Walking through Lockdown. An essay by Joyce Butler

I decide to go for a walk in the evening. The country is currently on two week lock-down due to Covid-19. My place of work has shut down for the duration, so I’m spending my days at home. No doubt some fresh air will do me good. I live in a very large housing estate and always enjoy the initial ramble down the main driveway, with its clusters of daffodils and trees lining each side of the avenue, all coming to life now in the early Spring, I feel it in the way the branches move excitedly, embracing each joyous breeze.

But then, as I leave the housing estate and turn onto the footpath on the main road I notice, hanging low in the evening atmosphere, covering everything. A silence. There are several other people out walking, some on their own, others in groups of mostly twos, but no-one is talking. Only the birds are communicating so clearly, it’s like hearing them for the first time. They have found their voice amongst and despite all of this. It’s a relief to know that nature is carrying on in the way it should, without the need to apologize to the rest of the human race. Singing and chirruping through the strange something, while we are still adjusting. Our oppressive fear does not bother the blackbirds, sparrows and lone Robin I have passed. The Starlings have landed and not been quarantined. And It makes me happy to know that they, unlike ourselves, are not under threat. I believe their instincts must tell them these feelings belong to humans.

But Spring is more beautiful in silence, enhancing everything. The barks and branches of trees are redrawn as much as they are reborn. The white flowers of the Apple Blossoms on the avenue communicate more openly now that we have finally fallen quiet, what a relief it must be for them to know we see them now much more precisely.

However, we are not ourselves, even though we have walked these roads around our housing estates before. There is a reversal of roles now, with the birds. We have become watchful and guarded, especially as others approach. What was once a refreshing walk has become full of questions. What part of the path should I veer to? Left or right? What if I bump into them and catch it? Are we still two metres apart? Should I hold my breath as they pass? These thoughts are what we are all thinking and sharing. Such a sad way of caring. There is no acknowledgment when we pass each other, our eyes, averting downwards, with no familiar nod of the head. The air is so thick with it. I feel I need the sword of my spirit to try and thrash through. Even the cars move along in shadow.

As I walk back up the main driveway near home, the air becomes slightly lighter and I know that when I pass through my own front door, it will be better.


I’m a 44 year old married Mam of two, living and working in Waterford. I’m writing in my spare time for the last ten years.

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