By the Belgian border: Locked down

It is the last day of October, a sacred day in pagan tradition. Moving day for the fairies. A day of lighting fire and stirring up the internal fire the yogis call Agni in Ayurveda, the science of the body.

I have been cultivating a new habit of rising from bed in the dark of the early morning; turning on the pellet stove, which evokes a gorgeous, soothing flame; making a small pot of coffee; and doing a 10-minute sit.

This morning, I followed this ritual, which has become very comforting in its own rite. As the light of morning dawned grey over the trees with increasingly naked limbs, seen through the one floor to ceiling window in our tiny farmhouse in northeast France, I also lit a large candle with three wicks to honor the changing of the season and the Irish celebration of Samhain (pronounced “sawn”).

I spend most of my days in near-constant motion. Movement is one of the methods I have discovered that soothes my own inner fire, which more often than not seems to burn more brightly than is comfortable for my sensitive psyche and emotional wellbeing.

In the earlier months of 2020, I practiced gratitude for not being in countries like Italy where people were not allowed to leave their homes without a written letter, explaining their reason for being outside. I was so thankful to be in Belgium beside a forest, where I could spend hours walking beneath the canopy of leaves, protected from the elements and, at least for the time I walked, I could take refuge amid thousands of shades of green and brown and forget for a little while the troubles of the world beyond.

There will be no ease of movement on this moving day, October 31, 2020, for I am now living just beyond the Belgian border in the region of Nord-Pas-De-Calais, France, where a second lockdown has been enacted by the president. All residents of France are allowed one hour outside each day and must bring with them an “attestation,” which notes the time they left the house and their purpose for leaving.

We husband printed several paper copies, and we have also been using a website where you have to input your first and last name, date of birth, place of birth, current address, the current date, the time you leave the house, and choose from one of several reasons for the leaving the house. I did not see “because otherwise I will go insane and start blowing things up” as an option.

Moving to a new place during a “normal” time is a challenge. There is a feeling of being between the old and new, of isolation, of groundlessness. I had only just begun to meet people and discover opportunities for yoga and connection. Now, I am thrust once more into groundlessness.

I have a fear of law enforcement policing the farmland around us where we walk. We are less than three kilometers from the Belgian border, after all. So far, thankfully, we have not witnessed this response to the lockdown regulations. We are hoping the rule that you cannot venture more than 1 kilometer from your house and for no more than an hour is more for highly concentrated areas like big cities as opposed to farm country.

Still, the supposed union of Europe feels less and less so in my own experience in Belgium and now France. There is so little consistency, in administration, visas, the cost of shipping (it costs three times as much to send the same size and weight package from France to the US as it does from Belgium, and I am told that it costs even less from Germany…head scratcher much?), rules for lockdown (which are different for every European country, sometimes wildly so). The wave of cases in Belgium is much higher than France and yet people in Belgium are allowed to drive around and the borders are open, though our landlord suggested that the French would likely not be particularly enthusiastic for Belgians to cross the border. In the Netherlands, schools and shops are open and only restaurants and cafes are closed. Not much of a union, in the end.

Inconsistency and uncertainty is a part of life and certainly a theme of 2020. We are desperately hoping for a paradigm shift this coming Tuesday on election day.

In the interim, I will dream of freedom of movement, of the sun, the sea, and wild open space where I can feel that deep primal sense of aliveness and possibility.

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