By Lynn Gail
What did your first day out of lockdown look like?
Were you able to master the downtime so many people cherished during isolation?
When restrictions were lifted across Western Australia, I caught a train and headed into the big smoke of Perth City (more a little puff really, when compared to most capital cities) to meet up with photography friends.
Freedom was scrawled across the last week of June in my empty diary.
A trickle of people confident enough to burst their isolation bubbles, were also making the journey.
Train trips often bring reflection, and during the half hour ride I began to process a slow replay of the past, what had it been? – barely three months.
At times, lockdown had seemed permanent – like having your worst relative visit for a few days then ends up staying indefinitely.
As a constantly on-the-go travel writer and photographer who covers remote destinations, I had initially welcomed the break.
It was an opportunity to put my footloose feet squarely on ‘terra firma’, to take pause, ‘sniff the roses’, and soak up the Indian Ocean’s ions while sunbathing with a good book to shield the sun.
Just five minutes’ walk away, the beach became my sanity drug.
As the clinically cleaned carriages slowed into each station, people sidled onto the train.
Furtive glances put a stamp on our new normal as passengers scanned for empty seats surrounded by extra empty seats.
As the train pulled away commuters relaxed, releasing stale air behind their sagging mouth guards.
But as we sped up to slow down, one question nagged at my sub-consciousness – had I mastered lockdown, how was I coping?
Others, it seemed, had relished closed doors, reduced societal contact, and weeks spent at home.
I was becoming unstuck.
Six cancelled trips.
Departure dates scrubbed from my diary.
Daily links to virtual travel videos showcasing restricted destinations only made the ache more acute, while empty suitcases gathered dust.
Social media posts, one after the other, boasted images of banana bread baked 50 different ways – it seemed if you didn’t bake – you clearly were not locked down tightly enough.
Then there were the: ‘cleaned out the cupboards’, ‘replanted the garden’ and ‘rebuilt the house’ type posts.
My cupboards were still full, my garden still weedy, and the house still had a lengthy to-do list nailed to its timbers.
Any attempts to fit the stay-at-home mould were fast proving feeble.
Weekly ‘Zoom’ sessions with fellow writers and photographers eased the stay-at-home drudge as we played musical instruments, donned silly hats, and mastered screen selfies of us nestled in our pigeonholes.
Phrases like, “I’m writing 2020 off,” or, “I can’t wait to get back to normal,” have become standard.
While I too am counting the days until I hear the long awaited announcement, “please make your way to gate number 3, we’re now boarding for Kenya,” to write a year off, which changed our forever history, and the paths of almost everyone on the planet, seems yet another disposable waste.
Surely the silver lining to all the pain and suffering must be to take stock. To look at our world with a renewed focus, and nurture Mother Earth.
Without her, we are a dissolving mass.
It is fair to say conquering cabin fever has been a colossal challenge for myself and my colleagues.
And even with the recent Covid-19 cases and setbacks in the state of Victoria, as a nation we are still much healthier and stronger than our counterparts.
As the world resets its sails and we can to drop anchor and dive into cleaner oceans, the sensation will be so much more satisfying.
As the train pulls into Perth station, I feel I have landed in some faraway destination as the sweet sensation of absorbing life post lockdown soaks in.
Others it seems are feeling the same.
There’s a definite spring in their steps, a keen sparkle in the eyes, and an excitable din of chatter as they ease their way out of the train and step onto travelators to carry them into the city’s bustling malls.
The sun is smiling. Talented buskers are plying their trade outside cafés filled with Covid safe numbers.
And the city comes to life.
It feels like a festival, a celebration of life, and a reminder nothing is permanent.
In the distance I spot my fellow photography friends, and a new normal begins.