We all know we are living in very strange and uncertain times. For me, it has made me realise even more that the outdoors brings a sense of normality to my life. And I have found myself just lingering so much more on the detail of what is going on around me.
In the past we have taken so much for granted. We assume that we will be able to go and walk up the hills and mountains wherever we want. We assume that we will be free to meet and mix with whomever we want. We have taken the will to do as we please for granted.
However, that all changed when the UK went into Lockdown in March. Initially for 3 weeks, it rolled on for 4-5 months before restrictions were eased. I my case because both my wife and I were classed as high risk we had to totally isolate ourselves.
On a daily basis we were witnessing rising numbers of cases but more tragically, the rising fatalities. We were not allowed to travel or visit friends and family. Having already had pneumonia and a TIA (mini stroke), I felt that if I caught the virus it would be gravely serious.
I was one of the lucky ones, as I was able to work from home between March and August putting in a 9-5 shift 5 days a week. Though that did start to generate ‘Cabin Fever’. Fortunately, there was ‘Hancock’s Half-Hour’, the opportunity to get outside and exercise.
This for many, including me, was the life saver. However, because of my isolation, I had to be ultra-cautious. Going out at 6am to avoid contact with others. Carrying a mask in case I could not socially distance or changing my route to avoid other early risers. I started looking around me more and slowing my pace. I started hearing as well as seeing more.
I had never realised that I had woodpeckers on my doorstep, now I could not only hear them but see them as well. I remember one morning as the sun was rising watching fox cubs playing in a clearing and just seeing the shadow of the Vixen in the near undergrowth.
I was starting to smell the flowers and plants around me and able to enjoy the re-birth of the woodland as we came out of winter into spring and early summer. Experience the sight of a snake warming its body as the suns heat started to engulf the heathlands.
In addition to my walks I was able to spend time finally getting my garden together. We had moved into our bungalow 2 years previously and had focused on getting the interior together, now it was time for the garden.
The acquisition of a greenhouse, numerous pots and the building of raised vegetable beds was a little more than I initially had intended. But it kept me outside and I loved the transition from bare yard to productive and beautiful flower and vegetable garden.
The past 8 months has been a time to take stock of what is important to me. Reassess my priorities in life and consider what the future holds.
The is an old saying that “you only live once” – WRONG – you only die once! Live every day as if it could be your last. Saviour everything and everyone around you, we are all precious. Stop ‘yomping’ over the hills, walk, stop and enjoy.
My mental health benefited from a taking a hour to walk one mile, rather than the usual head down 3-4 miles an hour. Yes, there will be days when I would want to get some miles into your legs. But I did not let this dominate your exercise regime.
I find, I have become more at one with my environment and the flora and fauna that occupies it. I am seeing different colours, hearing different sounds, and experiencing different smells. All of my senses had been reinvigorated. As a result, my mental health has improved dramatically.
On the professional side my work had always taken centre stage. Whether it was during my 30-year RAF career, or the past 15 years in ‘civvy street’. I had intended to work past my retirement age in 2 years’ time. This was now going to have to change!
My wife’s health is not what it used to be, and I want to spend more time with her and be able to help where I can. I want to spend more time outdoors enjoying the newfound experiences I have discovered. I want to spend more time just pottering around my garden.
So, I have reduced my hours to a 3-day week and this will be further reduced over the next 2 years. Work is finally taking second place to me and my family. I can now prioritise my life on what is more important – the things we might lose tomorrow.
So next time you go out walking, remember to stop, look, and listen to what is around you. Think about what is important to you, what are your priorities in life. What do you need to do to make the future better for you and your family?