I don’t know how many days it is since the world changed. Before all this, when fear was not at large and days rushed by in a blur, I would wake with a longing for more time. I woke up this morning to the news that there has been an earthquake in Zagreb, our friends have been in their car since the early hours and it has been snowing. It feels as if everything we know is spinning out of control. I can’t help people that I care about, all I can do is sit here and write. Which feels futile.
The thrush woke me this morning after an unsettled night. I must be tense in my sleep because the crick in my neck woke me several times as the muscle went into spasm. At one point I yelped with the pain and resettling myself, was aware of the reservoir of worry just beneath consciousness, threatening to bring me awake. Being familiar with the 3am anxiety waking pattern, which for many years held me in thrall and had me sitting in the dark watching the lights of Canary Wharf, I am determined not to let this take a hold of me again. I must have slipped back into sleep only to wake again to hear the trilling of the thrush. This kind of alarm clock I do not mind at all. I lay and listen to it practicing its arpeggios until I sleep again lightly til morning sunshine properly wakes me.
I am worried about our friends and their beautiful City of Zagreb, a place which is as familiar to me as Prague or London or New York City. We were in Italy in 2017 when an earthquake of 6.2 magnitude struck, I remember waking to the sensation of the bed jumping across the room and a wind which felt like it came from hell, blowing through closed windows. All of the horns of the ships in the port of Ancona were sounding that night. We were staying in a hotel before sailing over to Split in Croatia on our first trip there. I remember the fear of the earthquake and the horrible anxiety of the aftershocks. When the earth moves in that way there is no more denying that we are mortal. Life and death sit side by side. I am thinking of our friends in their car, in the snow, after an earth quake, in the midst of all this. I feel in every cell of me, unsettled, worried, uncertain, confused and concerned.
In the wood pigeon roost, there is much preening of the night-time out of feathers. The blackbird is undertaking some kind of acrobatic display in the garden this morning, jump jetting with precision to pick off the last of the elderberries. The robin is standing guard on the wall, I look for the hedge sparrow who is nowhere to be seen this morning. The robin looks ridiculous in his indignation when there is nothing to be indignant about. I notice the thrush is sitting high up in the rowan tree, silent now and watching. He saves his song, like the blackbirds, for early morning and dusk.
In Italy the death rate rose yesterday to such a level we cannot help but take this seriously. I think of our friends, of the physical and mental impact of an earthquake in the middle of this global crisis. Life and death sit side by side and the seriousness of all of this is just setting in.
Whilst my body is here in our house and our garden, my mind is in Zagreb as another day of this new world begins.