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Leanne Talbot Nowell watercolour sea

If you feel trapped in lockdown – remember that we are traveling at 1.4 million kilometers per hour through hostile space on a miniscule, wobbling and watery rock. The planet is spinning in a spiral around a massive ball of blasting nuclear fusion. Our sun is also traveling by the way, and making a turn once every 28 Earth days. We don’t know where we’re going but we are going there very fast.

When worrying things happen, I sometimes beam myself up to the Hubble Space Telescope to get another perspective on the issue. Out there in deep space everything looks terrifyingly peaceful. Turn the lens towards lonely Earth, our beloved blue gem, and it’s difficult to see where the suffering is. Zoom in to about 800 km above the surface and you’ll see a lot of soul-satisfying awesomeness. Check out Simon’s images. Even the deserts are patterns. Zoom zoom zoom to micro and you will find a new coronavirus doing what it does. One needs to be incredibly brave to look with scope-eyes at the universal petri dish.

I beamed myself down to our park and had a look through the brambles at the wash-house. Immaculata (she’s fine by the way) said she used to wash their clothes and her son’s cloth nappies down there. It’s a long stone building with a fallen roof, lots of columns and two great vasche…what’s that in English? The stone vasche have sloping sides or wash-boards. She said “it was lovely to be in the open air and wash the clothes in the moving water, birds singing all around in the trees”. All the women in the community would go there to discuss and wash. No need for shrinks.

Simon says – ‘Jeder Zustand, ja jeder Augenblick ist von unendlichem Wert, denn er ist der Repräsentant einer ganzen Ewigkeit’ Goethe in a letter to Eckermann, 1823 (‘Every state, yes every moment is of infinite value, because it is the representative of an entire eternity’).

Unfortunately the numbers in Italy went UP again yesterday. 4204 new infections, and 610 deaths. Actually, the model looks more like a mountain range than a curve. We need to lift up our arms bravely to the sky, unclench our fearful fists and spread our fingers to the wind. Then zoom in to see what we can wash.

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Wishful walking

Roman pathway

The next time I see a path, I’m going to walk and walk and walk!

Even if the cinghiali (wild boars) are running amok while the hunters sit in quarantine.

Lockdown day 20 in Southern Italy. Simon is reading a colossal German bible illustrated by Salvador Dalì. Apparently he has time to read it now. The Old Testament is quite challenging for a space man like him. I tried to paint a watercolour of Renata’s house down the street. She paces up and down her balcony in a scarlet dressing-gown. Perhaps she’ll notice me and wave in my direction. Below her house is a window where an old man sits and looks out all day. A portrait in a frame. There is no street activity for him to watch, except the two brown birds who hop among the peach blossoms.

The numbers are subsiding slowly. Our Prime Minister says we’re not out of the woods yet. Mind boggling statistics here in Italy, with almost 98 000 cases and a brutal 11 000 deaths. Yesterday we lost another 756 people. Waning new infections point to the peak. We are having trouble understanding our high percentage of mortalities compared to other countries.

You have all been so generous with your comments and good wishes, thank you sending so much love. I know you’re all out there facing similar challenges, some worse than others. This feeling of the impending tsunami of doom makes me think of walking along the beach at Umhlanga. Those frightfully big waves that crash onto the sand don’t usually wash you away, they just fizz and retreat. Sometimes they touch your feet.

The painting is now owned by my friend Francesco Sarti and his little daughter Mathilda.