Last Tuesday’s national Day Of Reflection set me thinking again about this last crazy year and how I for one have seen positives emerge in amidst all the darkness. Positives like people turning to nature, to music and to creativity in their droves, painting, drawing and crafting.
Sometimes this has helped distract us, liberated us from over-thinking, to look instead at colour and line and no more than that. I’ve written before how art makes me more observant, as I focus more closely on what I see, while on a walk maybe: on shape & form, light, shade and colour. Maybe as people become absorbed by artwork and creativity, there’s less space for the darkness. And lately I’ve found that using different colours while painting has lifted my mood, literally brightening what might have been gloomy winter days.
Music too has helped many people through lockdown. Particular musical styles have stood out. Feel-good songs and anthems have become the most streamed, while classical music has gained new listeners. The impossibility of most live group music-making or singing has only highlighted how important gathering to sing in choirs or other groups is to many people’s mood and wellbeing.
Someone I know was writing about seeing the last year go by in her garden: as spring bulbs gave way to roses, to dahlias, eventually to bare trees – and now the bulbs flower again, and still we are in lockdown. I’ve thought this on my walks, as still, regardless, nature has gone on growing. Still the birds fly, still the cycle of the year moves on as if there were no pandemic, and that can make nature a refuge and a haven. As lockdown is eased and some people may struggle to adjust to freedoms restored amidst the continuing threat of Covid-19, that haven could be more important than ever.
It is absolutely true that there are many times when neither art nor music nor nature help. I know that it can be impossible to focus or concentrate. Art might seem impractical, music too emotional, nature too elemental when it is contact with other people, crowds, events that you miss. But there are many times when they do.
With so many virtual gallery tours, Zoom art classes or choirs and online music performances, lockdown’s move online has only accelerated the issue of digital exclusion. Significant percentages of older people and of lower-income households do not have broadband, and for them many doors have closed altogether. The loss of face-to-face gatherings and support groups has been all the more severe for these people, who are left with few or no alternatives. This is an issue where “levelling up” is hugely needed.
Maybe at a time when our opportunities to explore different places or to take part in different events are limited, we’ve become more open to the stimuli we do encounter. Maybe we’ve learned not only to look but to see, not only to hear but to listen. Art alone is so diverse and so rich in styles and media that it opens up new ways of seeing. It enhances the everyday, as do music and nature. And they will go on as lockdown recedes: and maybe evolve in new ways?