Wednesday was Earth Day, fifty years of celebrating the earth. Started by Senator Gaylord Nelson who was concerned about the deteriorating environment in the United States, it is now marked globally and said to be the largest secular observation in the world. There is no doubt that the conversation around our use of the earth and its resources has become a mainstream topic in the past few years, and this celebration of the earth is a fantastic way to further that conversation. However, it is also a lovely opportunity to just celebrate the planet we call home and the many wonders it beholds. The fact that my mother shares this date with the earth means a lot to me. I love that we celebrate the earth as we also celebrate her life and the memory of her, as she was always very connected to nature and indeed, it is from her that I learned my love of all things natural.
With the current global pandemic, we are all being asked to stay at home, or else very close to home. There have been reports of jellyfish in the canals in Venice, of turtles hatching on beaches in Thailand that hadn’t done so in years, and of pollution clouds lifting over cities. Clearly, as we have all made our worlds a little smaller, the wider world is getting a break from the incessant use by humans that takes little regard of the millions of other species with whom we share this planet.
I recently moved into a new home in the countryside, yet found myself heading off to my old stomping grounds to meet friends, and to swim or visit the woods. Having to stay within 2 kilometres of home for exercise purposes has opened my eyes to the beauty and bounty of nature that surrounds me here. Yes, I miss my dips in the sea, but I have found a lake in the woods that is serene and clean, a blessing right now. Lying there listening to birdsong, with the magnificent broadleaf and conifer trees towering behind and the hills and rolling fields across the shore, is simply glorious. I will always be drawn to the sea but I am so grateful to have found this other body of water, to keep me cool in the warm weather and to clear my head of isolation and grief.
Closer still to home, sitting in the garden, I find myself noticing the blossoming of the blackthorn, how one side of the garden flowered before the other. I am aware today that most of the first dandelions have now turned to seed, the intricate design of their perfect spherical form and the way in which the seeds and their puff sit alongside each other is mesmerising. The growth from one bud of the horse chestnut tree is nearly two feet and carries tens of new leaves. The holly buds are pink yet the flowers are white when they open. The nettle stems are purple and green, and the leaves grow opposite each other in pairs, alternating 90 degrees with each pairing. Each day my eyes are opened to new wonders and I delight in the joy these discoveries bring.
This time of pause has been a gift to us all, an opportunity to really connect with the areas where we live. So take the opportunity to pause and engage with the place where you stand.
There is a whole world at our feet, and if we truly open our eyes to all that surrounds us we will suddenly find ourselves in a whole new world, one that we might not have had the time to take in and appreciate fully before. But one that can sustain us and bring us joy, if we just stop and be for a moment.