Along with some 265,000 other people in Australia, this week I tested positive for Covid-19, I suppose an inevitable thing given that I have school-aged children who do a lot of team sports and given, too, that I haven't confined my activities beyond the usual confinements that come with my life in writing and research. My daily patterns are so regular at the moment that I should be able to identify when I caught the virus, but I haven't got a clue. It's everywhere, after all.
I have only mild symptoms. Being positive is an odd feeling, nonetheless, I think because for two years I've been observing the spread of the virus in that procession of graphs, models, figures, statistics and maps that have dominated the reporting of Covid, but that don't really tell us much about the humanity inside or behind the numbers. When the virus first emerged in early 2020, I followed these numbers almost obsessively, and it was difficult to concentrate on anything else. The world outside was falling quiet, lockdowns everywhere, but it was harder to locate an inner quiet that might be productive. Now that it's busy outside again, that inner point of reflection seems easier to find; I'll use the next week or so in quarantine to write, and to plan this year's teaching.
But, perhaps because the virus has caught up with me personally, my thoughts also keep returning to its beginnings. I recall my travels with my family in Christmas 2019. We visited my brother-in-law in Milan, and then took a friend's suggestion to spend a couple of nights in Bergamo, where a few months later the virus hit with such terrible force. When that happened, we were back in Australia. I couldn't quite believe the reports that were coming from the town, or that it could be the same place we'd seen, with its magnificent old streets on the hill and vibrant new town beneath. Its life and pace and glamour, old-stone beauty and narrow, crowded lanes of apartment buildings and shops. How could all that be quietened so quickly? How did the people in the town cope with the loss of so many?
Two years later, the sense of unreality has largely been replaced with an acceptance of the virus's ever-presence. But that unreality is also still there, returning faintly, when I get the text message saying I have tested positive and must 'remain at your nominated place of isolation for seven days', mostly here at my desk.
*Yesterday, I was interviewed (by phone) about The Sorrow Stone by Rebecca Levingston on ABC Brisbane. One of the nicest parts of our discussion was hearing Rebecca read a short passage from the book. After residing so long inside my own mind, it was wonderful to hear the words spoken by another person. It felt like a new introduction to Disa, someone I've 'known' for years. This is the passage she chose:
We rode Faxi out of the yard, down past our neighbours’ farms, along the river and past the woods until we reached the white pebbles at the beach. Everything was in a glaze under the sun. The water was so clear I could see my feet and the lines on my toes. The boys took off their shirts and ran ahead. I stepped in more carefully and lifted my dress. The water was a mirror around my waist. I saw my long hair and braids. My eyes that people said were too hard.
The full interview is available here, beginning at 2:13:00 in the online recording.