All is always now

(The birdsong in this recording is intentional; the occasional traffic is not)

Here’s wishing you the bluest sky
And hoping something better comes tomorrow
Hoping all the verses rhyme,
And the very best of choruses to
Follow all the drudge and sadness
I know that better things are on the way

Ray Davies, Better Things

Inside, time stands still. The days of the week merge, the weeks lose their shape. This is day 27 of confinement in France because the news says so, but if you asked me how long it’s been, I couldn’t say. I can count on the fingers of one hand the people I’ve spoken to face to face in that time (observing the correct distances), but I’ve lost count of who I’ve spoken to in the digital fog of videoconferences. ‘Before’ seems as remote as the Millennium, ‘after’ as distant as a lottery win. There is just now.

Outside, time passes as it does. The natural world is not locked down. Around me, everything is changing. The hedge, whose March cut didn’t happen because of lockdown, came into bud and now pushes out small bright leaves. The silver birches we planted more than 50 years ago are a cascade of catkins. Across the valley, forest goes from grey to green, further with each passing day. The birds, who were just hanging on in the hedge three weeks ago have started their mating dance. There are butterflies and bees; lizards soak up the sun. And the field is cycling through its lovely wildflowers: cowslip, primrose, arum lily, dandelion, bluebell, and many more I can’t name. Two days ago, I saw the first purple orchids. One moment there were none to be seen; the next I counted fourteen.

I’m a child of temperate zones, where each month is a different character. Places with more stable climates and fewer seasons seem strange to me, as if time has been suspended. Today, in this northern hemisphere, the spring is announcing the unshakeable renewal of life, after winter’s cold months. It is a season of festivals: it’s just been Passover, today is Easter. Both commemorate death overcome in their different traditions. Whatever your belief, values or observance, whatever difficulties this epidemic has brought you, whatever sorrows, stresses or anxieties the present holds, I wish you – us – friends and strangers, better things when time starts moving again. I’ll get back to writing about art and people soon: it’s what I do. But today, I hope these ordinarily beautiful flowers (and Dar Williams singing Ray Davies) bring you pleasure on an unusual Sunday morning.