It was the simplest of decisions. Instead of turning right, as I always did at the Porte Saint Dominique, I turned left. Within these three years of living in Avignon, I have never walked that particular path lining the 14th century fortified walls. But the light beckoned and if I have held tight to one important rule, it is to follow the light whenever you can. Roll in it, may it heat you, let it stun your eyes.
This second lockdown feels both ambiguously different and yet numbingly the same. But admittedly, having an idea of what to expect has been truly helpful. I know where my pitfalls lie but also how to divert them. While staying very safe, I stretch the laws when needed, just as I pay attention to any back brain whispers before they hurl into tantrum howls. For I can't let myself go back to that first set state, one that scared me (says one experienced with depression). And yes, I had happily begun to claw my way upwards exactly when this quarantine was announced.
After a few weeks of feeling pitched at sea, I inhaled deeply and dug out my old tool box, which has served me well in days gone by. Within are items that remain a part of my daily routine, such as making gratitude lists. But I have also made a "schedule" of such quintessential tips as "make bed immediately, change out of pyjamas." It is written in black ink with large loopy letters and is displayed prominently. Delightfully, I am rediscovering others that I haven't touched in years, such as three pages worth of journalling in the morning before that Pavlovian reach for my phone. It feels so comforting to write while knowing that no one will ever see my scrawly wanderings, my thundershow doubts. I do well to not think before I put the pen to paper. "Just go, Heather," I tell myself instead. "Go."
It feels the same on my daily walk. As with the previous quarantine, we are allotted one hour per day and are allowed to stray no farther than one kilometre beyond our habitation (I have personally decided to define that as a radius, which offers innumerable possibilities). Yes, we need to have a signed "attestation" at the ready, although I must say that I do not see police patrols now. None at all. Regardless, I move. In the beginning, I could handle no more than a lumbering stroll. My lungs are still achey from being sick in March, whether it was indeed COVID, or not. But with time, I find that my pace is increasing in spite of my intentions. My feet dance in a straight line. I feel hungry to be outside of my own four walls and while I have no desire to think, it feels so delightful just to see. Just that, to see.
And so back we go to the left-hand turn. The light is at its peak - a dripping honey that edges towards amber. It clings to the cream stone rempart walls, pulling out each crevice, including the mysterious symbols left behind by each stone-cutter as a means to get paid. So much history, resting solidly, darkened only by the shadows of the last-leaved trees and pedestrians stretched out like spaghetti on their meander towards home.
Again, I don't know this territory, not at close range and so every few paces leads to a clip "aha" as well as the occasional pause to pull out my phone. The non-existent "click." I am used to people looking at me questioningly, wondering what on earth I am trying to capture. Later in my walk, an elderly woman bangs the shutter at her windows purposefully as I fixed upon the scrabbled layers of paint on her building. It was as if to say, "Off you go, you have no business here."
Ah, but you see? I do. I most certainly do. Every single second that I am rooted in the present - not shadow-pulled towards the past or worrying about an impossible future - keeps me sane. Or at least largely so. This is what freedom feels like. Just to walk and breathe. La liberté that no quarantine can steal. My heart beating, drenched in the warm light of autumn, heals me and holds me like nothing else can.