Morning reflections



It is 6:26 on a Tuesday morning and I’m abed in Wangaratta. A Burmese cat of fifteen years begins to circle me counter clockwise, rubbing his jaw against the upstanding screen of my Macbook Air. When rebuffed from my lap, Snooks focuses his search for solace on my husband John next to me, who silently moves his iPad to his left head and cuddles the cat to his shoulder while looking at the newspaper online. 

Man sitting in yoga pose on a porch (Illustration by Chris Johnston)

All this is pleasant and unremarkable, except that we were just briefly discussing which future events are likely cancelled in light of the announced pandemic. It’s an unexpected morning topic for conversation before coffee. But it’s appropriate with the increasing concerns on flattening the curve of contagion, illness, infections, acute complications and death. 

I take my first sip of the coffee John placed next to the CPAP machine when I was still asleep. It is good. I gave up caffeine in the middle of last year when I read it was contraindicated for people with Essential Tremor, but resumed last December when I read that it could be helpful for people diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. A small comfort but one that this man in his mid-seventies enjoys mightily. The coffee is warm and rich, an Italian blend we may not be able to order soon on Woolworths online app.

As dawn lights a kookaburra begins to chortle outside, joining the curving mournful whistles of the currawong newly arrived from the mountains as autumn makes a stand here.

Things change and my morning routine varies. There is the temptation of my iPad offering its smorgasbord of headlines, reflections, conjectures and pictures of incongruous cats. There’s the chance of doing morning writing and editing various versions of what may be eventually publishable as the great work. 

The preferred option, occasionally exercised, of moving to the front room for a brief somewhat contemplative reading of Morning Prayer as found on the Church of England app, then twenty to thirty minutes stretching in a yoga sequence, finally sitting on two pillows in tailor pose for twenty five minutes of meditation followed by oatmeal and a sliced banana at home.


'I am an old Anglican priest with bad lungs, a compromised immune system, a telephone and lots of technologies and I am wondering how I can use my limited gifts in the present situation.'


John moves to the back of the house for the ABC Morning News, cereal, toast and coffee. He has an equal devotion to the evening news where I sit by him balancing a book or the iPad with occasional attention to the opening headlines and reports following. He also cheerfully admits to liking bad disaster movies. The fact that I love this man means occasionally watching the likes of The Day After, Earthquake, San Andreas and, of course, Contagion

Snooks makes a circular attempt to access my lap from the left and, when I lift him back to my right side, places both paws on my lower arm and regards me with half-closed eyes and a slow almost silent purr. I stop to pet him, accompanied by this sense that I am a character in somebody else’s movie.

My calendar for this week notes appointments and events at the YMCA and U3A, some meals with friends, three or four church events and all, except for a medical appointment, will need to be cancelled. This wasn’t in the plan. It is Lent and I am heading to be a hermit for the forseeable future. I’ve read and learned from Thomas Merton for over fifty years and I’ll be following his lead once again. 

I am an old Anglican priest with bad lungs, a compromised immune system, a telephone and lots of technologies and I am wondering how I can use my limited gifts in the present situation.

If I’ve been advised against heroics I will stay and pray, make phone and online calls and check ins, use my time, talent and technology to remain connected to the larger community in a time which was not of our choosing. Perhaps today my best prayer, quoting Merton, is to 'be lost together with the others'.   

It is time to take that walk.



Robert WhalleyRobert Whalley worked for many years in lay ministry and university chaplaincy in Berkeley, San Francisco and Melbourne, and recently retired as an Anglican priest in Wangaratta. More writing at

Main image: Illustration by Chris Johnston

Topic tags: Robert Whalley, COVID-19



submit a comment

Existing comments

Robert, A scene so beautifully written that my imagination ran wild. I know Wangaratta well. Sunday morning for us was so different. No Mass as the churches are closed- a first for me and I am 71 years old. I emailed our Parish Priest earlier in the week, as I am an Acolyte and apart from monthly 'duty' on the Altar, I take Holy Communion to the sick and those unable to attend Mass. I asked whether we could take Communion to some elderly people whom we bring to Mass. I knew how much they must be missing the Mass. His response was no, as the Archbishop had advised against it. I was so sad but I have to obey. We had a prayer service last night at our home (family only of course!). Holy Week starts next Sunday (Palm Sunday).How strange it will feel. Easter is a time of joy, this year it will be a time of hope.
Gavin O'Brien | 30 March 2020

Lovely of you to share your morning and how it is changing. Keep up your ministry of words and your care of self. A great role model.
Leigh Mackay | 30 March 2020

Thanks you for scene setting, a vivid ouvre from a different, sttormy and cold world across the ditch. Yet here too the concerns envelope us and we try to find sanity in the midst of tumult. It was (often) ever thus, but it is wondrous heart-warming to share our navigational beacons. "Kia kaha" we say over here (though I guess it's cultural appropriation). Go strong, good friends and fellow-stumblers.
Michael Godfrey | 31 March 2020

COVID-19 has broken the usual comfortable routine of so many oldies. As someone in my early 70s I would classify myself thus age-wise, but I did not have a usual comfortable routine. What was broken, suddenly and abruptly, was a life on constant standby 24/7/365. An incident occurred which made me realise I could no longer care for my wife. It was a blessed relief. If I was looking for a sign it was that incident. I always found Thomas Merton rather miserable. Give me rather someone like the late Pere Michel Quoist, who had no grand schemes nor scathing denunciations, but saw God working in the supposedly mundane tasks of everyday life. It is Lent, but to me it is Easter already. My wife will be well and so am I. If there are two personal figurative resurrections they have now happened. We can be comfortably deluded by the Church Year and our supposed place in the scheme of things. When Jesus was around he was adept at breaking down the scheme of things. May he continue to do so. It is not the end but the beginning. So many people never let go so life can begin anew.
Edward Fido | 31 March 2020


Subscribe for more stories like this.

Free sign-up