Covid Considerations: What’s in your garden shed?

| Dawn Hart

This is the latest blog in our ‘Covid Considerations’ series exploring what opportunities for change there might be, told from the personal perspectives of people working alongside communities, no holds barred. 

This blog is written by Dawn Hart. Dawn has worked in a freelance capacity for the last 15 years, including as an associate for the Ideas Alliance. She works in community engagement and research, coaching and training. She is also a creative writer, producing poetry and an emerging novel. Throughout all of this, Dawn blends her core belief that we all make sense of our world through the stories we create and the stories we choose to pass on.

Last night I dreamt of a griffin in my garden shed – iridescent golden feathers, large wondrous blue eyes the colour of the ocean, and a majestic tail which would be the envy of any mythological creature. The strength and power within her lion’s body and eagle’s head felt barely containable within my rickety shed. She came to my dream state awareness by her noises – a sonorous cry while scratching at the earth below the door. In my dream I watched her through the cracks in the shed’s wooden slats, lit only by the warm glow of moonbeams.

Griffins don’t tend to feature in my daily, or indeed nightly life, neither mythologically nor in the day- to-day reality of life in lockdown south London and I wondered about her significance. A quick Google search of ‘the meaning of griffins in dreams’ told me they are creatures bringing messages of positive change and bring assurances of the strength and fortitude needed to get through any challenges during the transition.

I had hit the dreamtime lockdown jackpot! My beautiful griffin had arrived just when I most needed her – to say that the Covid-19 pandemic had brought a transition requiring strength and fortitude was something of an understatement. My challenge then was to find the necessary courage to release her from the symbolic confines of my shed. My dream had stopped before this could happen, my subconscious wasn’t going to provide me with the answers on how to do this, so I was going to have to turn to my conscious mind.

Alongside my paid work I write – stories, poems, an emerging novel. When writing I am often reminded of the quote by Neil Gaiman, who describes the writing process as:

“Sometimes it’s like driving through fog. You can’t really see where you’re going. You have just enough of the road in front of you to know that you’re probably still on the road, and if you drive slowly and keep your headlamps lowered, you’ll still get where you were going.”

This works for me as I like to find my way through an emerging story, in contrast to some writers who work best with a well-developed plan. On my most unsettled days during lockdown I needed to remind myself of this. Driving through fog felt like my daily state, and I had begun an anxious search for certainties within uncertain times. When will the lockdown end? What shape will life be like afterwards? Will I be able to secure a future income? When will my son be able to return from abroad?

These big questions were paralysing my ability to think creatively. Answers to these questions are well beyond my field of vision, or even my speculative imagination. If left to roam around my mind unchecked, they could be a route to emotional unsettledness. I needed to keep focusing on driving slowly with my headlamps lowered and the belief that I would get there. Or at least I would get somewhere.

Margaret Hefferman, in her recently published and very timely book ‘Unchartered – How To Map The Future Together’ writes about ‘prediction addiction’. How we have been seduced into believing that we can both predict and control the outcomes of complex scenarios. She articulates that, “It’s difficult accepting the complexity of the world, and the ambiguity of personal experience. It’s even harder to learn how to participate.” She advocates that we can’t achieve this by sitting back in isolation, studying data sets and adhering to long held ideologies. Instead we need to come together to collaborate with open minds and hearts: “But one way to address social process is with a social process that enhances alertness, sensitivity and imagination.” Isn’t this what most of us are now experiencing in our neighbourhoods right now? Organic, creative collaboration, outside of the frameworks and bureaucracies of organisational structures. We are creating responses which can ebb and flow with reciprocity and need.

Most communities do not divide themselves into ‘the vulnerable’ and the ‘not vulnerable’ but rather shift with who can do what when, accepting that we are all vulnerable at different times in different ways. When a couple of my neighbours were both self-isolating and sick with Covid-19, others left meals and fresh vegetables on their doorstep. Thankfully they are now both recovered. Last week this same neighbour fixed my bike for me. Another neighbour seems to have an endless supply of homemade lemon drizzle cake; when I am having a wobbly day, a foil wrapped slice always magically appears on my window ledge. We all helped the young nurses next door celebrate Easter by pulling together a basket of gifts – mostly chocolate eggs and bottles of wine. We then listened as they opened their doors and windows, cranked up the music and let off stream.

Collaboration in a state of crisis doesn’t have to be grandiose or large scale. It is about allowing space for human connections, to offer up open hearts. As we have, and continue to do this, the path hidden by the fog becomes less scary because if we are taking small steps together and with love and care we are going to be okay, because we have woven a human net of compassion ready to catch each other.

And so, returning to my griffin. She has arrived in all her glory, but not on some faraway mountain or fictitious land, she is right here in the humblest of places – my ramshackle garden shed. She has come to remind me that to find my own strength in this time of transition lies in the courage to accept the unknown, to keep on slowly driving through the fog, but to do so with in the companionship of others. And to never underestimate the gift of dreaming.

Follow Dawn on LinkedIn.

Photo by Marina Khrapova

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