The gentle reflection of the water, and of the mind.
Exercise has become so integral to lockdown life, with countryside walks becoming a social visit to those outside of family.
We walk for hours and chat along those canal paths, takeaway coffees and dog leads in hand. Our furry companions are so happy that we work from home, their need for affection and fresh air satisfied.
Most of us have struggled under the bizarre circumstances of a worldwide pandemic, often feeling like characters of a dystopian novel. Everyone has made sacrifices, but so rare is it that we share the same reason for doing so. There is a strange comfort in unity. Each begrudgingly slow step of the past year has now led to enormous leaps in modern medicine, and a new compassion within the community.
The end appears nigh, as we hope to throw our masks up like the graduation caps and celebrate a long, carefree summer.
As autumn returns, perhaps we should hold onto the masks from the bitter wind, and a bittersweet memory which we battled through.
Breakfast is important. In those first moments of your first meal, it sets the tone of the rest of your day. As a child, breakfast was crafted with fascination, from animal-shaped pancakes to intergalactic cereal; It almost felt like a small window to eat, before the contents of my plate would make their escape.
My favourite meal was a boiled egg, with regimented soldiers placed alongside and ready for combat. It is a ritualistic meal – tapping my spoon against the egg, removing the top and dipping the soldier into the salivating, saffron yolk. It is seemingly a quick meal, and I was always eager to start my day and escape from the ordinary into my wild imagination. But this was a moment that I would savour, leading to an unusually quiet morning in a house of frequent, chaotic energy.
To eat soldiers felt fit for a soldier, an occupation that I manifested for myself that day. But that could wait. I placed my cowboy gun nearby, ready to go should an epic battle present itself in the middle of my breakfast.
White roses are traditionally associated with new beginnings, as white as a bridal gown. They may not be as loud as their coloured counterparts, but their understated beauty flaunts in their layered tones of white, playing with light and shadow.
On the first day of Spring, there is no overcast to be seen, but rather an empty sky and a scorching sun. The artist sees this from her studio and, after a long winter, is eager to capture the changing seasons. As if stealing a palette from the sky, her background is sapphire. In her ever-flourishing garden, the muted white roses provide that dramatic contrast that the artist desperately seeks. With a bed of sun-lounging roses below, only the fighting few climb upwards, their tightly closed buds unravelling, their faces exposed. She uses a thin brush to trace their intricate stems, before sculpting her white paint into oval shapes on the canvas.
When the seasons change once more, and we return to shorter days and colder nights, these white roses are a gesture of remembrance. A farewell to summer, but a promise to return, their purity expresses a quiet optimism for the future. This painting says, ‘I’m thinking of you’.
I look through the frosted window of my front door, to see a blanket of snow resting on the chickens, soft but icy. Only their red beaks peak through, contrasting to the perfect white, as bright as the blank page of a new chapter.
Once the door is opened, the warm air is sucked out of my home into my glacial surroundings. The cold air pinches my cheeks, and rises in pearl clouds from my mouth with each breath. My wellies greet me at the doorstep, offering to protect my feet from the cold and slippery ground. Like Cinderella, they perfectly fit for the occasion.
The clean slate from the snow is marked with my brown boot marks, as I gingerly walk toward my velvety-plumaged companions. The hens look up and see me, with their fluffed-up feathers shielding the cold. They gather around my feet, and I lean down to pet them with my gloved hands.
I am reminded of snow days as a child, listening eagerly for news that schools were shut and the day was ours. I scoop a handful of soft snow, pressing my palms together until I have created a solid white globe. I throw aimlessly, as if in the midst of a snowball battle, and it lands in the white abyss. It is a day of quiet bliss, with only the muffled creaking of snow underfoot.
There is nothing quite like the sheer panic of forgetting someone’s birthday, more specifically a birthday card, to truly mark the occasion.
Luckily, an artist works well under stress. As someone so often used to the pressures of meeting deadlines for clients, she quickly make haste; She grabs her art supplies and throw them down onto her work surface with an anticipatory thud.
This is no regular client, and there has been no debrief in this instance. But with her husband as the recipient, she knows him well enough to paint something of his taste.
Using a piece of paper, easily folded into a card, the artist begins to plot her canvas just in time for this important day. In her mind, she fondly envisions the summer garden.
The buzzing bees and singing birds are an orchestra in this quiet corner of the countryside. The wild flowers grow with such a vigour, they often overstep into the pathway. This is the pathway which the artist’s husband will walk after the working day. Crunching gravel underfoot, the bright bulbs are thrust forward by the wind and kiss his feet. The artist imagines his pace quicken upon his excitement of seeing balloons, or a colourful banner in the archway perhaps; His mind is animated with what surprises may be awaiting behind the front door of their home.
The artist plays out this warm and happy scene inside her head as she paints. Almost as if the mental image has been scanned onto the paper, it is complete. The artist reviews the finished birthday card, with the long, overreaching stems of the flowers and the path seemingly built around them. With dots of sapphire and rouge to imitate their swaying, she leaves the darkened doorway, as the beautiful, ambiguous end of one’s journey up the garden path.
It is safe to say that this year has been like no other.
My home has been a haven from the invisible enemy which lurks outside these four walls. As a household of normally busy schedules, that chaos of general life has slowed down considerably. With Christmas approaching, this would typically be our annual moment of togetherness. But this year I am thankful, as this small moment has stretched over months of national lockdowns and tier systems. Whatever hardships have been faced, they have been faced as a family.
With no stressful commute each morning, I no longer rely on a booming alarm but wake up at the first sign of light. I love the peaceful innocence of mornings, and the potential of what the day may bring, however limited.
My festive and fluffy socks muffle the sound of my feet down the stairs, so not to wake my snoozing family. I see the remnants of the night before, and with the kettle at a dull roar, I fill the sink and get to work. My soapy hands squeak over the dinner plates.
As I lift the plates from the sink to dry them, I look upward and am dazzled by the golden sunlight seeping into my kitchen. I am half-asleep dreaming of the world outside, post-pandemic. The high whistle of a rather impatient kettle presses on for some time before I realise.
I sit down and switch on the television for company. As I watch the morning broadcast, I clutch the warmth of fresh coffee to my chest, lifting my once-heavy heart.
With the rest of the world awakening to the news of a vaccination, this has been the most memorable moment in a year that, to most, would be one to forget.