Introduction - Green Time
Updated: Jun 27
1 June 2020. We are living through historic times and I plan to contemplate, with three others, the felt experience of time and space in this COVID-19 crisis.
Two topics have exercised me over the last few months: getting home and being in the present.
I have struggled with the question of where is/are home(s) and why do I need to get/be there. All the uncertainties connected with the virus situation have caused me to experience a loss of momentum and an inability to plan the future. These struggles seem to be having an emotional impact on my present where I am conscious of experiencing and expressing volatile emotions that differ from my usual equanimity. I feel that I am suffering from a loss of perspective, attitude adjustment and reassurance that results from tactile, live contact with others.
I have made some decisions that will definitely stick, such as never flying again. I already don’t drive. I will only travel by train, bus, bike, boat, foot and non-fuel based flight in the future. Many of us are dreaming of travelling. I want to contemplate why travelling and moving is as necessary to us as breathing and staying still, whilst acknowledging that we are not all experiencing the crisis and these issues in the same way.
I have made some other decisions during these strange times and wonder if they will stick or not.
Reflections in the River Viaur outside my house in a village in the south of France. I am separated from that home by COVID-19, locked down in another home in Devon. Thank you to my neighbour, Susan, for the photo. She is also separated from that home. 'It's still there!' she told me.
I call this daily moment there the green time when the sun is at a particular angle to create these fabulous perpendicular reflections. It is extraordinary to immerse in and swim through that space. I am potentially separated from that home by Brexit too but that relates to one of my other decisions and is for discussion in another post.
Who am I? In response to that question, I usually say I am a writer publishing fiction and non-fiction and I teach on MA Poetics of Imagination and supervise PhDs at Dartington Arts School in Devon. However, the Covid19 situation has made me rethink my self-description. I feel the need to say I am a writer, a teacher, and a nanoo (grandma). We don’t conventionally describe the importance (or not, we all vary, as Covid19 has emphasised) of family for us in our bios. But these last three months have shown me how significant my family (all of them, not just my three-year-old grandson) are to me and I’m not prepared to keep that part of my identity, work, and experience silent, invisible, devalued anymore. I suspect quite a lot of people have experienced the work and delight of being a family member manifested in new ways in the lockdown (some good, some bad). More on that coming up in a later post.
Where are you? My particular Covid19 situation is that I am locked down in my rented flat on the Dartington estate, which is beautiful, rural, lushly green. The pheasant, deer and other birds and wildlife have been busy rewilding the place while it has been closed to visitors, and we few residents have been able to frolic here for our daily exercise. The outside areas have just reopened. I am locked down alone. I usually live alone and relish that, but again Covid19 has occasioned some recalibration in my thinking. My family are all in north London and my friends are in London, Pembrokeshire, Australia, France and elsewhere, and I'm feeling those separations and staying in touch with them by all means remote.
I live on the Dartington estate and work for The Dartington Trust. I’ve been working from home for my job for four days a week for the last three months of the lockdown. With 80% of the other Dartington staff furloughed, those of us still working are carrying substantial workloads. I've been extremely busy and extremely online. My computer keeps telling me I've had 11 hours, 13 hours, etc., on screen today.
The rest of my time is for my own writing. I’m publishing a new historical novel (my fifth) tomorrow with Impress Books. During lockdown, I've written journal articles and blogposts, contemplated my future fiction writing and children’s stories, and started working on a biography of three medieval sisters, called Three Female Lords, which is my next main writing project.