Reflecting on a Year of the Pandemic at a Time of Renewal

The blossoms are out and the days are getting longer. I’ve been trying to live more in the moment as a way of coping with life under lockdown, and perhaps I’ve been even more tuned in than usual to changes in my immediate environment. In essence it is the notion of Carpe Diem – seizing the day, celebrating what we have rather than plan for future events.

I took this photo the other day – a girl spinning round under the blossoms at Regent’s Park:

This time last year I was fearful of the unknown monster lurking in our midst. I’d seen an abandoned wheel that looked like it had a scary face – the spokes suggesting the form of the coronavirus:

Currently there are several separate but interconnected events that acknowledge the themes of life cycles, renewal and rebirth. The vernal equinox which occurs around March 21st each year coincides with the Festival of Nowruz, the Iranian new year which is celebrated over thirteen days. This celebration also intersects with the Jewish Festival of Passover, which begins next week. Both festivals require preparations in advance including rigorous spring cleaning. Both festivals also include symbolic food items. People celebrating Nowruz also include a goldfish as part of a decorative festive set up to symbolise new life:

In Japan the tradition of hanami – the viewing of cherry blossoms – is a yearly ritual. Part of the beauty of blossoms is their transience – they are here for such a short period of time. The Japanese have a phrase Mono No Aware which I understand to mean a sensitivity to ephemera and an awareness of the impermanence of things:

I like my rituals; I have ‘curated’ them over the years. I found one of the hardest things about the pandemic was letting go of entrenched rituals and adapting to make the best of a situation I had no control over.

One of my beloved rituals (see my previous post) was sitting in cafes. During March 2020, at my last visit to Bar Italia prior to the first London lockdown, I was given a small bouquet of flowers by a total stranger – it was a conscious random act of kindness:

I have kept the bouquet as it reminds me of this gesture of generosity and kindness. All that is left now are some dried leaves – I have put them in a small saké bottle:

A tool that has helped me over the past year is Qigong, a system of exercise and meditation related to Tai Chi. I had previously practised Qigong in a studio setting but it was this time last year, on the 23 March that I spotted some people on Hampstead Heath exercising outdoors in a socially distanced way and was drawn to joining them:

Coincidentally, the concept of kindness is fundamental to the qigong practice I encountered in the Heath, which is run by an organisation called Metta Tai Chi:

Here’s a selection of images showing qigong practice through the seasons.

Firstly an image from height of summer. I recently found out that this image is included in The People’s Picture: part of the Mass Isolation photographic project organised by Format International. I think this is very apposite; I love the idea of having my image as a minute part of a larger, interconnected whole; a tiny fragment of a mosaic of humanity:

Autumn season – Sue rakes the leaves around the mandala:

Winter snow – proud to be part of the hardcore braving the elements:

March 2021 – a year of outdoor practice – the Buddha in the rain, surrounded by fresh leaves:

Is it a coincidence that two of the regulars at this practice also happen to be Iranian? On the left, Massoud and on the right poet and artist Esfandiar. This is a photo from a few days ago, shortly before the vernal equinox and Nowruz Festival:

One of the concepts we work on in the qigong is the notion of adaptability. This is something I am very conscious of and have been trying to put into practice over the past year. My adaptability has taken many forms. Rather than be constrained by the elements, I invested in waterproof hiking boots so I could regularly walk the waterlogged Heath throughout the winter. Despite the absence of travel, cinemas and restaurants, our new ritualistic highlights include bi-weekly film date nights at home, one comedy and one more art house. And of course, walking around with a camera, which I did prior to the pandemic, but even more so now.

Celebrating the moment – blossom admirers in Regent’s Park, March 2021:


Also published on Medium.

5 thoughts on “Reflecting on a Year of the Pandemic at a Time of Renewal”

  1. Love this blog, it a reminder of what we have been through. But the beauty of nature and how it transcends the misery and gives us hope there is a world beyond the pandemic. I really like the complex knitting together of seemingly unconnected events and images, to tell the story of the last year, and give a sense of the next.

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  2. It has been quite a year, so lovely documented and captured through your photography and your writing. The BLOG.. so difficult for me, you are such an inspiration! Beautiful and pertinent work!

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