Originally written by Ovid, Ars Amatoria, or The Art of Love, (click here for the FREE electronic book) is an elegy three-book series- a “how to” on how to find a partner, and keep him/her.
If you cannot master so many pages without pictures: you can read the synopsis.
It was written in 2 CE, although nothing has really changed. Except now we have isolation or social distancing.
I have no idea about online dating (I married before those became popular) so no advice there.
Yet I do know about love in isolation: I was a farmer’s daughter then married one. And I know, that in the darkest of times, Love is what is needed most (not the hoarding of toilet paper).
I live on a farm, far, far away, in deepest, darkest Jutland. I am still here; not because I love the farm, but because I love the Farmer. And there is space for lots of creatures – children, dogs, mother-in-laws.
Like all good stories, Love popped up and he had a farm too… Just in Denmark. My word, I thought our African bush farm was desolate, but rural Jutland? Even with (the) people, it is just so far, so way off the beaten track. And we aren’t just in rural Jutland, but rural east Jutland. In Danish we describe it as, “Where the crows turn back”. But this crow stayed.
“In the Middle of Nowhere” loses all meaning here; it’s beyond past the middle, it’s on the edge, just before one falls over the side of Nowhere… into Nothingness.
We were to live between the farm in Denmark, and the farm in Zimbabwe and this made me smile so hard that I thought my jaw would split. But then Mugabe had enough of the white farmers meddling in his politics, so he took the farms and gave them to his political allies/cronies. The farmers and the workers lost their jobs, their homes and everything else in between. And suddenly we were all displaced.
And I become isolated in a different place.
This different place was not mine, I simply married into it all. It was not just the place, the weather, and the culture that was different and not mine; but there were no childhood memories lingering in the corners, or forming part of the view. It was NOT AFRICA. The sounds, especially… The raucous of dawn and the shift into those deep, darkest of nights. The smells from the dawn dew on the dust, to the waft of evening firesides; the dust taste of winter, the feel of approaching thunder, the relief of the rains. And it was isolated in a different way. A Danish way, and since I was not really Danish, I didn’t know how to be isolated and happy in Jutland. It became a problematic isolation – one I really did not like. So I cried for years (and some more).
And then fast forward to isolation while being Isolated… But I’m skipping a few steps. When this Virus epidemic became a Pandemic, I was living with our daughter on the small island of Praslin, in the Seychelles. We were there for a three-month stint – I was painting for my upcoming June exhibition and our daughter was attending the local school. Ultimately we were there to escape the northern freeze. (Sub-Saharan Africans NEVER get used to the Nordic winter. Ever.)
It was paradise. A rented house with the sea in front, the neighbour’s banana grove to the side, and the tropical lushness of the hill behind us. I turned the enormous terrace into a studio.
Every morning we drank hurried banana-lime smoothies as we hurtled over the hills in the puny, shattered rental to make it to school in time. And, as we drove up the slim, twisting paths we would desperately hope, at each perilous corner, that we wouldn’t meet a bus- as there was no room for two speeding vehicles. When my mother visited, I returned to my daily routine of, swim before breakfast and the very long beach-chat under the palm tree, before the attempt to mix colours. After school my daughter and I would find another new beach to snorkel until the sun went down. Eventually we began finding walking and breathing on land almost difficult. My mother would join us in the sunset toast (always a decent bottle).
All of those beautiful fish turned us from attempted pescatarians, to full out vegans. This was rather easy because there were very few fresh organic egg options, and my daughter is also lactose intolerant. There was ample fresh fruit and vegetables, and rice was extremely cheap. It was so simple. And simple island living is good. And strangely satisfying.
But then that wonderful, strangely satisfying life came crashing to an abrupt standstill and we sat one evening having to make the decision: shall we go home to the farm in Denmark? Home was where our family was. But it was also early March and therefore home to grey skies and the cold. But there is Love at home. Big, bushy, beautiful, warm, wonderful Love. There is nothing like it.
But the sun, heat and warm sea…
We didn’t have time to contemplate. We had to buy new return tickets, and this had to be done within the next few hours. I didn’t want to make that decision so I sat looking out over the bay, listening for some advice from the waves. But they kept on crashing. And the blue kept on being blue, and the banana leaves kept rustling, and the tickets prices raced upwards.
My daughter’s school had shut only a few days before. Denmark was ordering its people home – “But I’m African dammit!” I was out-of-bounds and I wanted to keep hiding out. But then when would we get to go Home? It could be months in a place that was not Home. So I bought the tickets, tears streaming in frustration because we were going home a month too early. We couldn’t say goodbye to all our new wonderful friends, there was that beach we had not yet visited, and the night-dive we had yet to do. And, because we had just been living like locals we hadn’t done any touristy stuff.
Suddenly I was tearing wet, half-painted canvases off frames and rolling them into skew, home-sawn off drain-pipes. I was throwing clothes with wet snorkels into suitcases, while searching under beds and couches for wayward objects. There was the odd scream when a fat forest spider emerged, or when a dried-up mouse was pulled out instead of a crumpled sock. We went for our last swim, said goodbye to the fish that we had named, imagining that they were as sad as we were. And finally, all the shells we had collected from every beach from every day… we gave them back.
As the little eight-seater plane lifted off, the sun was setting. I sobbed. It was over. The adventure with my daughter had was cut short and I knew that this opportunity would never be possible again. And I, as a mother, could do nothing about it. I kept apologizing through the tears and builder’s mask (that was all I could find) as my daughter hugged me, reassuringly. It would be OK, it would all be fine.
And of course it would be OK. We were going home. To our loved ones. And in the end, that’s all that matters.
But it was not the wonderful welcome we were awaiting. Of course not. There was a Pandemic. And even though we came from an island with no Corona traces, we had been on a plane – through Dubai no less – and no amount of mask-wearing, Dettol smearing of our seats (and those in front and behind us) would ease our conscious. So when we got home we went into self-isolation in the small apartment at the end of the house.
It was bizarre being back home (all brown-skinned but in the very cold grey), living down there, away from the family. It was even stranger seeing my husband or son walk out the kitchen door across the courtyard, and have to do with a mere wave, or catch a kiss blown. And I’d have to rely on a short midday chat with my mother across the moat- luckily we both have loud voices! They were near, yet so very far away. They surprised and blessed us with little gifts that arrived on our doorstep: home baked Danish butter biscuits, fresh harvested honey, the first of the forest flowers. And yet, the ultimately unrivalled act of Love for us in Isolation, an aria from my husband from the lawn below the window– yes, he did actually sing in the mornings for us.
It broke my heart to not hug, hold, or be close to them –for two very long weeks. Freedom into their arms, never felt so sweetly euphoric. I never felt more loved. On Day 14 they brought early sprung daffodils, raised the flag in celebration, and waited in great anticipation.
That was my Love in Isolation.
But oh god, how I miss the warm days! The feel of heat on the skin, a warm swim in the sea. Spring is coming to Denmark, the first Beech leaves are pushing through. And every year the National News broadcasts which tree in which forest has just sprung forth. This is when I know that I am truly in Denmark, as no one waits for spring more than the Nordic folk. They LOVE spring above all else.
I guess this is why the government has allowed its citizens to judge safety standards for themselves. It’s not because the Danes are so well educated, such people of the world, so filled with common sense, so uncorrupt, such law abiding people who reach number one almost yearly on the Happiness Index… No, it’s because the Danish government know that they could NOT order Total Lockdown in Denmark during SPRINGTIME.
When the trees of the Danish woods Spring out in Spring so do the people.
I am proud of the way Denmark and the Danes have gripped this disaster and are steering the idea of slowly opening up, like a spring flower – a slow, careful blossoming.
And we are undoubtedly fortunate to be part of this country in times of crisis, as there is always a plan that gets carried out promptly and properly, and everyone trusts each other. We listen to those who know better, there are no secrets, we allow the government to lead and we do what is suggested. Therefore when it is recommended to Stay Home, we do. There is no Total Lockdown needed. With openness, there is trust; with trust there is safety; and therefore in Denmark there is Happiness. Even in Isolation. (Not the cheery merriment kind, we take things seriously). But knowing that even in the deepest of disasters, one is looked after. That is its very own special kind of Love. No wonder the Danes are always so proudly flying their flag!
Love in Isolation is not so bad here after all. And the greatest of all possible things during these difficult times, no matter how hard it is to be shut in together continuously, is this precious family time that has been gifted to us.
(Yes, I am fortunate I do not have three toddlers and an alcoholic husband, and we have, not just a garden, but a whole farm and that our work continues).
This time which I am now sharing with my family, between the longest of squeezing hugs, and the deepest of annoying sighs, is finer than a pleasurable dream. It’s more fulfilling than any deadline reached or stout bank account spilling; it is truly special. I awake in the mornings thanking my life for what I have, and no longer having that restless spirit- wondering where to I should be heading off next. I see my children home-schooling from in their beds- and instead of chastising them I bring them breakfast. I visit my mother just next door, and am grateful for all that she is and that she is well. I watch my husband move about his work and farm and wish for nowhere else.
I am so fortunate that I have Love in Isolation.
I dare not say it loud, so I shall whisper it: I almost do not want it to end.