My family and other animals – what I’ll miss most about lockdown
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Living life in lockdown has given James Marston a new appreciation of nature
A friend wrote to me this week to tell me, after several weeks of study, she can now identify the song thrush, robin, blackbird and chaffinch – just from her daily walks along the hedgerows of Suffolk.
And I have discovered, thanks to living near some woods, the sounds not just of the morning chorus – which is wonderful – but also the sounds of wildlife and birdsong at dusk. It is really one of those magical times, and with the quiet that we are all now used to, I’m beginning to wonder that the noise of everyday life – when it eventually returns – is going to be a bit of an assault on the senses.
Somehow, during this lockdown of annoyance and acceptance, depression and delight, I can’t help thinking how lucky many of us are to live in the countryside, and how much we have probably enjoyed our gardens and exploring our neighbourhood on foot.
As I write can hear wood pigeons cooing, and what I suspect is a song thrush, cuckoo calling in the gardens of the rectory, later I will hear the tawny owl as I lie in bed.
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But the other evening, as I took a stroll with a friend by some woods nearby as the sun was fading and the gloaming just begun, I heard beside me the strangest of noises. A sort of sniffling and rustling as if something was rummaging in the undergrowth.
In fact we could see the undergrowth moving before we spotted the cause. We stood stock still and conversation died.
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After a few moments an animal appeared, a badger, I think a fairly young one.
Once I spotted it my friend and I were transfixed and it was like time stopped for a moment as we watched, too afraid to move in case the slightest of noises alerted the badger to our presence and the spell would be broken.
As the badger ambled about, foraged and groomed itself, only a cuckoo broke the silence. And just moments after he, though that is an assumption, went back into his underground home, another appeared, again oblivious to our presence. It was an extraordinary evening, and one that lifted the mood. A chance sighting of an elusive animal notoriously tricky to spot.
I couldn’t help thinking that without the lockdown I would not be walking in the countryside at dusk with my friend, we may not have had this experience at all, and nor, perhaps, would my friend have learnt to identify bird song.
I could have written today at my increasing anger at our leaders, or my annoyance at the latest on the debacle surrounding political mandarins or the squabbles over what to do next, or indeed, my deep fears over the erosion of our liberties – but today I woke up thinking that this time, this time of silence, of reflection and of being rather than doing, will almost certainly never come again – save a stint in a monastery – and that for many of us this time of silence is perhaps a time of gifts too. It was a gift to see a badger in the wild, a gift to be able to hear the world around us we usually don’t hear, it was a gift to pay attention to things we so often ignore.
The future is hard to predict, and much is made of a new normal – it seems to me by people who like rather too much telling others what to think and do – but experience has shown me that often in hardship the human condition is to hold onto the moments of joy.
In those woods that Friday night I made a memory – a good one – that will last forever.
And despite the hardships to follow, the pain of the conditions under which we find ourselves, I can’t help thinking that when this time is passed we might look back with not just horror but some fondness at some aspects of these last few weeks.
We might miss the quiet, the time we have had with family and the time we have had with nature. We might miss simply having time.
What do you think? Have you made special memories in lockdown? What might you miss? Write to James at firstname.lastname@example.org