When lockdown began in England in mid-March, we were allowed to leave our homes only for exercise and essential shopping. Initially this felt almost like a holiday at home as I encountered my local area in greater depth: I explored footpaths, bridleways and byways, and discovered lost holloways in ancient beechwoods, packhorse tracks that were used centuries ago to transport timber from our woodlands to the river Thames prior to shipping to London as fuel. I felt connected with the past, conscious that I was walking where “generations have trod, have trod, have trod” [in the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins] as they toiled close to the soil. I witnessed the wonders of the greening of woodland in spring, and early morning bird song clear as a bell in a silent world, and felt grateful. I learned a new way of shopping: at the farm gate there were eggs laid by happy hens; organic veg boxes were delivered to my door; independent bookshops would meet my needs within 24 hours, and post books free of charge. I admired the retailers who turned their business plans round and converted a crisis into an opportunity.
This sounds complacent and nostalgic, a longing for a world that no longer exists. But I am, I hope, acutely aware that not everyone has the resources or the health to experience Covid-19 in this way. Lockdowns from Lauriston (https://www.lauriston.org.uk/lockdownsfromlauriston), a series of zoom talks and discussions, opened my mind and heart to the impact of the virus on Church and wider society. There have been hard personal lessons too: the death of a beloved nephew just two weeks after the loss of a brother-in-law have made me reflect upon the importance of taking nothing and no one for granted. Being unable to visit my son and grandsons in Denmark makes me at least appreciate that we have electronic means of keeping in touch.
I hope I have learned to value our common home more fully, and am determined to increase my efforts to walk or cycle where possible, and to shop and eat more sustainably. Astonishingly, even the UK government has now recognised the value of cycling and good nutrition. I have resolved to read Laudato Si’ and act upon it, rather than merely talking about it.
I need to reflect on the past and the future in equal measure, and hope and pray that I, as well as governments and society as a whole, will have the will to work towards a better world for all.
English Friend of Mary Ward