It’s been 16 days since my university shut down classes and I went into social isolation. Those first days of isolation felt like the end of the world. I felt constantly on edge. I was in a terrible mood most of the time and I resented the fact that I was stuck inside the house for everything. My work was online, my studies had transitioned online, I could only see and talk to my friends online. And amidst all of that, the internet bubble of news only seemed to be getting more and more anxiety-inducing.
I spent those sought after minutes of freedom walking my neighbourhood in an attempt to rid myself of the negative feelings of anger and anxiety that seemed to be constantly swirling around inside me.
And so my daily walk began as a way to escape the confines of the four walls of my house. If I didn’t leave I felt I would go stir crazy. One morning I woke up and did my level best to eat breakfast and change into my gym gear without encountering any of the other three people who live in my house. I practically fled the house to pound the pavement instead. I spent those sought after minutes of freedom walking my neighbourhood in an attempt to rid myself of the negative feelings of anger and anxiety that seemed to be constantly swirling around inside me.
My walk no longer felt like a strategy to outrun my feelings. Instead, it had become a time to blissfully appreciate the small slice of the world that has become my life.
And then a few days ago, something seemed to have shifted. My walk no longer felt like a strategy to outrun my feelings. Instead, it had become a time to blissfully appreciate the small slice of the world that has become my life for these past few weeks. I was getting not just exercise and stress relief but a very real sense of peace. I have begun to look forward to my daily walk not just as an escape but as an enjoyable activity in its own right.
The flowers in my neighbourhood have become my familiar friends. I know that there are pink roses at the house with a concrete driveway. There’s a bush cascading with purple flowers across the road from the local high school. The footpath on my street is littered with flowers from the single frangipani tree on my walking route. There’s an abundance of trees that I’m yet to identify that are all flowering with what looks like puffs of cotton candy. The blooms look like the remnants of the decorations from a party that fairies threw in the middle of the night while we were all asleep.
I feel like I’m inside one of my favourite childhood books, The Secret Garden; coming alive again as my body and mind become attuned to the nature around me. Just like Colin says in the book, “Sometimes since I’ve been in the garden I’ve looked up through the trees at the sky and I have had a strange feeling of being happy as if something was pushing and drawing in my chest and making me breathe fast. Magic is always pushing and drawing and making things out of nothing…So it must be all around us. In this garden - in all the places.”
I can see the magic in everything as I walk. I’ve been watching the progress of the baby magpies that are learning to fly in the trees near my local bus stop. Last week they were only taking tentative steps on the nature strip under the stern and watchful eye of their mother. This morning they had flown across the usually busy main road, still small in stature but growing in confidence.
Yesterday, during a break in the rain I ventured out while the world was still fresh from overnight showers. The grass was greener. The slight chill in the air that comes just after the rain was invigorating. The birds were all out foraging for food in the damp earth. One house that I walked past even had a duck hanging out in the front yard.
As the physical act of walking, the natural need for movement takes hold I’m flooded with endorphins. A much needed hit of happiness in these dark times. Yesterday in what I can only assume was a walking induced bliss, I danced down the main road of my neighbourhood lip-syncing Faith Hill’s This Kiss as it blared through my headphones.
What I’ve realised since going into self isolation is that there is an abundance of life right here where I am. That life is full of simple joy and wonder.
My whole world has become my house and the four roads around it that form my walking route. And at first that felt like such a limitation. So much of my life exists outside of those bounds. But what I’ve realised since going into self isolation is that there is an abundance of life right here where I am. That life is full of simple joy and wonder. So for as long as I can, I’ll continue to walk, to find freedom and gratitude in the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other.
Zoe Victoria is a freelance writer. You can follow her on Twitter @Zoe__V