This year has been a year of separations and sharp divisions. At home alone, we find our own social media bubbles, and while in some ways the connection is crucial for our sense of community and mental health, the way we surround ourselves with carefully curated like minds makes it difficult to see viewpoints beyond our own. We enter our own vortex - and I love my vortex. I love all the interesting wildlife and archaeology stories my feed shows me, and I adore seeing photos of relatives and friends' kids, of distant, beautiful seascapes, but knowing everyone is spiralling down their own separate vortexes, is worrying.
We have been lucky in Queensland that we have seen very little illness and lockdown has been briefer and less severe than most other parts of the world. To be honest, in many ways even at it's height it felt very much same-same. Living with a child with disabilities often feels like a permanent semi-lockdown. The Queensland lockdown is ended but I can still go a week and the only adults I'll have talked to are the cashier at the local supermarket (about as desperate for conversation as I am, we discuss Minecraft farming and the weather), the teachers at the kids school ('Really, you want me to collect him now? I only dropped him off ten minutes ago. Oh. Ok. I'll be there in ten,) and my husband, who, with upward of thirty patients a day in an area with the highest suicide rate in Queensland and many, many complexities, comes home from work completely people-d out and monosyllabic.
There is a reason I am somewhat dependant on my vortex, and understand why many others are as well. While social media brings us together, we see in America how people have become completely divided, each half seemingly living in alternate realities, which become increasingly difficult to bridge.
On a recent evening walk, the sunset was non-spectacular until I turned at the crest of the hill, and saw the last light beyond the fence. We refer to the hill beyond the fence as 'Wallaby Hill' as each time we pass at least a score of very well camouflaged wallabies will be staring down at us. I like to imagine they're considering world domination (let's be honest, they're unlikely to do a worse job), but I suspect they've merely marked us as predators and are waiting till we leave.
I've always loved the character of silvered wood - but as much as the aged wood of the fence posts delights me - the barbed wire reminds me of this year - of all the ways in which we're separated - by distance and border control, by lockdowns, death, illness, grief, world-views, distrust and misinformation.
With four unruly kids, and adventurous dogs - the latest is a husky-cross - I have a tendency to view fences as the things that keep my little wild ones safe and alive, and some of the separations of this year have been necessary, and life saving. Others - those of the media and world-view seem increasingly worrying.
Now, at years end, with hope in sight, with vaccines arriving and (hopefully) the American election settling, I am hoping we can take a deep breath and move towards a new year that is not so rent with tragedy and division.
Around the world the same stars surround us - and tomorrow night we can all watch the Christmas Star, the near alignment of Saturn and Jupiter until they almost seem to merge. Although some of us will see it back to front.