Surviving

Fionna Cumming

March hits like a fist, these Ides the first we’ve truly had to be wary of since Caesar bled, and we didn’t heed the warnings. We are up to our eyes in the stilling world and we are unprepared. I wonder what we’re going to have to give up to get to the end of this. 

Fifteen weeks is a long time to spend confined with the same people, no matter how much you love them. I practice my best smiles in the mirror and try saying ‘we’re going to be fine’ in several different pitches. 

We hear reports of fighting in supermarkets. Our own shelves are stocked but not overflowing. We are reasonable people, we reassure each other; we need not lower ourselves. I hide bags of coffee and pasta at the back of the baking cupboard. 

Dusk falls. We clasp mugs of steaming sweet tea and file into the night. Even in the gloaming we can make out the garden in bloom; trees budding pink, daffodils crowding the borders, and the primroses are out, glowing through the gloom like settled cream in the neck of a glass milk bottle. The hushed air nips at us, and I burrow further into my collar, blow into my tea.

The sky here is vast, and we are so small. Solitude from here to the horizon makes it easy to pretend that we’re the only ones left, until fear pushes that thought away and I reassure myself with smoke curling from a chimney down the road, the faint blush of an attic window. 

Points of light multiply in the deepening dark until the sky is filled with static. The world is changing but the stars are steadfast, a singular constant in uncertain times. We sink into the earth and feast our eyes, fogging the air with the names of constellations, Auriga a wisp of white slipping from my lips. I soften my gaze and trace the familiar shape of the winter hexagon, its luminous geometry a compass for centuries. I silently beg for a sense of direction as we sail towards a nebulous future.

A delicate waning crescent emerges and I feel lunar. Hope is exhausting, and we are all tired. When everyone’s in bed I relax and stop hoping, only for a few moments, like letting go of a breath I’ve held for too long. I am careful to exhale quietly so I don’t disturb anyone. 

The planet slows. Water clears and smog dissipates. Swans return, flights ground. Time out of time.

There are starlings nesting in our chimney. We found a turquoise egg seeping on the path, and now they echo from the hearth and taunt our cats. After breakfast I hold the ladder and you scale the slates while my heart thuds in my ears. You’re as careful as a new father, cradling the bowl of brittle twigs like one of your own. You tilt it towards me to reveal six blind pink thumbs, mewling scrags, mostly mouth and barely birds at all, but time ticks on and soon they will transport galaxies in their wings.


Fionna Cumming is a queer writer and artist based in rural North Ayrshire where she lives with her family, their three cats, six chickens, and a lot of bees. Her work primarily focuses on myth, ritual, human connection, and the wild in nature and in self, and has recently been featured in the Writer’s Cafe Magazine, and Lucent Dreaming. You can find her on Instagram, @la__fee.