Website of poet Elizabeth Rimmer


  • Group Hug

    white hellebores in flower

    This is from our previous garden, but I noticed this morning that the hellebores I planted here are just coming into flower. There are iris reticulata out now too, and all the snowdrops and primroses. Daffodil shoots are more prolific than I remembered (did I really add so many?) and hyacinth, tulip and anemone have surprised me as much as they did last year. My seeds are beginning to germinate, even the immensely problematic dittany, which is very exciting, and the sarcococca, which seemed very unhappy in its pot, is thriving now it’s in open ground.

    We are just coming to the start of Lent, traditionally a season for conversions and makeovers, trying harder, cleaning up your act, but this year, I’m using mine for something slightly different. As poetry comes back, as we have started going to more events, it has become much more noticeable that the last three years have been A LOT. We’ve been so busy celebrating things getting going again, and making up for lost time that I think we are in denial about how burned out we all are. We had a long time of anxiety, bereavement, loss. We missed out on holidays, weddings, opportunities, the chance to say goodbye to people properly, the chance to meet new babies. Some jobs went and never came back. Some people died and we didn’t go to the funerals. People got sick and we couldn’t get the right help for them. We were alone and sad, and we couldn’t have hugs. And I haven’t even started on the political stuff – that is for another time.

    I think we need a collective group hug, metaphorical sometimes, literal too if we can manage it. We can acknowledge the grief. We can thank each other for the care we all showed, because that was so powerful. We stayed in with Netflix and banana bread. We observed social distances from kindness not fear. We created new ways of socialising, and developed some cracking gallows humour. Key workers from the NHS to the scaffies and delivery people kept things together, and neighbourhoods found diverse and creative ways to help each other out.

    Social media was my lifeline. I’ll never forget a distraught mother tweeting about her autistic child’s distress at not being able to get the only pasta he could eat, and then several neighbours left packets of it on her doorstep. I’ll never forget lots of anxious people taking to social media to express their concerns and politicians responding by asking for details and promising to deal with them. I won’t forget the zoom poetry and music that helped me keep going. I won’t forget all the pictures of the first reunions of grandparents and grandchildren when the lockdowns eased. And I won’t forget Janey Godley’s ‘Frank Get the Door!’ voiceovers that put everything into perspective. We were all lovely then, and if we’re less so now, it’s because we’re all exhausted, not because we changed.

    I think a puse for reflection and consolation might be indicated. I’ve been working on some ‘charms for the healing of grief’ for a project that’s in development, but I’m also going to use the next few blogposts during Lent to do some more extended creative things with it. But just for now, I’ll send you all a virtual group hug!

    snowdrops in dappled sunlight

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