Yesterday I walked through the wood behind my house. I’m not even sure what this particular wood is called, it’s tucked on a ridge between rows of suburban streets and you have to know its there to access it. It is usually a peaceful, quiet place but yesterday I was struck by how noisy the birds were in this new world. Their song was loud and joyful. I felt joyous listening to them. I felt joyous to share it with my family in this little pocket of time we have together that we could not have anticipated a few months ago.
We have never met people there when we’ve walked in it before but yesterday we met two different parties of people – a family group and a couple out with their dog. We scrambled up the banks so we could preserve the social distance, exchanging smiles and words of thanks. On the way back down the road we met a neighbour, J, and her partner. They were dressed in proper walking hats and clothes, as if they had been out exploring the Lakes or some peak somewhere. We found some local shops that we never knew were there, only a couple of roads away from where we live.
There is so much I like about this new world I inhabit: people appreciating the place where they live; the sounds of nature that no longer fight for a voice above the traffic; the sense of a local community who care about each other; the sense of being inter-connected as if all of humanity is beginning to wake up to itself as a single global organism inter-dependent with self and nature. Of course, some of this is illusory, and all of it is driven by my personal perspective as a middle-class white woman secure in her bubble in suburban Bristol. I know that not everyone is experiencing the current circumstances the way I do, there is instability, insecurity, hardship, fear, loneliness, isolation for so many others. I know that and experiencing it now highlights both my sense of gratitude for my own circumstances and my sense of injustice that the world is such an unequal place.
Even so, I still remain hopeful for the future: that there will be a vaccine; that we will change as a result of the lessons we learn from this time; that perhaps it will even herald a change in the way we live; that we have begin to value the extraordinary things that ordinary people do; that we do something about the social inequalities that are exposed now more than ever; that we can re-imagine how we live in relation to the natural and cultural worlds we inhabit.
For most of us, our circle of influence is small. It is, therefore, helpful to focus on the things we can do, the changes we want to make in our lives. When we are on lockdown, surrounded by uncertainty, it can seem impossible to imagine a future, impossible to know what steps we could begin to take. Today, I thought I would offer a small suggestion: sow some seeds for the future if you can. Real, actual seeds. In your garden if you have one. Or in a pot on your windowsill.
If it’s impossible to get hold of seeds from a shop or online right now, ask your neighbour or post in your local facebook group – people are being extraordinarily generous out there right now, willing to share their surplus seeds and other garden stuff (compost, straw, knowledge etc) with those who don’t have any. Google on the internet for ideas to make use of what you’ve got or what you can get hold of – I’ve grown whole new plants from supermarket cuttings of mint and basil before, just by putting them in a glass of water for a week. One this even happened to me by accident! Tend your seeds and cuttings and nurture any new life that appears, look after it and look forward to a future with it. Whatever else happens, Summer will come, in some shape or form. Planting something now, can help us to retain a sense of optimism and hope for the future.
Take a look at this clip from CU Botanic Garden. They are running an online series supporting people to learn how to grow things, it’s a great place to start if you’ve never grown anything before.