine cones, dropping them around me with dangerous thuds. As I turned my camera to the forest floor, I saw among the needles one tiny red star-shaped toadstool.

Once again my attention was turned outwards and my heart was full. I could absorb the news about vaccine delays and lost jobs, knowing I had five perfect things to offer up tomorrow.

Get a little more outta life

Start your week with practical tips and expert advice to help you make the most of your personal health, relationships, fitness and nutrition. Sign up to our Live Well newsletter sent every Monday.

Most Viewed in Lifestyle

Loading