The Incubation – Covid-19

The Incubation – Covid-19

Elise Slater- Art Therapist
A reflection by Elise Slater

The beginning of Covid-19 seems a lifetime ago, distant memories of people gathering together in Surry Hills bars and cafes, of popping to the supermarket without a second thought. Before PPE was an acronym that had entered anyone’s lexicon and a pangolin sounded like a mythical beast.

2020 had already sparked myself and my community of friends in Sydney to action. In February, in response to the devastating bushfires, we formed a climate crisis group to request a green new deal from parliament and create action in response to our environmental crisis.

We felt the beginning of 2020 was sending us a clear message to change our ways, one we could no longer push to the recesses of our minds.

Then Covid hit.

The need for change was amplified by this new crisis, but Covid quickly sucked our energies; we were too busy caring for our loved ones and our elders, our energy used up in anxious trips to the supermarket, wondering about our lost jobs and scouring the news every hour. Our climate meetings were postponed even though we knew in our hearts they were more urgent than ever.

We succumbed to the message of the virus. Stop. Listen. Go Within. Work dried up immediately. Life became bound by the walls of our house and the odd, carefully considered trip to the supermarket. I gravitated to articles by people who reflected my own sentiments, that this virus, with all of its destruction and heartbreak was also a God in many ways. For what else could stop air travel in motion & bring fast fashion to a halt? This virus had sent us all to our rooms to re-think our ways.

At least I hoped that was happening. I was hoping for a mass retreat. A pause. A global meditation and unification. I hoped that people might use this time to connect with themselves, with others and with the world in new ways. And there was some evidence of this. On my daily isolation walk I saw the people of Surry Hills cycling, walking with their families, stopping to watch sunsets over the city and connecting with local green spaces under the guise of ‘exercise’.

I found hidden parts of our city that I never knew existed, and discovered these with all of the excitement and curiosity previously reserved for exotic far away travels. The smallest things became delightful and I was reminded of how immune we have become to small pleasures.

I replaced the word ‘lock down’ with the ‘slow down’ and revelled in the quietness of our city. The birds seemed louder, the sky more blue. The only noise in Sydney was the ever present construction which never stopped, though I wished it would.

I resonated with the idea of this period being a portal (Arundahti Roy) or a God (Stephen Jenkinson) that this could be the transition or emergence to a new world, a new way of being if we used this time right.

Covid will be wasted lesson and recurring event if we do not learn from it and make the changes the world is asking of us loud and clear. How much louder do we need the lessons to be? Do we really want to return to a normal that wasn’t working?

Some of my hopefulness for change slowly fades as we begin to emerge from this lock down to the governments message of ‘business as usual’ and the hard sell of consumption once more. My hope then fades some more as I hear of mining companies blowing up ancient indigenous sites while we have been silent.

All I can hope it that something has changed within all of us irrevocably. That a seed has been planted. We may not even know what that seed it yet, but it will grow and take form over time.

The learnings first happen individually and will then happen collectively, as we begin to gather once more. The Black Lives Matter movement is testament to the capacity of people to gather and be heard in brave new ways and shows how when we come together with a unified cause change can happen. The quick response to Covid-19 shows how our governments can also act quickly and in unison when they choose to. In my daydreams I imagine this capacity for unified global action being applied to the environmental crisis.

So I live with hope. And lessons learnt. That the great slow down of 2020 will seed new cities, new communities and new ways of living in harmony with the world. And as we emerge from our state of incubation and begin to gather together once more we can birth this new vision in to being.