A lot has been written about the solace of nature during uncertain times. But as I picked my way along the coastal path each day, I began to understand that going outside offered me something else as well: a new way of looking at the worldby Cal Flyn / July 14, 2020 / Leave a comment
At the beginning of lockdown, I heard a lot of discussion about the “new normal”: what everyday life might look like after all this was over. Sometimes predictions were practical—we’d choose barbecues over dinner parties, classrooms would be half empty—but more often, the phrase invoked some utopian ideal.
Some spoke of lockdown as a kind of corrective. We couldn’t have gone on the way we had before, the argument went: our globe-trotting, fuel-guzzling existence saw us visiting too many people and doing too many things, exhausting ourselves and polluting the world as we did so. Might a period of isolation and local living force us to take stock of our lives and pare back?
My initial reaction was scepticism: could we really expect to emerge from a pandemic (and the resultant economic downturn) happier and better rested? That gloomy attitude followed me through the next few weeks as I swung back and forth between obsessively reading the news on my phone to ignoring it completely.
A lot has been written about the solace of nature, and I’ve always understood those consolations as ones of escapism. Switch off your phone, forget your cares. But as I picked my way along the coastal path each day, I began to understand that going outside offered me something else as well: a new way of looking at the world. I found myself reframing current events according to what I saw around me.
Every day, the sun rose a little earlier, and a little higher. A new flower opened. Gradually, winter’s dun landscape was transformed, blade by blade, bud by bud. As chicks hatched from eggs, every crack in every drystone wall was noisy with their demands—a chattering from all directions. Dandelions shone like gold coins, closed, metamorphosed, then reopened as clocks, shedding seed into the wind like snow. The caterpillars sealed themselves away in chrysalises and cocoons, dissolved and reformed as butterflies and moths.
In a bowl in my kitchen, I kept a dozen tadpoles in water from a lily pond in the hill above my house. Over a period of weeks I saw them swell, grow fat and heavy-lidded. I…