Counseling in the Time of Covid
– Nonfiction by Rosalind Forster – Feature Story in Dreamers Magazine Issue 13 –
“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” ~J. Burroughs
It looked like a seeded dandelion when it rolled in to town and no amount of breaths from gathered lips could blow it away. It danced on the tiniest droplets that sat on words and twirled amid the energetic propulsion of a laugh, a cough or a sneeze! It cruelly snatched lives and we were stunned by its tenacity. Vibrant hubs of activity became ghost towns; people were mere tumbleweeds, just passing through. Streets and highways hosted little to no traffic and the wild ones started to come. The air became fresh and the city noises dimmed and in marched a new world order. The crowned virus had arrived and fingers of blame stroked the air and stoked the division among many.
Masks were donned, hands were washed and surfaces swiped with murderous intent. We stepped into bubbles and decided who belonged and shut the door on the rest. Regulations were set up and confusion set in. Rule followers and rule breakers divided the congenial waves of social mores and vied for the upper hand. The new order asked us to reorganize and homes became multifunctional hubs of industry. And within the confines of those four walls emotions ebbed and flowed leaving the detritus of loneliness and fear, frustration and anxiety, laughter and wonder. We gobbled up news and became numb and befuddled. Many people hopped onto Zoom and talked with family, friends, colleagues and strangers. Work meetings with technology were now the norm and attendees became school kids fiddling with things under desks. The uninitiated played with apps and turned into cats and the occasional naked figure was tracked by the camera’s eye.
As a counsellor my avenues to link with people were few. I could Zoom or phone. Not ideal but possible. A little awkward, a little stiff but like ducks to water I plopped in. Zoom journeys beamed me into bedrooms and beds, cars, kitchens, patios and living rooms. Shy people preferred the phone and since I was a fully initiated duck, I could roll with that too. I made the acquaintance of Zoom-bombing dogs and cats; unwitting actors in this blooming new chapter.
As spring morphed into summer an idea sprung forth – a sanctuary on the veranda. It would be a soothing space where people (clients) could trim away at the vines that bound them. The veranda is encircled by stately trees, open fields and forests. Since nature is a worthy antidote to distress, I sensed possibilities. Next to the poison grows the cure.
With the assistance of a creative ally, the image of that space came to life. Curtains were hung, wicker chairs placed, plants
moved in as did a metal heron who became the sanctuary guardian. The veranda sits near a small forest the centre of which holds dark mystery. When the sun shines through the leaves of that forest the mystery turns into wonder. To the side of the forest sits a Buddha in a hosta filled garden, radiating peace and hope. People now come and go and for many I could see how the energy of the place was a worthy assistant. When we are disconnected from ourselves, we disconnect from nature. Since we emanate from one source and are woven into the tapestry of life I am reminded that we are not separate from nature but an integral part of it. As we connect to our inner selves we can reinvigorate that connection to the natural world and let the healing begin.
When fall announced its departure and the chill days of winter moved in, some chose to remain outside. So, with thoughts of warmth and comfort out came magic bags, blankets and peppermint tea. December saw the last of the hardy clients and we down shifted to Zoom. Although much can be accomplished with technology, there is nothing quite like physical presence. As the weeks turned into months and the crowned villain ebbed and flowed, we fell into 2021 with little fanfare. Along with masks and furrowed brows we wondered was this EVER going to end.
By April the veranda came back to life. The plants arrived, the curtains were re-hung and the heron resumed her role as she gazed over fallow fields. A fox had her kits in the barn late winter and a family member would dash by the veranda once in a while. Hummingbirds come to the feeder reminding me it is the little things that are important. A resident chipmunk has joined the assembly of wild ones. She is blind in one eye and she is brave. She sits on any willing body, twitching her nose and waiting for food to appear. Chippy once made her way up a client’s pant leg generating a smile and a different day saw her sitting in an open purse. An orange feral cat arrived one late afternoon and slept with Buddha for a few days. Then, like Alice in Wonderland’s Cheshire cat, he simply disappeared.
Nature offers lessons on impermanence reminding us not to cling; she teaches us about birth and death, growth, destruction and renewal. She reminds us to be patient and shows us that everything has a purpose – even our human troubles. The crowned virus has forced us into situations we could never have imagined. We have wobbled our way through difficult months with emotional ratings from blunt to explosive. Now, as we roll through summer and fall, restrictions have eased and people are pleased, but wait … what is this thing called Omicron?
As for the sanctuary, I will continue to companion those courageous enough to come and disassemble the ties that bind them. They are in good hands. Nature, my trusty assistant, is listening.
About the Author – Rosalind Forster
Rosalind Forster, originally from the North of England, came to Canada in the 1970’s. Now semi-retired, she lives in a quiet village in rural Ontario where she runs a small psychotherapy practice meeting clients on her veranda sounded by nature. She published two stories in the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series. Rosalind is currently writing a book inspired by her life experiences and the many courageous and colourful characters that have crossed her path.
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