And just like that, it was May.
Lockdown has been on in the UK since 23rd March. That’s over a month of living small, staying home, keeping house quietly.
I think when we entered Lockdown we none of us really knew what to expect. In so many ways, we were entering a battlefield where our weapons were hand sanitiser, handwashing and making sure that time outside the house, except for our daily walks, was limited. I know so many people have made links with the Second World War, with battles and fights. It’s not really, it’s like this relies on us being still and lying low. Where togetherness was our secret weapon in World War Two, here we have isolation, staying apart, separation and space. Physically, it’s so counter-intuitive. We save our elderly by shutting them away. We keep the world well by turning aside from it and leaving it be.
Thank God for the World Wide Web. In the days since the world stopped meeting and greeting, it has been the virtual and the unseen that keeps us going. Finding support in Facebook groups, linking up with nearest and dearest through Zoom or House Party, sending greetings on Whatsapp or Snapchat. We can’t hug our besties, so we hug our tablets or phones instead.
And yet… and yet…. Human beings are not virtual creatures. We are built for actual contact, for physical experience, for meeting and greeting and reading each other’s body language. I dislike Zoom, it turns out. I don’t like having my screen split into however many sections, trying to keep up with the words or faces or actions of an extended family. I would far rather contact a family individually, speak face to face to one person, be able to read expression and experience time spent together in as close a way as possible. I limit my time online, and I prefer the hour visit with my Mum, stood on her path and speaking at an acceptable distance through doorways, to any amount of Facetiming going on.
I don’t mind telling you, I’ve been round in circles mentally this month. In any one day I may go from resignation, to defiance to acceptance, to peace. In so many ways the Lockdown suits me. I love being home, with nothing but puttering to do, and full time work a distant memory. I suspect that’s why I’ve not done too many posts this month. The garden and house have entertained me fully. As a family, we built a garden arbour that gives me so much joy. We’re planting seeds… is there any more positive expression of hope in the future than planting seeds… and sprucing corners of the garden that have been neglected.
Activity lends purpose, occupies the body and often the mind. Making decisions about when to shop because you’re hoping for the smallest queue and maximum stock adds excitement to a once-a-week excursion. I’ve reread my copies of The Flylady’s books, listened to Mrs Hinch talking about how she cleaned her way through her own mental health issues and tried to plan a cleaning schedule for all of us. Alas, like so many other households, the cleaning falls to me. And I do it, mindfully, because it makes me feel peaceful as long as I do.
But on the days when I need more, when my buzzing brain doesn’t stop with activity, then I know I need more. And I look to the trees.
Green is the most relaxing colour, isn’t it? And at this time of year the new green of trees is proving a most useful source of calm, restfulness and peace. I’m very lucky to have a reasonable sized garden with some mature trees in it… two ash trees stand guard to my corner seating area, while a Rowan tree and a grey willow stand at the other end. I’ve taken to sitting out just watching the leaves sussuration in the breeze, or sitting in my favoured spot in the living room, watching as the twigs turned to buds turned to leaves which even now are learning to stretch and dance.
I would find it hard to live in any house without a tree in the back garden, or at least close access to a tree to sit underneath or rest against. In the first bedroom I remember sleeping in, I looked out over a mature parkland, trees hundreds of years old planted by the local stagecoach company owner, a man who wisely in 1829 moved his money over into railroads. My schools have always had trees to hide beneath, to trace the bark of, to dig small hollows at the base of and hide precious objects… the plastic tops of Smarties tubes, that button that fell off my cardigan, or a matchbox of dead leaves returned to their home. And when we bought our home together, while the husband saw mature trees and thought only of the leaves that Autumn would bring, I thought of the buds in spring, the shade in summer and the sharp, dark angular shadows of sunny winter’s days.
And now, as the world turns slowly from an open marketplace to closed shops, I find the trees are my salvation again. In the absence of hugging my mother, I can hug a tree. When my brain is moving too fast, I can watch the trees moving with considered grace. When I need to be rooted, to be secure, to be safe…. the trees are there. They give me strength. They give me hope, because even when we are not, they continue.
When I die (as everyone does, eventually if they’re lucky, rather more precipitately if they’re not) I should like to be buried under trees, in a simple willow coffin, with a smile on my face and my soul ablaze. I should like to feed into a tree, to feel part of Nature forever. And no headstone, no marker. Just a tree for my descendants to seek out and talk to, while I whisper to them and they , unheeding, walk away, with just the shiver of a belief that that tree just made them feel rooted, happy, loved.
If you need help to recognise the variety of trees around you, can I suggest the Woodland Trust’s guide to trees? And for a beginner’s guide to Forest Bathing, the National Trust website has advice that can be applied to small, as well as large, copses of trees.
Ready to Bathe in Nature?
There are several books on time spent in and around Nature that I have found useful. Here’s my top recommendations.
Explore Nature seasonally, and spend time inside and out to create a life where nature nurtures you.
Think Like a Tree: The Natural Principles Guide to Life by Sarah Spencer.
Using trees to think more consciously: Because trees are so grounded, and we as humans seek to be, this book is a great way to slow down and make like a tree, seeing the big picture, seeking to be rooted and making decisions that will not negatively impact the environment.
If Women Rose Rooted: A Life changing Journey to Authenticity and Belonging by Sharon Blackie.
What would happen if we women, who are tied so closely to the landscape in which we live, had power to change the world? There’s been a lot of talk about how Coronavirus has changed society, about how the future will by necessity be different: how about thinking ahead and planning what your post-covid world will look like? Sharon Blackie blends mythology and her own personal story to encourage us to find our own mythology and to live it everyday.
Rewild Yourself: 23 Spellbinding Ways to Make Nature More Visible by Simon Barnes.
No, not a proper magic book, but a book about taking the time to make nature reappear. Time, sitting, looking…. And discovering that Nature is all around. You just need, rather like a magic eye picture, to refocus and see what’s right beneath your feet.
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