Essential things

by Lynda Hawryluk

how the year begins, so it goes
trapped in the everyday machinations of isolation
we’re finding the essential in all of us
getting back to basics of supply systems
and taking control by any means
the many months in silence are only broken by a tick tocking clock
or an oscillating fan, and under that
the great quiet is a canyon between here and there, and you and them

it should never have been called social distancing
because that just makes it somehow worse
eradicating lines of poverty and privilege at the same time as deepening them
we’re all holed up at Hopper’s Habitaciòn de hotel 
a study in shadowy faces and hunched shoulders
absorbed in the possibility of a book, and the comfort of a story with an ending
unlike this year of 1000 days and as many lonely nights

but for some, there’s respite in a daily dose of saltwater
the deep blue shimmer of nearby waterways
under crayon scrawl sky in the morning
then going green at the edges, the sky and sea about to meet
the same scene plays out everyday
and each one an original 
watching the tide do its daily thing
we’re all close to the edge but steady as she goes
some lunchtime escapism
before the thunderheads are go
the sandbars in the creek making a topographical map
just add water and everything changes for everyone

capturing three scenes of a Thursday morning
early surfers catching the river tide, the salt spray at the end of the Wall
and swimmers’ heads like bobbing corks in the bay
a streaky sky stretches out before us 
down by the river on a crystal-clear day

a gunmetal sky morning
with a lone tree waiting for the sun to warm its limbs
sugar cane fire smoke meets whisper thin cloud stream
giving way to moody blues and cumulonimbus
there’s a thin blue line between the rain and the way home 
got there just before the sky fell into the sea
as day recedes into darkness on the shoreline of an empty beach

there are the reminders of the essential elements of life
for those inside their homes, stooped over a story or squinting at a screen
humans becoming heavy like canvas waterbags
strung off the front of a Troopie, crossing the desert
and heading for the coast

we’ll reach the end of this road eventually
and find the solace and salvation of salt water
it’s the essential things that often elude us
with a daily dose of sea, and salt, and the deepening blue sky
all things are possible

The unspoken and unseen pandemic of loneliness affected many people this year, and compounded the effects of working from home, isolating and the poorly phrased ‘social distancing’. Having the belief that ‘how one spends the beginning of the year, defines the year’, added to the challenge that was 2020. To provide some respite from the effects of isolation for myself and others, in March I began sharing pictures of the waterways of Ballina via social media. While many of us emulated the protagonist of Edward Hopper’s Habitaciòn de hotel (1931) for much of the year, these daily images and the short description attached provided me with a project, and a purpose to continue posting them from the positive comments. They also gave me a large amount of perspective, solace and this poem, the lines of which are compiled from the descriptions accompanying the images throughout the year. Original images and words can be found at  

Dr Lynda Hawryluk is a Senior Lecturer in Writing at Southern Cross University where she is the Course Coordinator of the Associate Degree and Graduate Diploma of Creative Writing. An experienced writing workshop facilitator, Lynda has presented workshops in Australia and Canada. A past President / Chair of the Australasian Association of Writing Programs, and Deputy Chair of the Byron Writers Festival, Lynda has been published in a variety of academic and creative publications on Gothic coastlines, Islomania and landscape poetry.

%d bloggers like this: