From Solitude

The ten foot circular wading pool in our yard happens to be one of the purest and grandest places in the world. Standing (infrequently) I measure 6’7”. Floating, starfish style, I can very nearly touch the pool wall at all four points of a ten foot compass. A curious image, assuredly, but on a clear day situated thus I can see the vast blue canopy of the sky fringed by the greenery of our garden; I can glimpse the glorious bay windows in our home; and I can see a ring of bushland rising dramatically on the hill we are nestled into. It’s superbly rich; simplicity so delightful that I sometimes laugh out loud in surprise.

Easter Sunday, 2020, is just such a brilliant blue day, and although summer is long gone Teen Girl and I will be taking our daily dip soon. It is from this buoyant posture that I find myself pondering the delights of “self-isolation” in Paradise, while humanity around the globe is in travail. It confounds me that I am enjoying a secluded life of peaceful occupation even while vultures circle the hospital in Guayaquil, Ecuador, hungrily drawn to an unknown number of CoronaVirus fatalities within. It has ever been so, but the harsh contradictions of life defy my understanding. 

As 2020 dawned I was apprehensive, no, I was despaired. The international press was full of scientific data proving that the earth’s ice caps are melting at a greater speed than the most dangerous modelling had predicted. Climate change was being ignored by governments around the world, with few as wilfully dismissive as our own. I dreaded to think of the world that my children and grandchildren will inherit. And yet on that very day, New Year’s Day, a grandchild was born to us unexpectedly, weeks before she was due. Light magnified within me as the birth of this tiny child brought us to our knees in wonder. “Unto us a child is born” says the scripture; and with complete disregard for the proper application of that verse I bathed in the glory of hope; a God-given joy. 

But I wonder if you share with me, three months later, a shy hope still? There are prophets everywhere: ordinary people are peering forward through today’s cloud of fear to catch a glimpse of a new world. My own self-isolation is becoming a rebirth; I have a deepening awareness of the opportunity for change. More than that, a calling toward change. I know that in some western countries (incredibly, our own included) there are queues at the door of gun shops; but what I hear in the ordinary voices around me, on the phone, on the news, are expressions of community.

Could it be that personally, communally, nationally ….. even globally ….. rebirth is possible?

In his book Out of Solitude, Henri Nouwen writes:

“But in solitude, our heart can slowly take off its many protective devices, and can grow so wide and deep that nothing human is strange to it. Then we can become contrite, crushed, and broken, not just by our own sins and failings, but also by the pain of our fellow human beings. Then we can give birth to a new awareness reaching far beyond the boundaries of our human efforts. And then we who, in our fearful narrow-mindedness, were afraid that we would not have enough food for ourselves (or enough toilet paper?), will have to smile.” 

On Easter Sunday, 2020, my heart is drawn toward hope, toward rebirth.




My thanks to two dear friends, Robin and Philip, who this week reminded me to write.


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