After an initial surge of adrenaline to meet the challenges of coronavirus and life under lockdown, we may feel as though we are running on fumes, while also trying to look to the future. Like the summer wildflowers, a wave of adaptation and creativity is now behind us, and we may not yet know how we will muster ourselves to begin again. One of the difficulties is that what lies ahead may seem hazy. So even as our energies dwindle, our ever-ready minds attempt to match the myriad possibilities, creating scenario after scenario, problem-solving in advance.
But summer is the season to pause. It’s a time to take stock, reflect back on time passed, make an honest accounting of our energies, rest, switch modes. This summer, more so than others, we must build ourselves back up.
And what better way to do it than by looking to nature, in the time ahead? In the last five years, a million people have participated in the Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild campaign, which encourages daily connection with nature in ‘random acts of wildness’ throughout June. Half a million are thought to have signed up to this year’s campaign, and a study at the University of Derby found that people still experience positive effects on their health and happiness two months after taking part. Participants get up early to watch the sunrise, walk barefoot in a park, collect pine cones, or follow a bee on its journey.
You may well have your own way of connecting with wild things in the summer: wild swimming, growing tomatoes in a window-box, counting species in your garden, or pressing wild flowers. At this time of year, nature presents itself unexpectedly. Spending time with wild things – such as an exuberant buttercup in the gravel outside your flat – is a way to cut through the blurry boundaries between work and home that may have sprung up with remote working. You might have found that you send emails from the same spot in the living-room where you watch Netflix; you take work calls as you make tea for the kids; your partner sits in the corner trying not to breathe as you wrap up a tight deadline. Whether your summer holiday is in sight, or you’re still soaking up your weekends, we will need to demarcate work, play, and rest this summer, so that we can really play and rest – because it’s these that will build us up.
So go and sit in a sunny patch somewhere this week, and open your senses: the sound of birdsong, the colours of the summer, the feel of grass, or sand on the beach. If you like, you could take some earphones and do a mindfulness practice outdoors.