It’s a Small World

‘It’s a small world!’.

How many times have you said that in your life? I know I have many times. That was until 2020.

The world hasn’t changed in size. Just feels that way. With the global pandemic we are no longer free flying birds, hopping on planes and zipping to the other side of the world in a day. Travel restrictions and limited planes have slowed it all down, in fact almost to a grinding halt. The cold reality of distance has crept into our anxious minds; distance between us and our loved one’s overseas.

It feels like when I first came to Australia many years ago in my early twenties. I left my family behind in Denmark to start a new life down-under with my love and soon to be husband. We were young and money was tight. Trips back to visit my Danish family then were rare. Each time I worried that Australia would not let me in. I loved living in Australia, so different to the cold winters of the north.

I never imagined there would come a day when Australia would not let me out. That the world would not be free to travel. That I could not visit my family in Denmark and my daughter in the US whenever I wanted to. But that is our new normal. For now. For how long? The uncertainty is sometimes worse than the restriction itself.

It makes the tough times we are finding ourselves in tougher by not being with people we love. It’s natural to want to have family close by. To want them safe and to feel safe ourselves. To hold them tight and be with them in person. FaceTime and the internet is a blessing but it can never beat seeing their smiles and hugging them tight. 

I cannot wait to do that. One day. Soon. 

When the world is small again.

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LOST

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To an outsider we would have looked like any normal family going on a weekend hike, but each of us, mum, dad, sister Kit and I, knew it was not. We had no choice but to pack up and head west. Away from our once shimmering, pulsating city now gasping for breath with only the stench of fear and rotten garbage its only reminder of modern civilization.

We headed out with a sense of excited relief and quiet despair, dad trying to keep the mood light and mum’s brown eyes smiling behind her mask covered in silent tears. We had all worn masks outside for months. Most had. But still most had died. Or left like us. Disappeared without a trace.

Dad drove our old Toyota Hilux till it ran out of petrol just on the other side of the mountain range. Then we had to walk carrying our gear through the steep descent into the valley of thick bushland. Dad was on a mission to the get there by nightfall to set up camp. ‘Keep walking. We will be safe there’ he kept saying. I limped along; pain shooting from throbbing blisters on my heels. Kit was crying and dad picked her up and carried both her and the heaviest backpack with our water supply. Mum stumbled, and I grabbed her hand. It felt warm and comforting. We continued for what seemed hours, Kit on Dad’s back and mum and I behind.

‘This is it!’ Dad smiled. ‘Let’s set up camp here.’

It was nothing like our home, but the small grassed clearing with the freshwater creek nearby and dense tall gumtrees all around that night was heaven. Mum soon had the fire burning with the smell of garlic and dried vegetables wafting through the place. We feasted and told funny stories, we laughed and we shed a few quiet tears in the dark. Life almost felt good and normal again; as if we were just on another camping trip.

But it wasn’t. We left the city, but the city came with us. It stalked us through the bushes, and safety was only a momentary illusion. We knew as soon as we lost Kit. We knew it was with us. We stopped hugging and sharing utensils. But we stayed together. Like robots without souls, we walked the bush further and further inland. But it stayed with us. One by one, first mum, then dad, then…..for the first time in my 17 years I was all alone. Totally and utterly alone. Not alone in a house, not alone in my room. No, I was totally alone in the outback. God only knows where. I didn’t. I sat for hours in the thick bush surrounded by an abundance of wildlife that had no idea what was happening in the world, in my world.  I yelled into the empty vastness and finally cried myself to sleep.

That was 75 days ago. I have kept tally of the days in my notebook just to keep my mind sane. Somehow knowing what day it is makes me feel normal. I have a routine now. Every day I walk till the sun is highest in the sky, then I find a camp site and spend the rest of the day catching and preparing my dinner. My slingshot it great for getting little birds, a perfect size meal.  Sometimes I go for days with just water and berries. I have gone for 75 days without human contact. Not sure which hunger is the worst. The rumbles of my stomach can be quietened by  a descent feast, but the rumbles of my soul are always there. The longing for human touch, for a connection, the need to ease the anxiety, the fear of being alone, is always there beneath the surface of toughness.

Today my routine changed. It was cold, and I kept walking to stay warm. The breeze cut right through my worn jacket and dirty jeans in spite of the extra layers of shirts underneath. I was still searching for a protected campsite or a small cabin, if lucky, when the sun was starting to set. I felt a sense of panic as I heard my dad’s voice in my head ‘Always set up camp and a fire before dark.’

That’s when I smelt the smoke and saw the glow from a distant fire. Another hiker. Another human being. My heart raced. From fear and from excitement and the thought of maybe a warm meal. Could I risk it? I circled closer. In the dark, I could make out only one person. A slight build. I felt braver. I could win a fight if I had to. I was only metres away from the camp fire, and could feel the inviting glow on my body melting away any last bit of resistance. I stumbled, the person turned and pointed a gun at me.

‘Don’t come closer or I shoot you,’ the voice yelled.

Big blue eyes looked into mine, full of fear. A girl my age, her face dirty and streaked from days in the bush.

‘You look worse than me’ I tried to joke and smiled.

Her look softened and her gun lowered just for a moment.

‘You don’t need that’ I pointed to the gun. ‘Im not going to hurt you.’

‘How do I know you’re not sick like everyone else?’  her voice trembled.

‘Im not. I have been by myself for over 75 days. No contact with anyone else since my whole family passed. Im clean.’

She looked into my eyes, the frown on her forehead disappeared, and in that moment we both felt it. That overwhelming need to hold someone.

“Can I hug you?’ I asked, taking a step towards her.

She put down the gun and slowly moved into my outstretched arms, and for a long time all I heard was the beat of our hearts and the quiet sighs escaping from us both. We instantly knew from that day on we would begin our new normal. Together.

 

BREATHING

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We are now halfway through 2020; a year of turmoil and change, but also a year of hope for a better life. Hope because the events that have unfolded this year has made us all appreciate what matters; love, family, human contact, freedom, time to reflect, our health and waking up every morning still BREATHING.

In fact, BREATHING seems to have been a common thread through the chaos we have experienced in 2020.

First the bushfires that ravaged such a vast part of Australia in our summer season and continued into the start of this year. Smoke filled the air even in places far from the burning bush. It blanketed Sydney for months and many stayed indoors because of the worst air quality experienced in our normally bright and clean city. Our BREATHING was restricted, and we felt it in our lungs when venturing outdoors on bad days.

Then Covid-19 started surfacing in China, a virus affecting the respiratory system and in worst cases requiring ventilators to assist with BREATHING. By March Australia saw a surge in cases and we went into lockdown. We needed to contain the virus as our hospitals and medical supplies were not ready to deal with mass infections. Mass production of both masks and respirators commenced in the anticipation of hospitals potentially filling with people not being able to BREATHE by themselves.

The restrictions has helped Australia manage Covid-19 so far, and we are seeing very few cases emerge now apart from travellers returning or cluster cases. We are in a new phase of easing up on the restrictions, though many businesses continue to work from home. Some are going back to what they used to do, as if everything is back to normal, but we are far from it. Right now we are in ‘holding our BREATH’ mode to see what happens next.

To top it off amidst all the turmoil an American police officer arrested and killed George Floyd. His last words ‘I can’t BREATHE’ was captured on video and plastered on headlines online everywhere. This gross injustice lead to a massive protest movement across not only America but the world. Amidst the dangers of Covid-19 people gathered in peaceful protests wearing masks to voice their opinion about the injustice against people of colour. It escalated and within days America was in chaos.

George Floyd’s last words echoes what has been the issue for many all of 2020. For people of restricted freedom and privileges, it has been an issue for a lot longer.

What are we being told? What is it we need to learn before we can move forward to a new normal?

BREATHING is our life force. Not just for us humans. It’s the basis of all existence. Animals breathe, plants breathe. We all breathe in coexistence and codependence. Our breath brings us back to a balanced life, it grounds us, it sustains us, it nurtures our bodies. We must breathe to exist.

A new normal must make BREATHING a top priority on all levels, from daily interactions to top corporate visions. It’s that simple. And also that complex.

Positive Thought 17/1/2019

Today’s positive…this morning I chatted to my sister in Denmark, excited about her first grandchild due in three weeks, as well as my daughter in San Fransisco, excited about her wedding in September. 2019 is shaping up to be a big year!

Positive Thought 31/12/2018

Today’s positive…being privileged to live another year creating beautiful memories with loved ones, meeting strangers now friends and gaining new knowledge through challenges and experiences. Life indeed is one big positive.

Tomorrow I look forward to reading through all my Positive Thoughts for 2018, and starting again for the new 2019.

Thanks for following and inspiring me to continue my writing.

Wishing you all a wonderful and happy NY

Positive Thought 30/11/2018

Today’s positive…after a challenging week returning home tonight I see this tiny flower bud blooming on my kitchen window sill.

It was my mum’s favourite flower, and even after passing away over 30 years ago I feel she is always here watching over me.