Monday, 22 June 2020

Interrogating silence.

Those of us who live alone and are now in Lockdown here in the UK have had almost three months of enforced isolation.   Three months where there has really been no 'encouragement' to shower, to get dressed, to prepare proper meals.  Nobody would have known if we had stayed in bed or stayed in our dressing gowns all day.  There has been nobody to call out 'is the bathroom free' or 'what time's lunch' from somewhere else in the house.   And because nobody has been likely to call apart from the paper girl at eight o'clock and the postman around lunch time - and Edith from down the road, who rings the bell if I forget to take the milk in off the step - a sort of silence has settled over the place and it never goes.   It gets ino the brickwork and into the soft furnishings, into the cupboards and into the garage, so that wherever one goes everythings is silent.   A pet would make a difference of course - if Tess were still here I wouldn't be alone;  Rachel with her four black cats always has company, as does John with his menagerie - fairly silent as cats are (until they are getting hungry) they still have a presence.   And John spends a lot of his time communing with his dogs.

Now for most of my friends it is getting a bit tiresome - we are ready for some sort of release.  We are forgetting our words, struggling with remembering things, unable to do simple things on the computer - our brains are going into neutral.   And yet how lucky we are to have so many ways in which to spend our time.   We have access to many books, we can choose what to watch on television, we can chat to friends who call (while following the safe distance rule,) we can Zoom as long as we like, we can blog, we can go on Facebook - the list is endless.

Think how much worse things would have been a hundred years ago if a global pandemic had arrived then.   No television, not a lot of people had transport, we would have been much more isolated.   But maybe we would have been much more adaptable at dealing with it.   And we would have known so many people around us - not like today when populations move around so that you can't be sure you will know your neighbour. 

My son was speculating the other day on how they would have coped with the global pandemic that was the Great Plague - whole villages would know one another - there would be few strangers - and all would share the trials and tribulations, and would have shouldered the burdens.

But to some, like George MacKay Brown, up there in Stromness in the Orkneys, that silence that comes of isolation, of seeing no-one, of no communication for most of the week, was his chosen way of life.   He lies now in St Magnus Cathedral in Poet's Corner alongside Edwin Muir, his friend and mentor.   He spoke a lot in his writing about interrogating silence - now he lies in the silence of that great cathedral - the kind of silence that we in our own homes are beginning to feel - a silence that is never ending.

35 comments:

Derek Faulkner said...

While I can understand some reasons while you have stuck so rigidly to the three month isolation thing (age and health), I do believe that many people have taken it to extremes, and won't do anything unless the government says they can, (a bit like being at school), rather than using some local common sense.
It has not been total isolation for the last three months, you have taken Percy for a walk fairly regularly and probably would of walked further if your legs would of let you. The opportunity to drive a car for gradually increasing distances has also been available and would surely have made it possible for you and friends to meet out in the countryside and talk from your cars for a while.

Margie from Toronto said...

What a thoughtful post. I too live alone, with no pets and some days it has made me think - perhaps too much, about my situation. I am someone who enjoys company and some special friends but I am equally content with my own company and do require a lot of alone time. However, this time has made me very aware of how much I actually do need other people and how much I've appreciated the limited contact I've been able to have (finally) as we've eased things a bit here in the past couple of weeks. I hope that we will continue to appreciate these small luxuries as we move forward.

Take care.

Brenda said...

It is difficult, but it is necessary. I believe you have been so patient. Here, we have folks going about, and with this going out, there seems to be an increase in virus cases. Today is my 101 day in isolation. Last week, I went out in my car to pick up library books at the drive in situation...and I bought some tomatoes from the stand on the road...not near anyone buy still the mask. Folks here seem to believe this is not real, and that the officials of each state are being too dogmatic. Well, once one has this virus in one's family...it is real...also, I wonder how the families of the nearly 120,000 dead in America feel about it not being real. You have been so good to write the best blogs...I love them...I know you will carry on...

Barbara Anne said...

Well said, Pat!

Hugs!

Ellen D. said...

I like how you have adapted and kept busy throughout the stay-at-home time. You do get out for walks and do interact with friends through your blog and through the internet and by being careful when you visit with neighbors. You are a good example of making the best of the situation and adapting your life to fit yourself and the risk. You still prepare nice meals and get dressed even if it is only for you. You share your thoughts and feelings and everyday events with us and it helps us all to connect and cope! Thanks so much, Pat!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Yes Derek and I have done all these things. But my hearing is not good enough to talk from car to car, weather has meant many days have not been suitable. Yes maybe I have taken the whole instruction to the letter - but I believe it was put there for a purpose and therefore I stick to it.

The Furry Gnome said...

I too am older, with compromised lung function and immuno-compromised, so we've been very careful. Your phrase about our brains going into neutral describes it well.

jinxxxygirl said...

Silence is golden Pat... i strive for silence... Silence is illusive .. here.. You can move far out in the country and still not have silence.. For the country is different things to different people.. For us ..its the peace and quite for others its the ability to shoot guns and ride 4 wheel bikes everywhere..play their music loud... Hubby and i have each other to help break up our silence.. Hang in there Pat~ Hugs... deb

Salty Pumpkin Studio said...

In many ways, the lonely experience being alone in silence day to day, week to week, and year to year. I imagine for the many that feel isolated, there are many that feel they now not alone, now have company; and that even more now grasp what loneliness is. There won't be an order for folks to get out of there homes to meet with other folks, establish a friend network, reach out to share their lives. No order for that.

JayCee said...

It must be harder having lost Tess at this time too. I have tried to imagine being totally alone and think that it must take a particular kind of inner strength to cope with it as well as you do.

thelma said...

A very poetic thought on silence and loneliness Pat. I can cope with being alone though what worries me is the hermit like state I am growing into. Someone has just said on the radio that she did not have to worry over having to work all the time, in this time we can just do nothing and not feel guilty.

angryparsnip said...

Wonderful post today I enjoy reading your words.
Quick note, as of this morning my home is safe as we are, The fire, snoke, wind and heat is horrific. Will post soon.
parsnip xx

Rachel Phillips said...

Well McKay Brown was certainly an interesting man, an alcoholic and very troubled who returned to Orkney to live with his mother. Great poets have to be a little bit troubled I suppose. As for coping with pandemics in other eras, what we've never had we never miss so copes, the human race is very adaptable.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thank you everyone. Your comments tell me that you have thought so much about these issues. It is a difficult time for us all and we must all find our way through it - and I am sure we will. Blogging and exchanging comments and thoughts with one another helps me hugely - I hope you all feel the same.

Heather said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heather said...

I am so relieved that I am not the only one who can't get the right words out. I have started talking to myself, my ornamental cat, family photos, and anything else that is handy. The restrictions are beginning to bite a little now, but I know that by sticking to them the end will come sooner. As you point out, we are so fortunate to have modern technology with which to keep in touch with loved ones. Without that we could feel very much alone. There is light at the end of our tunnel, so chin up chaps - we-re getting there!

Sue in Suffolk said...

Some days are good, some not so good. But there is no choice except to just keep going and doing our best to get through and come out the other end.
Another lovely post - thank you.

Meanqueen said...

Different for me I suppose. I live alone (with three cats) but I am not lonely. I don't mind not speaking to people, I have had a lifetime of practice. I like quiet, never put the radio on, don't have a TV. I am becoming a bit forgetful, but I put that down to age.

Bonnie said...

You are poetic in your description of the lives we have come to live. I know it is particularly challenging for those that live alone but you have done well and still kept to your schedule and contact with friends through safe methods. After three months we have gotten together with our family some this month but I fear it will not last as the cases are rising again.

justjill said...

Weave wont you now be able to form a bubble say with your son? You live alone and can do so ?? Check it out. Scotland is different I know but see if you can. xxx

hart said...

It was not too surprising to me to realize that I only clean house when there is company coming.

wherethejourneytakesme said...

Lovely thoughtful post Pat - I understand your silence and I hope you find the silence is broken soon and you will have your freedom back again....and I promise I will come for that cup of tea and a chat when we are in your neighbourhood and are allowed some contact. Until then stay safe.x

Joanne Noragon said...

Some days I wonder if my voice still works.

Mary Contrary said...

I too live alone now and often think that we’re it not for talking to my small dog that no voices would be heard in my home.

Red said...

Introverts must be enjoying the lock down. Poor old extroverts must be going crazy.

Bonnie said...

Very well written. I'm an introvert, most days are fine, I'm working from home. Then it becomes too much. I am communicating more with high school and college friends, I think because we can just pick up the conversation where we left off somewhere over the past 40 years!
I notice I have lost all ability to hurry. It'll get done...

Bonnie in Minneapolis

Cro Magnon said...

My oldest was feeling the strain in central London, so drove down here. He's been working throughout the pandemic, and will have to hold several international video calls from here, but he's loving the freedom of space and fresh air. We are trying to keep our distance.

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

The hardest bit is going to be remembering what the rules actually are as they are gradually lifted, a state of affairs not helped by most people getting their news from social media rather than proper news services.

Derek Faulkner said...

It would also help if the government watched the news themselves, they might finally notice how a lot of the public in this country are already some way ahead of them and living fairly normal lives again. While they keep coming up with petty little rules about how many people that you can meet with and where, have they not noticed that thousands of people are regularly out in the streets together protesting,shoulder to shoulder at protests and not getting arrested for ignoring social distancing, how people yesterday at a 2 minute silence for those killed in Reading, were all packed together. People fill parks and beaches every day - life has moved on!

Kate said...

When living alone there is NEVER anyone to call out "is the bathroom free" or "what times lunch" so that isn't just because of the lockdown.
It's easy to blame lots of things on the lockdown restrictions however some of the restrictions have been lifted. Whatever age or vulnerability we're able to get outside for exercise if we are able and want to. Nobody is making us stay indoors.
People seem to have become so selfish, wanting all the restrictions lifted in order to go back to their usual pleasure seeking lives. Anyone who has been affected by Covid 19, and there are so very many who are grieving right now, realise those recommendations and restrictions have been for our own safety.
Perhaps the selfish whining people in this country should look at what's happening right now in other countries where the lockdowns have been lifted and Covid cases are again on the increase.
Which is more important - the lives of loved ones or a lunch out with friends?

Rachel Phillips said...

Proper news services John? There is no such thing. I heard the BBC misquote advice from the Briefing the other evening within seconds of the Briefing ending. I suggest the best way to live is to listen to the Briefing and work it out for yourself together with your own common sense and responsibility.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I couldn't agree more with what you write Kate. My son and his wife are really isolating themselves as my son's wife is an invalid. It makes me cross when people do not obey the rules. I have been here for three months - my son only lives a mile away and I speak to him daily - but not once have i been in close contact. Rules are there because they are necessary.

I would point out that I am not lonely - I have plenty of Zoom meetings and outside picnics now. My post was speaking generally not necessarily about me.

Thanks for taking part. Such interesting answers.

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Tom Stephenson said...

Many of us are so lucky to have the best of both. To be able to go out and come home to something or someone. I think that you will be able to meet your friends for lunch very soon Weave.

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