A Sinking Dinghy, and a Tiny Bird: Thoughts on COVID-19

As I have observed before, coping mentally and emotionally with COVID-19 is not easy. It is as if we are frozen in time. Every evening in Jamaica, anxiety flickers as we wait for the latest test results to be released. As of this evening, we are up to 196 positives.

There was a grandfather clock in the house of my grandparents in England. As a child, I found its presence unsettling: the shadowy interior, implacable face and above all, the dark hollow sound of the pendulum, back and forth, back and forth. Time, time.

During this time of isolation, my frame of mind (largely unframed) swings back and forth through the hours, like the pendulum. Someone I follow on Twitter posted a photograph today, which summed up my feeling for at least a part of the time.

The dinghy, taking its time to sink. (Photo: Twitter).

The photograph shows a small boat, its back turned to the camera, pointing out to sea on its mooring. Several buoys, dotted around on the placid, colorless water, frame an almost shapeless object in the foreground. It is an orange inflatable dinghy, half-submerged. The air is going out of it, breath by breath.

My Twitter friend likened it to this April in confinement: sinking, slowly.

And for the rest of the time? I am resting my hopes in a tiny bird. Two inches long (five centimeters), we are honored to have the Vervain Hummingbird living in our yard. It is the second smallest bird in the world, after the Bee Hummingbird of Cuba. I see the male (and sometimes others) every day, perched on the most delicate tip of a branch of our moringa tree.

Vervain 010
A beautiful female Vervain Hummingbird, photographed by Vaughan Turland of BirdLife Jamaica.

Our Vervains never stray far from the moringa, sipping from its creamy white flowers and dancing between its spindly branches. And they have a voice. The male’s high-pitched twitter sounds like someone wiping a window, the squeak of soap on glass. When I am watering, I hear a gentle buzzing in my ear. His wings.

My bird book (“A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Jamaica” by Ann Haynes-Sutton, Audrey Downer and Robert Sutton) notes: “Sometimes nests inside houses.”

I wish ours would.

I also wish that the dinghy would finally sink, and be done with.

And that the grandfather clock would stop ticking.

WhatsApp Image 2020-04-19 at 9.36.21 PM
I don’t have a good photo of my own to do justice to the Vervain Hummingbird, perfect in every detail. My thanks to Wayne Sutherland of BirdLife Jamaica for this exquisite photo.


7 thoughts on “A Sinking Dinghy, and a Tiny Bird: Thoughts on COVID-19

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