“It was four years ago when I spent a season of extreme openness in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, two-and-a-half months traversing the pristine Fijian islands.”
By Christina J. Chua
I apologise. I am not one of those who have been self-improving, proofing loaves, Zoom-yoga-ing, or delivering cute cakes to their friends during this quarantine. No, I am probably that odd neighbour down the hall who lets out a yell in the middle of the afternoon. And then goes out to the corridor to skip rope for 10 minutes. I am not at all bearing this well. For me, the only solace has been — well — skipping rope, wine, and occasionally writing. So I apologise, for the vagrant shouts, for the restlessness, and the lights that go and off in the middle of the night.
You would think a full-time writer like myself might survive #WorkingFromHome a bit better. Not true at all. You see, no matter what your prior conditions were, extended quarantine is still so painfully unnatural. Our strict enclosures are eating away at our sense of time and unbalancing our circadian rhythms, aligning them to other faraway meridians. Don’t get me wrong; this is by no means an argument for greater freedom, and I am well aware of the strident policies this troubling period necessitates. I only wish to observe how the whole thing does seem a violation of our essential nature, because we as humans, are simply not meant to be shut in — we never were, and never should be. Thus, my mid-day yells.
My partner, from whom I am momentarily separated, pointed out to me that cities are designed for closeness, for convenience and nearness, which is why the enforced separation is so intolerable. We are near, but not near. Cheek to cheek, wall against wall, all the while imprisoned apart. Whereas elsewhere on the outer edges of the world, I imagine that quarantine or closed borders must be much less stifling. Especially where there is nature, hikes in open air, beaches and waves…
During this shut-in season, my mind has swung into memories of its polar opposite. It was four years ago when I spent a season of extreme openness in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, two-and-a-half months traversing the pristine Fijian islands. During those long journeys by ferry or bus, there was an unfettered naturalness of being beneath the unabated blue sky. There and in that place, I was simply one of many creatures of the earth, born of soil — simply put. It was an intrinsic, even unpoetic, belonging to the ecology, and the ground. The stream. And the sky.
In the open country of Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second largest of 300 or more islands, the hills rolled on and on. I could have yelled at any time — for sheer joy perhaps — under the rosiest sunsets I’ve ever seen. But you know, I never did. There was no need to. There was no need to exert my singular existence in the universe of things. The memory of that pink Labasa sky hushes me even now, if only for a moment.
Now, we are pushing numbers in lockdown, and tomorrow I will go back to yelling for a minute, before lapsing into the murky water of every other blurs-day. But, I promise I will come back with another diary entry, on swimming through. We look beyond, where the waves will part again for you and me.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
— T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding
What are some of your treasured moments when you were out there exploring the world? Share your moments with us by tagging your old and new Instagram posts with #mymomentofbluesky or reach out at [email protected].