Life is forever fresh, forever new. It might take a change of perspective to appreciate this. But life offers so many moments of re-entry, so many chances to start afresh.
Gentle reader: We somehow find ourselves in December 2022. How is this month treating you, thus far? December started with a giant leap for me (although it would likely have been but a small step for other personages).
London. The first day of December 2022. I felt as if I was making my re-entry into the world. For the first time since the earliest days of the pandemic, I caught the train to London. I was on my way to meet my dear friend Tash Stallard for a (very) long overdue catch-up and lunch.
I could not have hoped for a better old friend with whom to meet on that day, which in a way marked my re-entry to “normal” life. I could not have hoped for a more beautiful day to make this return.
All brand new
It was a freezing December morning, but bathed in the brightest sunshine. Mists rose from the frosted Sussex and Kent fields as my train made its way to the capital. Along the way, it was so lovely to glimpse certain centuries-old trees by the rail side for the first time in years. I used to look out for these ancient trees to liven up the grind of my daily commute a little, looking forward to the optical illusion that made them appear to turn like ballerinas as the train passed by. As we made the final approach to London Bridge it was impossibly exciting to see the top of Tower Bridge peeking over the rooftops. These things seemed at once ancient and new.
That day, I felt as though I had been absent from the world for so long. To help protect and preserve the precious and precarious health of family members, I had effectively shielded ever since the advent of the pandemic. I had barely strayed beyond my small East Sussex town since March 2020.
After three years in a kind of hibernation, it was only natural to feel a heart-surging mix of excitement and trepidation to make a re-entry into the wider world.
I felt nervous to be back out there after so long confined. I slept fitfully the night before. But on the big day itself, my nervous jitters were ultimately washed away by a sense of wonder and discovery as I walked these streets of London, at once as familiar as an old friend and as fresh and new as tomorrow.
It was so odd to be the age I am, and to be going to places and doing things I have done dozens (or more likely hundreds) of times before, yet to have it all feel brand new, all as if I was seeing and doing these things for the first time.
Moments that can only happen in the moment
That beautiful day of frozen sunshine in London contained so many lovely moments that can only happen when you are physically present in their midst.
I arrived in London a couple of hours early, to reacquaint myself with the simple fact of being back out and about. I walked slowly over London Bridge to the City of London, stopping to sip from hot coffee and take in the glory of this freezing, bright morning. So much life, sound and colour going on all around me, all in the moment. Once on the north bank of the Thames, I turned left past Cannon Street tube, down to near St Paul’s Cathedral, where I turned left on to the Millennium Bridge.
On the Millennium Bridge, all around me was bathed in radiant, blinding sunlight that briefly thawed the bitter winter cold. Coming out of that dazzling sunshine into the shadow cast by Tate Modern, I saw a remarkable sight. A woman stood on the small beachy area of the Thames foreshore, dozens upon dozens of ducks, swans and pigeons flocking to surround her as she cast bird seed all around.
All this wonder.
But most important and most wonderful of all was meeting up with my lovely friend Tash at the BFI Southbank. The heart-swelling, life-affirming privilege of seeing an old friend in person after far too long, followed by the joy of getting to chat and laugh with them for hours on end as you catch up. I am so thankful to Tash for being there for me as I made my nervous return to “normal” life that day.
Ten years ago, this would probably not have been such an unusual way to spend a free day for me. But in December 2022, this far into the pandemic, it felt almost overwhelming, yet also necessary, essential.
Be open to the moment
Life is forever fresh. Sometimes it might take the slightest change of perspective to appreciate this. We might need to step into a new and unfamiliar world to experience such feelings. Equally, we might return to a dear place or person after too long apart. But life offers every one of us so many moments of re-entry, of starting afresh. We just need to be open to these moments of wonder.
All this wonder.
May you be nothing but kind today, to others and to yourself.
May today be nothing but kind to you and yours.
- Hayabusa Re-entry Observed by Scientists Aboard DC-8 via NASA.
- Tower Bridge peeks over the rooftops of South London, Thursday 1 December 2022, photograph by MJCarty.
- Tower Bridge as viewed from London Bridge, Thursday 1 December 2022, photograph by MJCarty.
- Lady of the Swans Met DP888939 via Wikimedia Commons.
- MJCarty and Tash Stallard, London, Thursday 1 December 2022, photograph by MJCarty/Tash Stallard.
- St Paul’s Cathedral, London, Thursday 1 December 2022, photograph by MJCarty.
- Winter Sunrise Along Green River on Seedskadee NWR (23188557573) via Wikimedia Commons.