Nature | Helping you through the chaos since the dawn of time
Wow. What a year so far! Well, January and February didn't have much to write home about. Or they may have- but it seems that anything else in recent memory has been wiped out by the situation we find ourselves in right now. Of course I am talking about Covid 19. Like all of my other posts, this is a stream of consciousness, not a carefully curated collection of research articles, advice or tips, just some things I have discovered that are helping me, and that I hope will make you laugh, roll your eyes or just think a little.
*I make some suggestions about things you could do to help but please always stick to the current government advice and restrictions around Coronavirus and social distancing.*
What a roller coaster of human reaction we are on. When the news began to consist solely of the virus, did you notice the difference in our emotions and actions and how quickly they could change? I did. Amongst friends and family and within myself, I noticed fear, complacency, denial, anxiety, rebellion, excitement, boredom, conformity... finally settling into a kind of constant state of confusion as we 'got used' to this new way of living (not that we have totally of course). We threw ourselves into 'do' mode. Aside from worrying about our elderly or vulnerable friends and relatives, that first week was filled with working out the logistics of working from home, worrying about our livelihoods if self employed or running a business, setting up whole new systems for getting 'online' with whatever it is you do, being bombarded with 'virtual this' and 'virtual that'. We stocked up on crafting materials, educational resources for 'home schooling', seeds to plant for when the apocalypse happened 'good and proper' and we needed to adopt 'the good life'. We worried about entertaining our toddlers (well I did!) and how the lack of social interaction might affect our children. We signed up to new forums and social media groups to update us on the virus. We set up 'zoom' parties to connect with our friends and families and braced ourselves for the impending situation. I am not for second saying that these things are bad- it is just my observation of human behaviour and I am sure there are many reasons for the way we act in the face of adversity- but that is for another day. Maybe not bad as such, but I for one found this tiring and stressful.
*Disclaimer* This photo IS NOT representative of our lives every day! This was the only peaceful moment after a meltdown because I wouldn't let her eat mud, nearly falling off the step and having an argument with my husband who was taking the picture because 'I've got twelve chins' - not something he can help to be fair and another disadvantage of being locked in with a cupboard full of food. Anyway...
I'm not sure about you but despite having to stay at home, I am finding more and more time to watch nature flourish. Having a dog has helped tremendously as she needs to be walked every day of course. We head to our local woods and 'heath land' area which is a 20 minute walk away. If you have small children, I'm sure you can relate that going on walks with them can be difficult- either too heavy for the carrier or legs too little to walk any distance. Because of this we have found some local walks where we can push the pram, or if you are lucky like me and can leave the toddler at home with a partner, perhaps do that every now and then! Of course one of the best things about nature is watching children learn from it and seeing the awe and excitement in their faces when they spot something new. Some of the best walks I have had during this time have literally been around our small neighbourhood- finding snails, ants and woodlice to name but a few of the interesting species on our doorstep. If you don't have a garden, and green space is not accessible, look out of the window and count how many birds you and your little ones see in a set time. You could make up a story about them? I couldn't believe my eyes a few days ago when 6 Buzzards and a Red Kite were circling above the garden! Buzzards are a common sight in our area but the Red Kite's come back from near extinction is definitely an exciting breakthrough.
Spring is springing
When I have managed to get out for some me time, the first thing I really noticed was the sky. Not a vapour trail in sight. The thought of our healing planet is comforting. Just standing with no people around, up on the top of a hill, feeling the sky around me, listening to nothing but the birds helped to calm and relax me no end. Something I have noticed even more this year is spring flourishing. We have a small cherry tree in a pot in our garden and in previous years I would have looked out of the window and said 'oh, the cherry tree has blossomed!' once it had already begun to go past its best. I was too caught up in the business of every day life to have noticed this beautiful process and the wildlife this little tree attracts. On a warm day, it is covered in bee's of all kinds. On Easter Saturday, a very large bumble bee (I am not sure on the variety as it was very black so difficult to tell, I am sure someone could tell me below!?) settled for longer than I thought was normal in the crook of a bunch of blossom. I was concerned that he hadn't moved for around an hour but he appeared unharmed. I left him to it and then the next time I looked, he had gone. Just a rest, it seems, as the temperature dropped at the end a busy day collecting pollen.
Nature photography- a gateway hobby
Many years ago, when I was around 20, I picked up a camera (properly) for the first time. I kept it in my car with me all of the time in the hope that I would capture some interesting wildlife shots. I used to practice on crows- moving the shutter speed and aperture accordingly to get the most crisp shot I could and then zooming right in on the photo on the back of the camera to study my subjects form. Every feather, the way the light sat and glistened on each barb before darkening as it joined the quill. One day I was driving down an old tractor lane when I spotted a bird sat in the middle, on that grassy bump that runs between the tyres. It was mantling, spreading its wings out in a hunched position around something on the ground. As I came to a halt and carefully opened my door, resting my camera in the 'V' between door and car- the perfect tripod, I saw that it was a Sparrowhawk, protecting its
prey, which I noted later was a male Blackbird. It only lifted it's head for a second before continuing to relieve the unlucky victim of its feathers. I was gob smacked, I froze, fired off a LOT of photos, felt a sense of sadness for the Blackbird of course but a complete and overwhelming rush of adrenaline that I can still feel to this day. I was hooked. Of course now I come to find the photo's of this event I can't, you'll just have to believe me! I have been lucky enough to have had many incredible wildlife encounters, from Manatee, and Spoonbill in Florida, to finding wild Golden Eagles in Scotland. Every time, I feel the same rush of awe. I have watched Hare's box, a rare sight now days, and have sat by a river photographing Otters and Beavers in their natural habitat. No matter if rare and exotic, or abundant and native, I feel like a toddler spotting a woodlouse for the first time, every time. I never really look at my photography page anymore, but if you're interested, you can find lots of my older nature shots here.
So how can nature help you?
The reason I am telling you all of this is because I truly believe that nature has the power to ease a number of the stresses that we, as a planet, are going through at the moment, as well as during more settled times. I mean this for adults and children. It may not be a cure to the horrible virus that is at the centre of everything, but it can certainly relieve some of the symptoms of 'lock down' and social isolation. I had just sat down to list a few of the ways that nature can help us, when I saw that the truly brilliant Chris Packham had just released something similar`- find it here if you like! So instead of that, I hoped that by telling you some of my nature stories, you might find some inspiration to get out there (following all current social distancing protocol of course) and let nature help. So here are a few things you could try if you are feeling the pressure.
Utilise your allocated daily exercise if you can. This will mean different things for different people dependant on the space that surrounds you, whether or not you are poorly or self isolating and other factors. If you can't get out for a short walk, sitting in a garden or opening the window and feeling the air on your skin could really help. If you have children, why not make it fun by counting the different species you see and hear or making a wildlife diary?
THINK outside the box. There have been lots of posts on the internet about how many new hobbies people could pick up in lock down. Being a mum to a toddler and working from home- this makes me laugh! Learning wildlife photography and getting out to actually do it may be far from achievable right now, however, reading and writing can take you to places that you couldn't possibly go with our current restrictions in place. I have found it invaluable sitting in the evening when the toddler is in bed and writing about nature. Granted, this is for a project I am working on, but I would recommend letting your imagination run wild and getting pen to paper to free yourself from your four walls. You could think about past nature experiences and delve into them- what could you compare the colour of those Bluebells to? How did the smell make you feel? Our mind can be a magical thing. For your little ones, do the same! I am running a short story competition for primary aged children which you may find useful- full details here. Closing date 17th April.
This one is a bit obscure but hear me out. Why not try to live by the phrase 'there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing'. The sun has been out for the last few weeks. The raised vitamin D levels and the way a warm, dry day makes everything feel slightly more manageable, has really helped with this situation for many. So when- because it will happen- the rain comes and there's a summer chill in the air- how are we going to respond? I find it really hard to get out of bed on a rainy morning as it is, let alone with the concept of not being able to leave the house, but I am going to try my best to stay positive and embrace all weathers! This doesn't mean i'll be outside rain or shine, but i'll make sure there are activities to ease the day's monotony and keep everyone entertained. Even if a few Attenborough documentaries come out- that is more than fine by me!
I hope this has been helpful to you. Although I suspect that not everyone gets as excited about nature and wildlife as I do, I also believe that by spending time in it, learning about it or documenting it can work wonders for our well being. After all, there was a time when humans spent every moment of every day, and night, in the wild and there has to be something to be said for that simpler life.
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