Walking through the supermarket the other day, I heard someone say to a reacquainted friend, “And how was your lockdown?” It seemed such an odd thing, rather like asking how someone’s Christmas was, and yet, as people emerge from their homes and meet others again, it is perfectly natural to ask how they have fared during this extraordinary and unprecedented time.
It also chimed with my own thoughts about these last few weeks. At the beginning of March I started writing Morning Pages, a daily writing exercise created by Julia Cameron in her book “The Artist’s Way”. It inadvertently became a daily record of the events of the period, my response to it, helping me cope with the worry of the daily news and fears for my mum who was in isolation on the other side of the country. It also became a nature journal, noting down what I saw in the garden, charting its progress and recording the visitors and the succession of Spring flowers. And now, as the slow shift to the normality begins, I have been thinking back on these days.
Available as a print and as a card in my shop
Nature has flourished and has been allowed to breathe and enjoy the space with less human activity. I live in the centre of the small market town of Diss. There is a constant drone of noise, of traffic, of people going about their lives and what has been most noticeable has been the difference when this background hum is taken away. If there is one thing that defines this period for me it is the birdsong. The air seemed full of their full throated joy: the Robin, the Blackbird and the Blackcap all sang with such apparent abandon. It seemed so poignant and precious and such a welcome respite amidst all of the daily news bulletins. One morning I arose at 4.30 to listen to the dawn chorus. I walked down the garden, and sat on the bench, and listened as the light lifted bringing with it the most incredible intense sound. Not only were there the usual garden birds but also the geese, who are resident in the park gardens across the water, who joined in, honking in their own riotous fashion and this made me smile at their eagerness to join in.
Dawn Chorus, May 2020
I have seen comments in the press that lockdown has been like returning to the 1970’s and I realised that this period of my childhood, although spent in very urban Wolverhampton, was indeed much quieter and the back garden had been full of sparrows and starlings, and a mistle thrush too, who had been a favourite visitor. Indeed these days had been like returning to those long summer holidays, where time too had felt suspended.
It has also been an opportunity to slow down, pause and reassess. For the first couple of weeks, like many, I was unable to work on my art at all. My concentration went and instead I worked on the garden with fervour, conquering patches that had been neglected for years. It was a very effective and therapeutic way to push away the worries of what was happening. There is something about gardening that seems to remove other thoughts, and I was very grateful for it.