The things we miss

The things we miss

By Dinggin Dalisay:

There are many things in life that we take for granted. Sometimes they are right in front of us, but we seem not to notice them or do not realise their importance. Maybe because we feel that they are always there and will be in our reach whenever we want or whenever we need them.

The pandemic has brought many realities to us. Most glaring is the reality that we are not alone and that we cannot be in this world on our own alone.

With the restrictions on movement, meetings and gatherings, everyone feels the need for someone and the need for something.  Three months without seeing family members seems so long. Six months without seeing comrades and friends seems forever.  All of a sudden, it became so clear. I am not that independent after all.  I still depend on someone else outside my home. My work cannot be complete without others no matter how small I aim to attain.

We also realise the beauty of our surroundings. My husband and I walk along the creek footpath close to our house at least once a week weather permitting.  Sometimes, I walk with our dog. This path, which is shared by walkers and cyclists, stretch more than twenty kilometres and cut across many reserves and parks, along water areas as well as along beaches. Even if the walk is just for a short distance, one would see many exciting things like different kinds of birds on trees and on water. There are insects of different colours, sizes and shapes, and wild animals such as rabbits, lizards and snakes.  There are also flowers and beautiful shrubs and trees.

Although I saw all these things before Covid, I did not really appreciate their beauty like I do now during Covid. Maybe because before Covid, I walk to exercise, to stretch my legs. I had no extra time to spend outside, thinking of many things that needed to be done. During Covid’s hard lockdown, Victoria imposed strict restrictions such as no gatherings of even two people, no visitors allowed in one’s house, restaurants and stores of non-essential items were close and movement of people were restricted to one’s own suburb. Exercise outside is the only thing one can do to escape the confines of one’s own home aside from three other permissible tasks such as travel to work, shopping food and essential things and caring for other people.

So, when I walk, I spend more time noticing and appreciating my surroundings. I sometimes even count the birds that I see along the way. I noticed that the swan has multiplied from just two to four and with additional five chicks tagging along. I also noticed that there are weeds that bloom beautiful flowers and sometimes wonder why they are being removed from gardens. I think that maybe because, they are easy to grow and they are free. So, the nursery plant store will have no income if these weeds are promoted. I enjoyed in walking outside because people I meet slow down, smile and greet good morning and sometimes even stop to chat, ensuring that distance between us is maintained. Even dogs seem to understand the situation. They adamantly stop, defying their master and greet other dogs.

When the restrictions were eased in Victoria just before Christmas, people were allowed to travel outside their suburbs.  Some borders between states were still closed, so we took the opportunity to travel to the country sides within Victoria.  We visited a resort close to the border between New South Wales and Victoria and stayed there for six days with the whole family. Six days would have given us plenty of time to visit many places around the area. There are popular tourist spots in the area, many wineries, gardens of various kinds of plants and recreation facilities, such as cruising along the Murray River. But because of the restrictions earlier and people were not travelling, many of these tourist areas were closed. The operators were still hesitant to open the facility, hire people and stock consumables without the insurance that the strict restrictions will not be imposed again.

There was one attraction that we were able to visit and that we really admired. These were the silo arts. The area around Numurkah is farmland.  Hectares and hectares of fields grow different kinds of fruits, vegetables and wheat.  So, there are many silos around.  In 2016, a group of artists approached the councils in the area and proposed to paint the silos. The councils agreed and the committee raised enough money to fund the projects. Some businesses around also donated funds. These silos are huge, with height ranging from two to eight metres and diameter between four to eight metres. Many of these silos are situated near the street so even if the area is fenced off and enclosed, the artwork can still be seen on the street.

We visited several silos and so did many people while we were there.  According to the residents, those artworks were already there more than three years ago, but people just drive along without bothering to stop and appreciate them. But now, people notice them and realise how beautiful they are.

With many of the areas we wanted to visit closed, we stay most of the time at the resort. The families were booked in three spacious units.  Each unit can accommodate all of us in the dining and lounge area. After almost nine months of separation from each other, I treasure the time we were all together.  We played board games such as Ticket to Ride, Upwords and various card games. We also played trivia, ate dinner and brunch together with plenty of jokes and stories shared. 

I miss those moments when families are sharing and are together! Time flies especially in a capitalist country like Australia, where working and earning a living has become everyone’s primary concerns. How grown up our children are and how old we already are.  How busy we had been that we failed to indulge in many things that are close to our hearts and most important to us.

The pandemic is nasty, cruel and it has brought pain to many people. The pandemic has also opened our eyes and our heart to many things and people around us. It has brought out the best of people and exposed the weakness of many.

Whatever the pandemic has left in our lives, there is always something worthwhile that we can ponder on – the things we miss.

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