The first day of South Africa’s official ‘hard’ lockdown came with one of the most unusual and (hold your breath…most overly used word of 2020!) unprecedented experiences that I’ve ever had in my time living in the Mother City a.k.a. Cape Town.
This bustling metropolis has been my home for 22 years and many random locations around the Cape Peninsula have offered me a living and working space.
With all these geographical pin drops (and there have been many!) there has been an ongoing and seemingly relentless buzz, rumble, zoom, growl, hoot, howl and screech of traffic and humans. Sounds which undulate and peak at varying times of the day and night.
I awoke naturally on Friday morning the 27th of March 2020 (day 1 of our full blown lockdown) to no alarm at around 7.00 am. Being relatively close to the M3, a main road leading into Cape Town, I can usually tell what the time is by the intensity of the hum of traffic passing by a few blocks from my home.
But not that day. I awoke to a vacuum of un-natural, man-made sound. Not a car, not a truck, not a police van blue lighting ‘baddies’ to the courts in the city, not a hoot, not a screech of brakes. Nothing mechanical lit up the sound waves.
The silence left me speechless. I sat like a child who is hearing music for the first time…too in awe to breath in case I interrupted this exquisite moment with my human need to draw a breath.
The birds tweeting seemed to be louder than ever before. I could hear the trees rustling even though there was hardly a breeze moving through the leaves of the Cork Oak tree in my garden. It was such an unusual, exquisite, awe-inspiring moment, and reminded me of those beautiful, breathtaking scenes in the James Cameron movie “Avatar”. A movie that truly resonated with my inner hippy and my desire to live in a state of inter-connectedness and true mindfulness.
These seven weeks of lockdown have passed quicker than I anticipated. The days have swirled by in a series of slow-motion multi-tasking routines, punctuated by Zoom and Skype chats, a bit of work, painting, domesticity, parenting and ruminating over what the future holds for us as South Africans and as a species on this planet.
Since the 1st of May when Level 4 was implemented, the traffic has increased although is lower in intensity, but it’s definitely back.
The silence is now an experience encapsulated within the historic time frame of Level 5. We can say goodbye to Cape Town looking and feeling like a ghost town. Human beings have a need and desire to move and connect, to travel and trade, to source and supply, to create and consume.
“The quieter you become the more you are able to hear.” Rumi
With this increase in movement, it’s been interesting for me to come face to face with my own gentle sense of grief. I have lost no-one in my inner circle, but my grief is for the lost sounds of silence. An inner longing that I think will inspire a search for the stillness I experienced in that iconic moment.