‘Good Morning!’ All the plants in the back yard greet me in their dialects of green as I emerge from the kitchen into the day’s corona. The human illusion of Civil Time has collapsed in our new Remote Lifestyles and I’m tuning into the deeper rhythms, different layers of Earth Time.
A program on Radio 4, aired on the 29th February (the Ghost Day), informed me of leap seconds – tiny adjustments made to Coordinated Universal Time to compensate for unpredictable irregularities in Solar Time and the Earth’s rotational speed which has been slowing down over millions of years, meaning our days are five hours and fifteen minutes longer than they were a billion years ago.
The time I’m tuning into is multiple and stratified, the plants in the back yard hold it between their leaves as they wave at me in greeting, I trip over its lip and down the spiral of a discarded, upturned snail shell, spin in the little loops of its whirlpools, I sidle into it between beats in the drone of a bee, I float over hard pooled concrete like a cloud silent running over the sea.
Invisible messages zip, crisscrossing, through the air in an instant but talking, the forming of words and sending them out with the breath, well that can take all day, and the silences between the restrained syllables are Sahara’s, vast expanses of shifting sand dunes where meanings erode, where travellers lose their way on their journey from the Addresser to the intended Addressee.
In these longer days of isolation and confinement, my speech is patinaed, shedding words like fruit, gone soft and bruised – unfit to eat, so I commune with the plants in their green dialects, scent, and touch. I noticed last night that the skin on my feet feels like bark, my fingernails are growing verdant.
One month in and there’s a slow normalisation to the ghost lives we lead, to the sudden drops into unexpected pockets of nothingness while Spring unfolds and spreads her arms wide scattering new colours all over the place. It’s like we are living behind a veil, the world in its full complexity is there but we can’t connect to it, like we’ve been emptied out and our pasts are just tall tales we liked to weave into patterns to impress or beguile, but now we’re lacking an audience. Future tense phrases: I’m going to… shall we make a plan… and why don’t we… drift like pink blossom across thinned out pavements, and the present is a precarious ice bridge over a crevasse.
I wake surprised to find you still here after troubled dreams of wandering the beaches of Más a Tierra and hiding away from undead pirates, but like Crusoe, it’s necessary to chart the territories of our new lives, establish routines and look for footprints in the sand. There is a calmness to be found in letting some things float away on the tide. The passage of weeks is marked by the ritual of communal clapping. Yet there are moments when you’re sleeping through recovery when I think I’m only imagining you’ve come back, and my sense of reality has melted like candle wax.
All the while we try to sieve out the lies and deflections, wade through the deceptive stream of war metaphors, weigh-up whatever morsels of truth we can find and lay them out on the rocks to dry, to sustain us until the worst is over. Some say that this isn’t the time for questions, yet the number of fatalities rises, and vulnerable heroes move among us, a skeleton crew on our beautiful shipwreck. The horizon line remains flat and featureless, and when a ship does eventually appear there’s a nagging suspicion it could be a Man-O-War or a Slaver.