Lockdown stories: beats in all the wrong places
In this lockdown story marking the anniversary of the first lockdown in the UK, Amy Scott Robinson shares how she's felt about the past year: 'a familiar tune with beats in all the wrong places'.
Beats in all the wrong places
I once walked into a church and heard the organist playing ‘Panis Angelicus’ in 3/4 time like a waltz, and that’s how the past year has felt to me: a familiar tune with the beats in all the wrong places, which changes the mood of it entirely.
I’m a season-dweller, deeply rooted in the rhythms of both church and secular life, but especially led and fed by the church seasons. My children have learned ONLY to hum Christmas carols between late December and the 6th of January; my friends are regularly either baffled or fascinated by my invitations to Epiphany parties or Candlemas celebrations; and I was once thrown completely off kilter in a year when Easter fell unusually late, because the daffodils had finished flowering before we decorated the Easter garden in church.
This pandemic year, then, which began in the spring (not even the conventional time for starting a year) with churches closed at Easter, and went on to destroy or move or postpone every fixed beat in my life’s symphony, has left me feeling afloat in a strange timeless existence, unable to get a grip on what might happen and when. Over the toppled seasons of times past, Covid has laid its own offbeat rhythms: new back-to-school days, the lifting and imposing of restrictions, sad landmarks in numbers of deaths and happier ones in numbers of vaccinations. Muddled in with all that have been our attempts at regular life: little local holidays in the summer, children’s birthday parties held on Minecraft, my local writers’ group meeting over Zoom.
I’m with King Solomon when he says in Ecclesiastes that there is a time for every matter under heaven, so to write this blog I turned nostalgically to that famous bit in chapter 3; but as I read on beyond the rhythmic list of times and seasons, I found words that are a balm to my soul. Here are Solomon’s central ideas in verses 9-14:
- Everything is beautiful in its time (v9)
- Eternity is in our hearts (v11)
- Nothing is better than being joyful and doing good (v12)
- Whatever God does endures forever (v14)
Finally, he says, ‘That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been.’ (verse 15, ESV). In some sense, much as we currently dwell within seasons and rhythms, we are created to dwell in eternity, which looks, I suspect, a lot like dwelling in the moment: and outside of it all, God holds time itself in his hand. Moments of beauty and of joy have not disappeared over the last year; in fact, they have come to the fore. Recognising and celebrating them is something that even a season-dweller like me should learn to keep doing, beyond the pandemic and forever.
Amy Scott Robinson is an author and performance storyteller. After studying English at Christ's College, Cambridge, she trained as a teacher and began writing for charities and providers of liturgical resources, before publishing her own works on puppetry and story. She is married to the rector of four rural parishes in Suffolk, where she is also the benefice children’s worker. She lives in the Rectory and has two children, two guinea pigs, and at any given moment, a half-finished cup of cold tea.