Hello. I am Laura, 40-something Derbyshire-based single-parent. Like many of you, I am staying at home, working and trying to home-school. How are you finding it?
As I write we have just completed week 6 of lockdown. How strange that it has gone so quickly, and yet felt so long. When it began, and schools closed, I wrote a timetable for schoolwork. It lasted a couple of days before being re-written as a much shorter ‘school day’.
Juggling work and schooling is tricky. The best thing I have done is to accept that I am not superwoman. I am not a teacher. I am not a super-efficient multi-tasker. I am just doing the best I can in difficult circumstances. Now we aim for a few school tasks a day, and for me a realistic few of items from my work to-do list. Keeping occupied has become harder as the weeks have progressed. We have painted rainbows, crafted, baked (I have never been so grateful for half a bag of plain flour left on the doorstep by a passing relative on his daily exercise), played board games, painted rocks and planted flowers, read books, had cinema nights and had plenty of screen time. We have an activities lucky-dip jar for times when we really don’t know what to do. Sometimes I have just sat and done nothing other than look out of the window whilst drinking yet another coffee.
What has helped us most, is exploring nature near to home. Our village is close to a cycling trail, fishing ponds, woodlands and footpaths through open fields. I know that we are fortunate in this, and to my embarrassment haven’t fully explored and appreciated this until now - we are usually out exploring further from home at any opportunity. We have also walked residential streets that we haven’t really noticed until now. How easy it is to take your home area for granted when further from home is, for the most part, easily accessible.
As Springtime has slowly unfurled, we have taken nature handbooks out to identify new leaves, insects and birds. The birdsong has seemed louder - or is it just that we have slowed down and now pay it more attention? It has been a joy to watch the blackbird fledglings in our garden gain their confidence and stretch their wings. One is growing bolder than the other. There are now finches visiting our garden, or perhaps previously we just missed them because we were out. For the first time we have seen a dusky pink blue-winged Jay in the woodlands, and a single bounding squirrel where previously we thought there were none.
I always take photos and video for a journal. I have been documenting the changes to the environment, checking the trees and woodland patches each time we pass. I waited 5 days for a patch of bluebells to blossom before I got the shot I wanted, but became more aware of the passage of time for nature. Viewed day by day, change seems slow, but when we have had a few days in-between visiting a particular spot Spring will have seemed to be galloping along.
I have tried, and failed, on many occasions to take a decent photo of the crane that frequents the ponds. It strikes a pose, and then moves or flies away the moment I hit the shutter button. We have for the first time spotted giant common carp and an orange fish (ornamental carp maybe) in the ponds, as we sat to watch the coots and moorhens jostle for territory.
Being more mindful on our walks, we have realised how nature is everywhere we go. There are blossoming trees in so many gardens. First to flower is the highly fragrant Magnolia whose blooms seem short-lived. Next the wonderful cherry blossom, which loudly declares that spring has arrived. And right on time for May, the Hawthorn trees are opening their petals.
We have found forget-me-nots and white bluebells growing through the pavement. Close inspection of plants in urban spaces usually reveals bugs. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but some can be quite beautiful (or at least interesting) - bumble bees, ladybirds and shieldbugs.
There is growing evidence that time outdoors and in nature is good for mental health. Look for wildflowers appearing on grass verges, adding a splash of colour to the streets. How many types of moss and lichen can you spot on a wall or tree? The plain brown house sparrow is in decline, appreciate it while you can. The current health emergency we are in is always there in the back of my mind when we are out (I get a rise of anxiety when people walk too close to us - back away folks). But taking the time to immerse in our natural environment, and find nature in the most unexpected places has made this crisis a bit more bearable.
Look out for nature, and for each other.
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