Lily Hewes is a 23-year-old British teacher who has been traveling and living in Europe, primarily in Italy, for the past two years. She wrote this piece for Radical Joy Revealed about how she lived through three months of lockdown in the town of Varese, Italy.
The coronavirus outbreak spread quickly throughout the northern regions of Italy, and by March 2 the government had quarantined over 16 million people in Milan and consequently the region of Lombardy. I remained trapped in my town, Varese, about twenty-five miles north of Milan. The only reason we could leave our houses was for medical goods or food. Police patrolled our streets with weapons and fined anyone who came outside for any other reason up to €3000.
When I find myself in the epicenter of a global pandemic, what should I do? It’s in my nature to be a nomad. Traveling, climbing, just being in nature is an important part of my life. Dealing with the constraints of lockdown in a single room over a three-month period can definitely do some mental damage. I would ask myself what I was enjoying about the time without work, without friends and family, and without the ability to do sport. I can say the biggest positive was slowing down, breaking that mind-crushing cycle of wake, work, eat, sleep, and repeat. Meditation and self-reflection were a big part of my healing day, and as were cooking and planting new plants to make my room a little jungle haven. I was given a coffee plant, and my battle to keep it from dying was really a symbol that reflected my personal battle throughout quarantine.
This photo was taken the day we were released from the lockdown. The first thing I did was run to the mountains! With open arms I embraced the earth once more! I felt euphoric being barefoot outside again, feet in the soil and surrounded by the stunning landscapes of Italy and Switzerland. After overcoming the first mountain I didn’t feel hunger or fatigue, just pure endless energy so I continued to the second. The one I’m standing on is looking over Sacro Monte, meaning sacred mountain in Italian. Many people say to me, “It’s so dangerous that you climb or walk so far on your own.” My reply will always be that I have never felt safer than when I’m in the arms of nature. As long as I respect it, I will be safe. A piece of pure radical joy I never expected to have in my life. The pandemic, a devastating time for Italy, gave me a new view of life for which I will forever be grateful. I hope we all learn as a community to slow down and be thankful for clearer skies, cleaner air and the welcoming of more wildlife due to less pollution.

Trebbe Johnson
Trebbe JohnsonFounder
Trebbe is the author of The World Is a Waiting Lover and 101 Ways to Make Guerrilla Beauty. Her new book, Radical Joy for Hard Times: Finding Meaning and Making Beauty, will be published in Fall 2018 by North Atlantic Books. Her articles about people’s emotional and spiritual relationship with nature have appeared in Orion, Sierra, Ecopsychology, The Ecologist, The Nation, Harper’s and other magazines. She lives with her husband, Andrew Gardner, in rural northeastern Pennsylvania, a region currently under exploitation by natural gas companies.

Image Credit:

  • Lily Hewes: Lily Hewes


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