Our Poet Theologian, Hannah Stone, considers the urge to get creative in lockdown and considers whether the ‘new normal’ will be a place of greater creativity, be that physical, emotional or political transformation.
At the start of lockdown I was full of plans for how I would use these differently structured days and (as it turned out) weeks, to good effect: I felt I should not waste the time (something I wrote about earlier when considering the commodification of time). My social media feed flooded with images of clever things people were doing and making, and although I know algorithms govern these postings it was easy to feel left out of this flurry of activity. One set of social contacts, mostly early retirees living in rural north Yorkshire, seemed to have redecorated their entire houses and transformed their gardens. Other folk I knew were key workers, with no more spare time than usual. Others again were grappling with supporting the education of children unexpected marooned at home. You will all have had your own experience of lockdown and the opportunities and challenges it provided. But I imagine you all saw evidence of creativity somewhere. Images of rainbows adorned windows, or were chalked on pavement; hearts were hung on trees. A neighbour created a chain of teddies trying to escape out of the window. Making things, be it bread, facemasks, soft toys, flowerbeds, seems to have been a solace to some people, as well as a form of self-expression and a way to fill in time left unexpected vacant. Some of the language around coping with the pandemic recalled the war-time spirit; staying cheerful and stoical, making the best of things, avoiding waste and becoming a bit more self-sufficient. In 2020 this was less ‘digging for victory’ and more a matter of pulling together as communities, helping each other out, and, yes, baking even when supplies of the conventional ingredients were hard to find. I wrote about this in one of my ‘Covid Chronicle’ prose poems:
We were urged to get creative; order a kit of ‘seconds’ cashmere wrist warmers, with handy tips on how to personalise your pair; embroider a heart over a hole. Applique a flower over a stain.
Within religious traditions there is often the sense of a Creator God, working in synergy with human endeavour. Maybe the ‘new normal’ will be a place of greater creativity, be that physical, emotional or political transformation. Some lines from Mary Oliver’s poem ‘Franz Marc’s Blue Horses’ put this powerfully:
Maybe our world will grow kinder eventually.
Maybe the desire to make something beautiful
is the piece of God that is inside each of us.
We don’t have to be highly skilled to make things: they don’t have to be perfect. Often on walks I see clumps of sheep’s fleece, and think about their amazing potential; how these rather tatty, dirty fibres can be cleaned, carded and spun into yarn to weave. Can we become the thread for God to weave, something he can ‘make the best of’?
As lockdown lifts, we’re getting creative with this blog, too; we’ll be considering new ways of engaging with you. Let us know what you think.