Antidotes to coronavirus angst

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The birds are going berserk outside. Magpies sounding like machine gunfire. Swooping and diving and spraying their cackling bullets. Do they know something that we don’t yet know?

Since the start of this I’ve been struck by the birds. By the cacophony of mostly sweet sounding slightly maniacal chirps that assaults us as we walk. By how they continue on as if they don’t actually believe the sky is falling down.

‘Listen’, I say to whomever is lucky enough to be closest to me on our one permitted daily walk, strictly within a 2km range of the house.

‘Just listen. They’re oblivious to it all. Carrying on with their delight at the arrival of springtime. We need to capture this. We need to mimic the birds’, I say to them or to myself.

‘Eh, okay then Mum’.

Birdsong. An antidote to coronavirus collective angst. There’s no point in worrying, the birds tell us. Stick to the restrictions and sing they seem to suggest. Which we’re doing. Pretty well as it happens. Music and song and laughter permeates our days. The children are particularly good at it. I’m faking it until we make it. As I write, the middle child is strumming guitar and singing in his bedroom above me, chilled to the hilt. Perhaps he’s supposed to be in google classroom or beavering away at his maths or history, or submitting ideas about how the Junior Cert could now be undertaken, if it’s not to be a write-off now altogether. I wouldn’t know. But what’s coming through the floorboards seems perfectly apt.

Outside though, the sound of the machine gunfire magpies has set my heart hammering, the doubt seeping back in. Are we being vigilant enough? Should I have allowed our eldest to go to the shops when crisps and cookies are not exactly necessities? Should I have sprayed the handle of the supermarket trolley with Dettol disinfectant, even though I was wearing gloves? Should I have coughed into my elbow to tell other shoppers that they’re coming too close to me in the aisles? Encroaching beyond the 2 metre guidelines and no one else in sight to police it. Or perhaps I should’ve used some other non-verbal cue, a quick slit of the eye, a tut or a sigh, a little yelp when a gang of women in pyjamas swarmed in and surrounded me. Should I have unpacked the shopping myself, or allowed the vulnerable person in the house to help? Should I have shouted at the second youngest for seizing his packet of jellies from the table before I had a chance to wipe the packet down? The gunfire magpies know the answers. They know what’s coming down the tracks for us. Time for another walk perhaps.

Cherry blossoms. They seem to be telling us something too. They bloom on magnificently, regardless. Coronavirus cannot restrict their growth. The enormous tree at the top of this road, far reaching abundant branches, enough to spark pleasure hormones in those who pass, tickling the senses. Even our own spindly tree. A late bloomer at best each year, but here they come anyway, the blossoms peeping on through. Reassuringly bright. Hold tight they tell us, as they dance in the wind. All will be well.

A grey squirrel with a large white patch across his back – looking very much like he’s stolen a face mask and managed to strap it on – darts up the trunk of an old oak tree. Business as usual. An enormous cuddly Bernese Mountain dog stands beside the tree and watches calmly, seemingly amused. Breathe deeply and imbibe. This is the way to do it. Mimic the Bernese Mountain dog. Solid, stolid, in the moment, taking it all in. Calmly amused. Because worrying excessively about the five children, the vulnerable person in the house, the unwritten wills, the unpaid bills, the word cluster, the father in the nursing home, the mother who is another vulnerable person – doubly so – will not achieve a thing. Back to nature, to the collective action of all of us in this together, apart, chirping as mightily as we can. Dodging the bullets for another day.

Outside a beautiful goldfinch sits on the tippy-top of our cherry blossom tree. He turns his little red face and looks straight in at me. Good plan he seems to say.

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