STAGE 1 Sunday, 23 February, 2020: NGV 18th Century Gallery – Free Drawing Class
I’m sitting amongst several hundred would-be artists packed onto stools and even the floor, silently intent on drawing. Out front is our facilitator, enthusiastically discussing 18th Century painting techniques. He’s young, perhaps overawed by the size of his class and his microphone echoes so I can’t understand what he’s saying but luckily, he’s with a signer.
I’m inspired to draw a lily white marble statue, a woman who looks down dreamily from her plinth. Bad choice… eventually I leave.
Outside, St Kilda Road is packed with sight-seers and the sun is bathing the city in late afternoon’s liquid light. A busker soaks the air with her mellow refrain and I feel privileged to be here, beautiful Melbourne is its own masterpiece.
But there’s been talk of a virus up there in Wuhan city, China. They say it’s dangerous – very contagious, they call it ‘coronavirus‘. I rub shoulders with sightseers and a bell I don’t quite acknowledge rings in my blanketed distance.
STAGE 2 Thursday, 19 March 2020: A pleasant morning
Thursdays are good days, they’re my U3A days – I look forward to them, usually.
But today is different. A Coronavirus pandemic has been declared, there’s news of its spread overseas and warnings, lots of warnings about its containment in Australia.
Bad times are predicted. Our city is closing down, bit by bit, job by job.
On this Thursday I have an appointment, an interview and I think, ‘Stage 2 restrictions start in a few days – should I cancel?’ I don’t want this to be happening, I answer, ‘No.’
I’m driving down a near empty road to a vast community garden in Doncaster. My interviewee is waiting, cheerfully. We meet and throughout the sunny morning he provides insights into how multicultural gardeners grow food. This learning is fun but we know a bleak winter is coming.
STAGE 3 Sunday, 29 March 2020: Golden Promises
Yet another brilliant autumn day, a day that belies our invisible opponent. The virus is all around us now, in our supermarkets, on our hands, in the air we breathe, it’s taken over our news reports and seeped into every cold, dark, moist corner. We’re afraid to go out save to stock up on sometimes questionable ‘essentials’.
I was given a bag of jonquil bulbs last summer; there must be over 100 of them. It’s time to plant them. Their flowers will be lemon coloured, like those that grow wild in the fields up in Kangaroo Ground.
Pain and permanently blackened fingernails, such are the gifts of gardening. But there are benefits, too – when the purple Hardenbergia blooms then beds of lemon gold flower heads will dance in spring sunshine.
The fear of infection is here, the prospect of a dour winter is upon us and concern for our loved ones is real – this is a time like no other.
But it, too, will pass – I’m waiting for Spring.