The joy of being in wild spaces, surrounded by creatures and plants has long been my way to recharge and slow down. Living in a city, this requires travelling to one of many green spaces within the city boundaries or taking a bus out to the wilderness beyond. Suddenly, we find ourselves in a world where these simple things are not available... by RSPB Project Manager, Bethan Jones.
At first it seemed that my connection to nature would need to be on hold until it was possible to be amongst it again and I wondered what this would mean. Unexpectedly, in the midst of emotion over the past few weeks I feel heartened that I am slowly beginning to find new ways to experience that connectedness to the natural world from within my small space, high in an Edinburgh flat.
Taking in views has always been a pastime of mine, something I associate with being in a place of particular beauty - whether it was up a mountain, a park or a cityscape. ‘Looking out’ has mostly been about the view, the subject - as I am sure it is for others. We go places so that we can admire it, take photos, selfies, or maybe even be inspired to paint. I have begun to contemplate this action of looking out and what it means to me during this time when those beautiful landscapes are not accessible. I have found myself drawn to being by my windows, even though the view is mostly rooftops and the grey stone walls of Edinburgh tenements.
I have now set up a chair at my window and re-arranged some houseplants around it. In my window oasis I drink my tea, take a break from work, and generally just be still even when my news feed and thoughts might not be. Over the last week I have seen the clouds drifting, evening mist swirling, horizontal rain lit up by streetlamps and the moon gazing down at us. The occasional seagull has effortlessly circled above, landing on a chimney pot. I wonder what they feel as they survey the rooftops beyond the few streets I can see, sometimes in complete stillness.
Looking out has now taken on a different meaning for me, and I have been appreciating and absorbing all that I can see in more detail - noticing how this brings me some calm and a deep gratitude. I can use my time at the window to breathe deeply, slowly. Opening up the window I can feel the new spring breeze, bringing the outdoors in and washing through the room and my mind. I imagine I can smell the spring bulbs opening up in the distant parks.
I know that the rain that dusts my window and the fog that covers the streets below is the same as the still mists in Abernethy forest, or the waves that beat the Islay shores.Through nature, all of these places that we hold close are all connected and this brings me comfort.
I have noticed a lot of other neighbours gazing out of their windows too and I know that we are aware of each other’s presence. Something that I would usually feel embarrassed or awkward about, instead feels like a new silent hobby we can share and be connected by.
As well as enjoying the scale and openness of a breezy window view, I have also found solace in the small details of the natural things around me. I am grateful to have houseplants and seeds growing on my windowsill and I am noticing more about their appearance and growth than I think I would otherwise. Normally outdoors I would take time to look carefully at lichens and mosses, getting up close to see their fine textures and colours. I can still practice this indoors with those plants often overlooked.
Seeing the morning sunshine through their leaves, noticing leaf veins, the varying colours and new growth sprouting up light green. I notice the difference in the leaves before and after watering, and the way each plant responds to the direction of sunlight, opening and growing towards the light. A basil plant takes pride of place and fills the living room with its scent as the sun streams in. That heady smell takes me to long evenings spent with friends sharing food and I am reminded to text them and check in. I feel amazed at how a small green plant can bring so many memories and feelings to mind all at once.
Through my work I often contemplate what nature means to people - the endless network of dependencies and the emotional and cultural connections to places and species. Right now, these connections feel stronger than ever for me, like an anchor to my resolve and hope. I will continue to watch sparrows darting around the few hedges I can see below as I do the washing up, and magpies taking twigs to their nests. Some of those moments I will keep to myself, and some I will share with loved ones distant or present - knowing that we are all equally connected through this beautiful web called life.
Thank you for sharing this Bethan, such an emotive account that I'm sure a great many of us can relate too. During these turbulent times, we appreciate the longing to be outdoors now more than ever. In the past, we've all found our own ways to connect with nature - this usually involved taking a trip to our local parks, reserves or simply enjoying it on our daily commutes or gardens. Now, as we're all too aware, these simple moments have become a luxury non-essential that we all took for granted. So, with this in mind...
We loved receiving Bethan's blog, this sort of personal insight is exactly what the world needs right now and we hope you'll share your own experiences with us too. We're all in this together, so let's inspire others with news on how we're managing to keep our connection to the natural world alive as we all adjust to our 'new norm', and let's share creative ideas and tips to pass the time too. Please send your stories and accompanying images to: firstname.lastname@example.org - we look forward to hearing from you soon, and don't forget to take part in our #BreakfastBirdwatch - more on this here.
Photo credit: Bethan Jones
We spend 90% of net income on conservation, public education and advocacy
The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International. Find out more about the partnership
© The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654