Stoned

A few days ago, I sat in the garden, washing and drying stones with one of my sons. We rinsed and rinsed again with the hose, watching as the cloudy pool of water eventually turned clear. Methodically, we lay the stones out one by one, examining and then carefully drying them.

The previous hour had been spent collecting the stones in the field out the back of our house. It had been diverting; all three of my children were enthusiastic, each searching for the ‘best’ stones. Anything that keeps them busy during this lock-down is a boon. Zoom meetings and video learning do not work. They are too young. They jostle for space in front of the screen, they press random buttons, they become fascinated with their own image on the camera as opposed to listening to whoever is talking to them (like most adults, I guess).

So on this day, with my creative capacity to amuse them waning, we turned to stones. By the time we came to washing and drying them, the youngest and the eldest had drifted off to more pressing tasks. The eldest, to whisper stories to himself as he walked around the garden; the youngest to ruthlessly poke woodlice under the crumbling pink bench by the gate. The middle child remained still, lifting each stone, studying it and lovingly wiping it with a towel. I did it with him. He was content, absorbed, in the moment. I was too. Tending to those stones was kind of wonderful.

For the half hour it took to do them, I stopped worrying about the future. Whether I’d die if I caught Covid 19. How my body, which ably houses a rare underlying health condition, would fight it off. And I think we all feel that way. Yes, the best thing is to avoid getting it at all. Take all the proper and necessary precautions that we can.

We also have to live our lives, and ideally not under a black cloud of fear and worry. Mine has got out of control recently, so I must rein it in. I can’t live in such acute fear. It’s too much. And you can worry about anything if you set your mind to it. That battered old warhorse of a phrase you could get run over by a bus tomorrow is genuinely useful here. We have to just live day to day, with our families, or on our own, however we find ourselves.

That’s why the stone-washing day was so damn pleasant. There was a task, it needed to be done, it was done.

Worry didn’t come into it.

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