By Aimee Coates
It’s that time of year again when the woodland floor is awash in a sea of purple-blue. The sight of Bluebells is a sure indicator that spring has come to our Isles and I love to herald its arrival by filling a picnic hamper and disappearing into a Bluebell wood for the afternoon. But this year, I witness spring from through the window. I catch odd snippets of it when I go out for my hour of sanctioned exercise. There is no doubt that this pandemic has changed our relationship with the outdoors and indeed, the natural world at large. Perhaps in the long run, this collective human experience will mean we have more respect for Mother Earth but for now we have to experience nature at a distance.
Over the past few weeks I’ve set myself the challenge of creating extra space for nature, making it more visible within the concrete confines of my home. If I can’t go out and immerse myself in the wild, the wild will have to come to me.
Buying Plants whenever I visit the supermarket
Every time I shop for food and essentials, I make sure to fill my trolley with a few new plants. In the rush to buy loo roll and dried pasta, a lot of people have overlooked the plant shelf and I’ve found lots of plants reduced to clear, albeit in a very sorry state. Nursing them back to health and watching them thrive has been both rewarding and therapeutic. My house plant collection has doubled since lockdown began. My bathroom is full of happy cacti, a tall purple orchid I found for 70p is soaking up the sun in my kitchen, my bookcase is stacked with ivy and ferns and the windowsill in my living room has turned into a mini greenhouse as seeds quietly germinate. Bringing these green friends into my home has made me feel calmer and the simple act of caring for my plants has made me feel less lonely. If buying plants in supermarkets isn’t an option for you Amazon has a really great selection to choose from.
Using screen time in a mindful way
I’m trying to eliminate mindless screen time by channelling it in a more natural and mindful way. I’ve recently discovered the app ‘Candide’ and I must say I’m a little addicted! Advertised for ‘anyone who loves plants’ it contains hundreds of gardening articles, recipes and tips. There is also a plant identification tool and a marketplace feature where you can buy/swap plants. It’s a like an Instagram for flora as you can create a profile, upload pictures and follow people. Discovering a green-fingered community has helped me create a positive online space, away from the hubbub of social media. After an hour or so on ‘Candide’ I feel like I’ve taken a walk through Kew Gardens!
Keeping a nature journal
Disclaimer: I am not an artist. My nature journal will never look like the ones I see on Pinterest, all detailed ink drawings, pressed flowers and speckled eggs strewn around the frame. I’m stripping it right back to good old fashioned pen and paper: I make lists of what I see in the garden and on my daily walk. Which birds wander in, which butterflies have visited? What is appearing in the hedgerow this week? What’s the name of that wildflower? Making lists is helping me to look closer at what’s around me and I’m building an overall picture of how my local area looks during each season.
Listening to Podcasts
I’ve really got into podcasts lately and they’ve made lockdown an enriching experience. If I get a little sick of my usual walking route, I listen to an episode of ‘Ramblings’ and it transports me to a different terrain. In each episode, Clare Balding joins notable and interesting people on different walks through the British countryside; the conversations they have are evocative and steeped in landscape and as I listen, I feel like I’m walking alongside them. Another one of my favourite podcasts is ‘Field Notes.’ Each episode is a thirty minute recording of nature sounds. With titles such as ‘Wind in the Orchard’ and ‘Rain in the Woodshed,’ I make a pot of coffee, pop my earphones in and allow my imagination to drift far away.
Reading nature writing
As I can’t get out for my own adventures, reading other people’s adventures is the next best thing. From the comfort of my armchair, I run through open fields and sail across oceans. Undoubtedly, nature writing is my favourite genre. It has undergone a real renaissance in the last decade and with so many good books to choose from, it’s never been easier to get up, close and personal to the wild. Scientific, lyrical and compelling – nature writing will open your eyes to new ways of seeing; expose to you to entire eco-systems and carry you far away from home whilst you’re staying at home.
Aimée is a writer, mama, and window-box gardener who lives by the sea. When she’s not practising her Sourdough skills or exploring the woods, you’ll find her on Instagram at @littleislandmama