When the first - and harshest - lockdown hit Austria in March 2020, there was a call for young writers to contribute to a collection of texts on how the pandemic affected their lives.
Scrolling through old documents of mine, I recently unearthed the text I contributed back then, titled On The Freedom Of Birds. It has an almost eerie feeling to read it now, knowing how it all unfolded, I was pregnant with Lily back then, still working, and we'd just moved to a little village in the mountains. Re-reading this text made me realise why I love writing so much. It is like a little shrine dedicated to the first lockdown, a memory made permanent with ink and paper (or my laptop and Drive). It's almost two years now since writing it, and I wanted to share it here with you as well (as it is not available anymore on the original source).
On the Freedom of Birds
There is this statement that if people continue behaving the way we do, many species may be extinct within the next century or so, whereas if we were extinct, the world would flourish and bud. I don’t know any more exactly what the exact numbers given in the statement were, but it is rather irrelevant for this journal entry. The gist is that humans deplete the world we live in and without us everything else would be much better off. It’s a sad truth, but everything we’ve done in the past, well, since we’ve evolved pretty much, indicates the verity of said statement.
I am writing these lines sitting in my home office in Tyrol, one of the regions worst affected by the corona virus in Europe, and am watching the birds outside as they bicker over the first buds on a cherry tree. Their chirping is undisturbed, their minds not shrouded by a worldwide pandemic, all they can think about is the task ahead of picking out the seeds. While we all sit trapped inside, slowly incarcerated by our minds and economic dependence, life outside seems to continue, even thrive, some may argue.
I live in a ski resort region where tourism in the winter is key – one reason why we became one of the epicentres for corona in Europe, for putting the economy over safety and people’s wellbeing. Until recently, there was a major lightshow and fireworks once a week on the snow slopes to entertain tourists and celebrate the lavish economy factor known as winter sport. Ignoring the major distress such actions put on the forest animals around, they, at least, can breathe a sigh of relief now, probably perplexed by the sudden stillness that reigns over their woods and fields, only disturbed once or twice during the day by a rambler who needs to escape the confinements of his prison (but always within at least a few metres distance to the next rambler).
Despite the non-arguable horrors the virus has inflicted on many people, I cannot help but feel a little smug about it, too. There we are, humans, so arrogant, so superior to everyone else, exploiting where we can, taking and taking and taking from the resources around us. And, BAM, one little disease that is laughable compared to pandemics like the Black Death, and we are all trapped inside our houses, dependent on an economy system that serves itself more than it serves the people. Birds continue to fly, deer continue to roam, dogs continue to sniff – all in perfect oblivion and we reap what we’ve sown.
I don’t want to sound rude or mean to offend people who have been hit hard by the circumstances, but I cannot help thinking this is a massive opportunity to re-evaluate so many issues we’ve faced as a species in the past decades. Outdated school and work systems, an economy system that is so frail it cannot sustain itself apparently (or so we will see), overworked medical staff and shortages that can mean death or life for people. In short, as a community we seem to put money and the economic stability ahead of people, which can be best seen by countries all over the world where measures weren’t taken in time in order to protect tourism and the economy.
Maybe this can be a chance to put importance back on family relations, how we can behave towards each other, and which shouldn’t be put ahead. I am not saying such institutions as economy aren't important, but the birds fluttering outside my window are entirely unencumbered by the virus and the consequences it will have on human-made systems…maybe it’s at least an incentive to take something away from that.
Writer. Editor. Blogger. YouTuber. Freelancer. Traveller. English fanatic.