Suddenly there are leaves. Tissues of green illuminated by the afternoon light. Dabs of lime like fireflies strung across dark branches. Suddenly there are lacy florets waving from boughs of ash. Spindly posies springing from maple twigs. And suddenly there is blossom, wanton wild cherry blossom. The trees have come to life and suddenly we will forget that they were ever bare.
There is a space in the town centre that was once a small bank. Now, its empty rooms host abstract paintings and strange installations. In the old, walk-in safe, a video plays of a buoy silently blinking Morse code over a dark sea. Upstairs, artists work in makeshift studios. Sometime in the future this will become a shop or a bank once more. For now, it is known as a ‘meanwhile space’. It is a pause between two existences: what it was and what it will become. And in the meanwhile, it is a crucible for creation.
Lockdown is a ‘meanwhile space’. A time between what we were and what we might become. Our eyes have been opened to mountain vistas and clear waters, to clean air and wild animals roaming empty streets. Amid the fear, uncertainty and boredom, many people are using this as ‘meanwhile’ time. A time to do things they wouldn’t usually have time to do, or to prepare themselves for who they want to be when this is over. We are baking, dancing, singing, writing. We are learning and making art. We have glimpsed the magic of what could be normal if we were to act as though we are a part of the world and not above it.
The physical world has shrunk again. All the car parks have been closed along the coast to prevent people going there. Life is something that happens nearby. The life of my street is more important than ever before. I pay closer attention to the Herb Robert flowering between the cracks in a neighbour’s path, the tiny hearts of shepherd’s purse in the gutters, the ivy leaved toadflax and dandelions growing out of walls. The colony of sparrows on our street makes rowdy music as they flutter from the privet at the end of the lane, from roof to roof, all along the road. Gulls glide over, wings lit up by the sun. I can hear the crows’ soft caw as an undertone. And in the night, foxes slink along the middle of the road.
Under the cherry trees in the park, bees hum and blue tits chitter. The sun blazes white through white. I sit against a gnarled trunk and feel the levity of the blossom. The trees are parasols of light, voluptuous with snowy flowers. It won’t last long, this perfect flowering, when the green of bud gives way to the burst of white. After only a week there will be a tinge of brown to the blooms. The ground is already littered with fallen blossom.
The grass hasn’t had its first cut of the season yet. It is a shaggy hearth rug, patterned with daisies and dandelions. Clumps of grass grow long and yellow at the tips. There are whorls of cow parsley and tiny tree saplings that wouldn’t normally have had the chance to grow. I watch my world from beneath the cherry blossom. A recent poll showed that only 9% of Britons want to go back to ‘normal’ when this is over. And yet we haven’t left the world behind, we have only left the way we normally behave in it. I want to grasp this time, to wring from it anything that is extraordinary. I want to be changed by it. But meanwhile, there is cherry blossom and birdsong and the certainty of spring.