Come Along by Sophia Kouidou-Giles

The days that ought to be the same felt different, and all that because the coronavirus lockdown is here. When the pandemic started, obsessively listening to news, radio and tv, and reading informative articles soon turned exhausting as I began attending to all recommended cautions. At first the beginning the guidance seemed simple, but soon questions arose. Could I turn the faucet off after soaping my hands without touching it again? What about delivery packages? Did they need to be sanitized or left alone for several days? Door handles became another puzzle. How could I get in or out of places without touching them? I could push in with my back, but that worked only for some types of doors. All the indoor living complexities soon pushed me outside the house for some fresh air and release.

A city dweller, I have come to treasure the freedom of the outdoors and a newly found urge to explore what had been near and available all along. Frequent, regular outings to my neighborhood and nearby parks, often by myself,  are among my new pursuits. Quiet streets, boulevards, gentle and sharp stairways and shady paths have turned into intriguing options.

 

Soon, I veer further away, driving to my favorite walk. Seward Park is a 300-acre jut of land surrounded by lake Washington. The 2.5-mile loop of the perimeter and trails that take me into woods, dimpled paths, and cool, shady adventures, have been a relief on hot summer days. That is where I am sculpting the peaceful part of my day, in the luxury of silence that is sometimes contemplative and other times filled with the puzzles and quandaries of everyday life. It seems I can see and hear more during the quiet moments of my day. 

Silence does not have to be solitude, and it is never plain quiet. My senses become heightened, actively exploring the world around. Like a camera, I focus on moving pictures near and far, listen to sounds, ordinary and new, respond to smells, pleasing and noxious. I savor a handful of blackberries and rest on a tree stump, feeling the bark of the cedar. On the grassy shoreline, I take my sandals off to amble on unimpeded.

On my walk today I realized that no matter whether I am alone or in a crowd, I create my own reality. In nature, my ears feast on the trill of birds, my skin feels the sudden burst of a teasing breeze that plays with the fronds of ferns and twirls around a thicket of bushes, and I marvel at the shimmering lake and the occasional cormorant. Turtles sun on logs, and cautious bunnies munch on the grass alert, ready to escape danger. I get under their skin and feel their watchfulness, their worldview from the ground level, the fragility of our running into each other, our instant awareness of this encounter. As the summer progresses, I check on the lily pads that float in the coves, forming a thick carpet, reaching their nadir when delicate white blossoms dot the liquid terrain.

It has taken me a lifetime to realize that we hold the secret power of creation, even in isolation. The mind is a robust, unique synthesizer. No two sets of eyes perceive the same details, nor do they reach the same conclusions. We shape the world with our thoughts and words and choices. Solitude is a blessing, the silver lining of coronavirus days that calls me back to nature, rich, generous, and abundant, a place that refreshes me from my active, sometimes frantic world. As Khalil Gibran said, ‘Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.’

About the contributor

Sophia Kouidou-Giles, born in Greece, resides in the USA. Her work has appeared in Voices, Persimmon Tree, Assay, The Raven's Perch and The Time Collection. Her poetry chapbook is Transitions and Passages. Her memoir, Sophia's Return, written in Greek and forthcoming in English is published by She Writes Press.

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