This year, having travelled through a world breathing cautiously in anticipation of better, hopefully COVID-free times ̶ although it is clear the “COVID normal” is here to stay ̶ I have made it back to my second home Australia, from my native home, Sweden, where I have spent the past 5 months after arriving in an apparently freer society in August 2020, with regard to COVID rules and regulations, and able to escape a Melbourne subjected to harsh stage 4 lockdown. Having witnessed the liberating changing of the seasons first hand, and the gradual arrival of snow in the small village I also call home in southern Sweden, I am now restricted to a life within four walls and I watch life go by outside my hermetically shut windows as I commence my second and last week of hotel quarantine.

A huge face of Joe R. Biden Jr. is painted on the wall of a building outside, bringing US politics into the picture and inspiring hope for the world. With major sports events claiming their fair share of these weeks’ both global and national headlines it is easy to reflect on the current living conditions of his fellow American Serena Williams and other Australian Open tennis players ̶ herself in hotel quarantine in Adelaide. Williams, impressive on court and reflective in her answers, takes her quarantine situation in her stride and does not complain. On the contrary. While she cares for her 3-year-old daughter, attentive adept Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr, the tennis star acknowledges the intensity of mandatory isolation or “detention” (an expression frequently used by quarantine hotel administration). She rises above, appreciates the hardline Australian approach to a difficult situation, and explains, factually: “So when we come here to Australia, everyone has to quarantine in a room for 14 days and it’s insane and it’s super intense but it’s super good because after that you can have a new normal like we were used to last year this time in the United States”.

Williams with Olympia: ASB Classic, NZ, 2020. Photo credit: Hannah Peters, Getty Images.

As I am released from detention, even if my “prison” in times of pandemic turbulence is quite agreeable, at the end of next week, I shall take Serena’s words with me when free to re-enter the community I welcome an upcoming February birthday surrounded by likeminded people, at a heritage park near Elsternwick. One of the oldest heritage mansions and gardens in Victoria, the Rippon Lea Estate attracts visitors who find peace in the leafy space of these harmonious grounds that bear witness to a glorious past; times that still make themselves known as we have entered the 21st century but are transported back in time and space as soon as we set foot inside the main gates of the accommodating oasis that offers respite from the urban rush outside (even if the rush is not as rushed as it was pre COVID).

This upcoming 40+ birthday marks a milestone in my existence (and I am hardly the only one feeling this way): a year of having survived strange and bewildering times, together with everyone else across the globe; all united in one common ordeal and one common goal of turning difficulties into easier times ahead. It will be a relaxing and light-hearted gathering celebrating the beauty of friendship and the healing effects of nature, while I continuously reflect on how stunning winter was in Sweden and how special summer is in Melbourne, Victoria, and Australia at large.

From the Northern Hemisphere to the South, it is time to express gratitude for all the good things in life and honour informality and companionship. “Keep it simple and you will find peace, joy and true happiness”. And who knows, with the right attitude some of us might just win the Australian Open!