Upside down

PICTURE: ANDREA POWELL

So… it’s finally here, and we as a nation, and individuals, are facing the impacts, initial and anticipated, of Covid-19.

Having whipped down to the grocery store to pick up a few essentials on Monday, and enountering multiple empty shelves and extraordinarily long queues, I headed back home to continue with Bolander’s production… and heard Cape Talk presenter John Maytham intone that there is a now a substantial dip in the “South African Happiness Index”, which stands to reason.

Nonetheless, I’d observed people greeting each other with joy and open arms, even if they quickly re-evaluated, and instead proffered the prayer hands greeting (and in my case, a Namaste), and despite the sense of practical urgency, in terms of stocking up on food and household items, they stopped to talk, share stories, provide reassurances and express solidarity, and raise collective spirits.

We South Africans have such a beautiful, quite unique (I believe) capacity to ‘look on the bright side’, so often delivered with a touch of gallows humour, provoking much-needed smiles, and a sense of camaraderie.

Stoicism is a form of self-preservation, and we have never been more in need of such tempered responses as the present time, when fear and anxiety lurk within the shadows, and are in full view.

On Friday evening I attended a yin yoga class with beloved friend and teacher Tanya Olivier, and with all our mats placed strategically (a couple of metres) from one another, we shared quiet meditations, deep and conscious breathing, with fluid movements, stretching minds and bodies, with only peaceful candlelight providing illumination, and Tanya’s melodious voice guiding us in our practice.

It was with a renewed sense of peace and fortitude that I returned home, and before going to sleep, I spent an hour colouring in an exquisite mandala, gifted to me by my friend Doris Heusser, on my birthday on March 11.

Doris spends time with the elderly folk at Silver Oaks on Mondays, and provides the drawing materials for their art class (“Old folks and brush strokes,” Bolander December 18, 2019) – she decided that I, too, needed therapeutic drawing to counteract my ongoing insomnia (I’m glad to say it worked wonders).

On Saturday, in the soft fading light of late afternoon, I headed to Strand beach for a walk with another friend, and after a stop for a cone at the ice-cream shop, we sat on a dune to shelter from the coolish breeze, and played our customary game of backgammon, while watching the families enjoying the ocean and beach, hearing happy shouts of children as they frolicked in the shallow waves.

Sunday morning meant a walk at Radloff Park, and yes, every conversation was about coronavirus, ranging from worries about whether or not a wedding may have to be cancelled, or a pilot telling me he may or may not be flying later that day, everything was “up in the air” – quite literally, and almost everyone knows someone who is stuck somewhere mid-travelling, in Turkey, the UK, or somewhere in Africa.

What can we do? How do we handle an unprecedented crisis, as this most certainly is?

There are so many whose lives, and livelihoods, are in grave danger. For others, it is more a matter of a turmoil rather than inconvenience, or imposed isolation… a great unknown, crippling worry (which strikes one’s immune systems a dangerous blow), and a sense of utter helplessness in the face of forces seemingly beyond our control.

What we do have control over, is our actions, reactions, pro-actions; what we choose to verbalise, to forward on, to repeat… There is so much information (and, sadly, disinformation) out there, and we need to apply filters and basic common sense.

My beloved eldest sister, Michèle, always used to tell me: apply discernment – in what you say and do, in what you believe, in what you practise. The virus of panic and anxiety is also transmissable; let us preferably be conduits of calm, and role models of equanimity.

Carolyn Frost: Editor