A day in isolation becomes a small lifetime. There is a birth, an awakening where there is nothing but possibility and growth. Filled with fresh air, screeching birds (the birds in Australia don’t sing, they scream), bitter coffee and hope.

This is compromised immediately by the dissatisfaction that comes from checking in on the news and wading through the half-hearted half-measures of a group of men who have never understood what it means to live an everyday existence. The malaise comes on quickly here, a heaviness born of months of bad news. We have just survived six months of brutal bushfires, the loss of a billion animals, thousands of homes, and too many lives. Before the smoke (which blanketed our cities) could clear, there were floods, and then this plague.

We are tired. It isn’t as if Australians don’t expect this conflict with our land, most of us are invaders, but this year it feels particularly relentless. We can’t even wash it off in our oceans – the beaches are closed.

The middle-age of the day is a slow slog of work; of forcing words that would usually flow naturally between people, into a digital space. Phone calls and emails and online chat. I make lists to remind myself to be human –/breathe/stretch/read/drink water. It seems both manic and eternal.

By evening I am old; exhausted by ennui. The morning’s youth feels distant. To find my way through this I force myself to sit and write. I have started a group for my students and we are each writing a poem for every day we are in isolation. We have been joined by friends, family and strangers along the way who also need this poetry. In the mornings I send them a prompt, an inspiration – and by night time, we share our works. Some days they are simple, rudimentary things, rhythmless and rambling. Other days there is beauty, passion, truth and even genius. Always there is humanity.

it is the dream
the silence bubbling gently on the stove,
the bookshelf sighing in relief
darkness scratching at the door
it is the daydream
the candle humming Nina Simone
and tracing a gentle line around
the room with a hot, sharp finger
it is the vagary
the ideas stutter, embarrassed
by the spotlight, and cover a cough
loneliness strikes 4pm, carefully tearing the day in half
it is the nightmare
the dregs and scalded genius stain
the bottom of a chipped cup
fool’s gold

— The Dream by Lynnette Lounsbury.

Read the other articles in The Art of Solitude series here.