From exploring the world, to exploring the neighbourhood.
The main way I keep a marker on time at the moment is through social media. Yesterday, Facebook Memories reminded me that it had been a year since I took my kid along to a Water Puppet show in Ho Chi Minh City. Before the reminder popped up, I’d have sworn it was both three months and six years since we sat in a small theatre on a sticky afternoon in Vietnam, watching some 11th century whimsy.
We spent seven months last year travelling as a small family, staying in random places and walking around new cities with leaflets and guidebooks and the slow, annoying meander of the newly enchanted tourist. I wanted to show my child the world was big and varied, but also to have him understand what it’s like to be in an unfamiliar culture. I hope, with starry-eyed idealism, that whenever he meets a kid who doesn’t know their way around, or doesn’t speak the local language, he’ll remember the kind children who played with him in strange play parks.
But now, like everyone, our world is small. It’s so easy for the days to blend, and for claustrophobia to set in. My Facebook memories next year will mainly be blurry selfies where I tried to work out if I needed to brush my hair before a Zoom call, or if I could get away with it.
While we were travelling, I wrote about Tiny Rituals for Tired Travellers…about creating small moments when everything felt too big.
Now I was looking for small moments of beauty when everything felt like a blur. It’s been hard to find these rituals, when everything slides away like someone has greased the calendar. There are the slow activities which I love to do with my son — pressing flowers, making dens, writing secret messages with sticks in the small woods off the local park — the things we did while travelling are still a comfort in our own patch.
But these rituals are starting to slide past too.
I realised that I was missing recording it.
When you’re travelling, or even going to somewhere like a museum, there are photos. You might blog about it, or Tweet about it, so that one cold night when you can’t sleep, you can scroll back through and remember what it smelt like in that bakery, or how cold the marble was in that building.
I love tiny rituals which aren’t broadcast: the ones which are mandalas lost to time, which serve the purpose of calmness and reflection and then disappear. But sometimes…too much is disappearing.
And so now I’m looking to keep some of these small moments for a bit longer. Just for a while. Write down the stories of these days, and how we spent them, as the seasons change and the winds blow and the news brings more information we can’t quite fathom. I need more photos, and sketches, and scribbled notes.
They might not change the world but, at least, it might help create notches to mark these strange, lost times.