One of the things I’ve been thinking a lot about in the early days of December is how strangely time has passed this year. Days, weeks and months have seemed to stretch infinitely long, and yet the year seems to have passed in the blink of an eye. Things that I read, watched or thought in January and February seem to be from years in the past and yet I cannot believe that it is nearly Christmas. It is a measure of how much our world has changed in the past year – as though so much and so little has happened simultaneously.
With this in mind, I chose to decorate my star with leaves – green on one side and autumnal on the other – to signify the passing of the year. On each leaf I wrote something.
On the green side are all the local businesses that have been more important than ever this year. To name a very few: Dorée for bread and coffee to take on a socially distanced walk, the greengrocer for fresh fruit and veg, Wild & Wooly for yarn and emergency knitting needles, Pages of Hackney for books to distract me, the Castle Cinema for the hope that someday going to the cinema will seem normal again, Chatsworth Supermarket for just about anything. I’ve always loved my proximity to Chatsworth Road and the fact that we can get so much of what we need locally, but this year I feel like all these businesses have kept us fed during lockdown and kept me calm when all the supermarket shelves emptied, and we felt so isolated at home. I wish I could thank the people working in them for their hard work and good nature during some very stressful times. I’ve also included Homerton Hospital as the embodiment of all that the NHS has done for us this year – I don’t have words to express how much I value that.
On the yellow/orange side I wrote all the things that have helped me though the year, amongst others: birdsong on early morning walks in the Marshes, music – familiar and new, knitting, my family – especially time with my children who seem to have turned into adults while I wasn’t looking, my friends, walks in the Olympic park, the written/video conversations with colleagues that have taken the place of a chat in the office, cycling through empty central London, my book group moving to Zoom and unexpectedly growing in consequence, about a million cups of tea, and a fair amount of gin! There is so much that I miss and so much that I am anxious about, but also an enormous amount to be thankful for.
In putting together the star, these words are mostly hidden, but the act of thinking about all these things proved to be a meditation, a moment of calm at a busy time. It’s hard to slow down at this time of year (even this year!) and I’m grateful to be pushed to take that time. As the year turns, I’m hoping that 2021 treats us more kindly, but I don’t want us to forget some of the lessons we’ve learned this year.
When I went to hang up my star, there was a tree on Chatsworth Road that still had one orange leaf hanging bravely on, like its own star, so mine went to join it.