By Stella Robertson
I’ve never been in a catastrophic earthquake but having lived in New Zealand for 18 years I know what it feels like to try and stand on jelly. That’s where the wave of Covid 19 found me; already negotiating a wobbly terrain and questioning the solidity of everything.
Very recently returned to my birth home of Edinburgh after a 12 year relationship hit a bump and then very quickly came to a halt with a bang. The timing colliding painfully with my Mum’s news of a very limiting diagnosis.
A car crash during an earthquake? Now that just about describes the motions involved here. Catapulted, flailing, high up over buckling ground with onlookers saying senseless things about “finding my feet”. All I wanted was someone to grasp my hand.
So for me Covid 19 became the post earthquake tsunami that completely redefined my landscape. Mud caked and gasping with no idea how long the aftershocks would last there was nothing left to do but build shelter, alone, from scratch. So I moved to Dunbar on the East Coast of Scotland and started digging.
Obviously you know that the arc of this blog is going to settle on higher ground but I will not whitewash my experience and fold it neatly into the “blessing” drawer.
Confronted by a loneliness on a level that made me gasp and with no self escape through work, I dug myself into so many dark hiding holes that I began to question my footing on everything. So even when I did reach out to the virtual (or on the rare occasion, the real) human, I could not properly connect. Good connections thrive on flexibility so they can go with the flow, I was still stuck on slow mo grasping in the air.
As a person, previously identified as a “connector”, not being able to lean on the main trait that helped me create a home in four different countries, left me feeling not just alienated from others but from myself. And in a country labelled my own. The effort of trying to care for another from this place (and also from a garden), used herculaic strength with which I managed very little.
I’d heard and now experienced that when carving your own deep pit, allowing even the tiniest chink of light to hit one of your darkly worn corners, is golden. And so finally she arrived. At first like an old familiar love throwing open the door, insisting that I snap out of it and pay her attention. Her explosive blooms, arcing-trail-free-skies and all manor of thrashing waters shook me from my trance. And later, in her gentleness, I was held while the sorrow was wrung out of me. It made perfect sense then, that my first effort to reconnect with like-minded strangers would be with others equally beguiled by Her Wilderness.
WanderWoman to the rescue!
Initially I worried that I would still struggle to reach out from such a tender place but the ask was so refreshingly simple – just to be with others outside. And very quickly, through the sharing of our very varied experiences, I saw aspects of my Covid months mirrored. Often in the care taking role that women, willingly or not, take up in times of hardship, often to the detriment of self. A sobering reminder of where our society is stuck.
The solidarity of this connection instantly warmed me and I was reunited with female kind, by female kindness. The kind that involves the gift of listening. Three hours later I left that nurturing gathering no longer alone and no longer a stranger, to them, or to myself.
Thanks Anna for the space you provide with your offerings. My first (of many) allowed me to test my newly formed floating foundations. The ultimate for any new home creations.