Pandemic Diaries: The power of memory

By Jamie Etheridge

I’m standing beneath a massive Scots pine in the middle of Lake Abant Park, a nature reserve in Bolu province, Turkey. The view is magnificent: The sun glimmers off the gentle waves of the lake, which serves as the focal point for the park. A two-lane blacktop road encircles the lake but is shrouded on nearly all sides by the canopy of trees, pines, beeches, tamarisks, juniper, willows and hornbeams that cover the slow, rolling hills up to a clear and cloudless blue sky.

I’ve gone for an early morning walk, before the children are awake and it is time for breakfast, swimming and all the fun we’ve planned for the day. The air is fresh and clean, the scent of pine and tree bark combines with the smell of fresh grass and the sound of my feet crunch on the bed of pine needles and leaves that carpet the forest floor.

I am determined to savor as much of the outdoors as possible, to walk each morning around the lake, to enjoy the coolness beneath the trees, to stop and notice the sedge grass shooting up from the edges of the lake, the daisies and sunflowers blooming in clumps along the path. I note the details, thanking God for the opportunity to visit this beautiful landscape and the quietude of nature.

It’s 2018 – the global pandemic is still nearly two years into the future.
I’ve read that actively savoring a moment not only helps stretch your experience of that moment, but it also embeds it more deeply in your experience and can serve as a calming memory available for recall during times of stress or crisis.

In the days, weeks and months to come there will be many more moments when the fallout from this pandemic feels overwhelming, when the stress gets too much. There will be heart attacks and suicides, violence and despair. Not all of us have the resources to readily avoid what may be a lengthy economic recession. We will need to draw on our resilience, our creativity and steadfastness – and for that, any method or means of restoring calm and equilibrium can help.

In my apartment in Kuwait this morning, I close my eyes and recall that morning. I pause for a minute, remembering the clean fresh smell of unpolluted air and the sound of birds twittering in the branches of the sweet scented trees.

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