I ended my last blog with a thought about the COVID19 virus and how something so small could have such a massive impact on society. Neglect Nature at your peril! It has tested us all, in some way or another and my experiences in the natural world at this time have helped me to reflect on the lessons this tiny virus has taught me.
Up until March this year, Zoom and MS Teams weren’t even on my horizon. I could manage Skype of course and I could also FaceTime but never really made anything of it. Now, I suspect, there are more experts on these communication platforms as result of a single, dominant trait of human existence. Our need to for contact.
Early on, I was having a Skype conversation with a friend. I was bugged about the fact that this generation were being compared to the wartime generation in this country. My grandparents’ generation. The Government was using the idea to talk about the sacrifices that we were all expected to make in order to defeat this smallest of enemies and that our ‘heroic’ efforts were similar to that of the generation that stood alone against Hitler in the early years of WW2. To which my immediate response was ‘nonsense!’ Worse still, was the constant reporting, bitching and whining about people flouting the Lockdown rules and mass panic buying and doctored photographs showing people to be closer than they actually were. And I wondered whether or not we had lost something.
I mentioned these thoughts in conversation, talking about the ‘deprivations’ that we had and were expected to endure. My friend instantly piped up, ‘What deprivations?’ I mentioned some of the things we were missing out on. They replied, ‘We still have a home, our immediate family around us, time to spend with them, some of us have gardens, there is still food, we can exercise for an hour a day and no-one is bombing us.’ At first, I agreed with them. Yeah, what deprivations? And then it dawned on me. Our experience of all of those things was completely individual, completely different. It took a flood and a moorhen to set me right.
Late on, in June, the heavens opened above Ilkeston and the town was engulfed in a torrential thunderstorm. Roads turned to rivers, local supermarkets turned to rivers, rivers turned to bigger rivers. You get the idea. It was wet. Houses were flooded (again), wall collapsed and people went about the great clean up – alone. Normally, everyone would have pitched in. Relatives would have come from far and wide to help out. But they couldn’t. Whilst the media was trying to publicly hang Dominic Cummings, ordinary folk were dealing with the consequences of a flood. For many, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Treasured possessions ruined, homes ruined and no-one to share the burden with. The power of Nature had exposed how alone we were all beginning to feel. It had taken away the things that had made a solid foundation for some people and left them bereft.
But it had happened for a great many more people before then.
During my many walks with the dog during Lockdown, I came to know a great deal about a local pond Ilkeston folk know as ‘the beauty spot.’ I watched as two families of Mallards nested, brooded and moved on; I saw huge ‘cloud’ of frogspawn turn into a writhing mass of gold-flecked tadpoles and overnight, disappear. But most traumatic of all, was the story of the ‘terrified Moorhen.’ I say ‘terrified Moorhen’ because it would explode away from the bank of the pond in a flurry of feathers and grating, clucking, caterwauling every time my dog and I appeared on the footpath. Yet, it stayed on the beauty spot nonetheless, eventually attaching its nest to the branches of a hazel tree as it prepared to lay its eggs. I looked every day to see if anything had happened, waiting for the day the Moorhen laid its eggs. And then came the flood.
Days later, I managed to get back down to the pond to see that the nest had gone and there was no sign of the Moorhen or its clutch of eggs. And I can’t believe how sad it made me. Everything about the Moorhen had been completely washed away. Everything except a scattering of twigs that remained attached to the Hazel. I tried to remind myself that this was Nature. It happens. And yet, the flood, like the pandemic, was unprecedented, unexpected and devastating.
Then, a week later, the Moorhen reappeared. A new nest on the same fallen tree the Mallards had used earlier in the year. And… chicks! I couldn’t believe how relieved I felt, how much the little contact I had had with the Moorhen had meant to me.
And there it was… the deprivation that mattered most. Contact. For weeks, people had been unable to see their loved ones. To touch base. To support one another. To love, hug, kiss, chat, have a cup of tea with… and all the million little things that we as human animals NEED.
The Moorhen had shown me resilience and that it was no longer ‘terrified.’
Maslow presented us with his theory for human behavioural motivation - a ‘hierarchy of needs’ - in 1943 and it postulated a series of ‘needs’ that we as humans strive for. At the base are the physiological needs – security, safety, a solid foundation – from there we acquire further motivational ‘needs’ that enable us to evolve and achieve, ultimately, ‘self-actualisation.’ In later years, this has been largely adopted by many organisations beyond the psychotherapy world and has also been widely disputed. What the Moorhen taught me was that even though it initially had a base, it could be ‘terrified.’ And when everything had been washed away, its foundations gone, it’s imperative to provide for it’s young family, to nurture them and enable them to thrive overrode its ‘terror’ and the deprivations it faced. The need for connection gave it power.
Now, as I see footage of families re-uniting after weeks of virtual or no contact, I am reminded of that Moorhen and its fight for survival. Many, many people have lost work and their income in the past few weeks but they have found strength in the connections they have made with others. It is that, that has kept people going through Lockdown.
For many, depriving them of those connections has been incredibly hard. They have suffered physically and mentally and it has taken its toll. The legacy of Lockdown will be about how we all deal with this lesson and how we help those people with no real connections, who may be lost and alone in this world. Many of us have experienced a small glimpse of what that could be like and it is crucial that we reach out to people who do not have those connections that sustain us all.
At NatureWise, we like to draw lessons from the natural world and help people to experience their connection to a wider world. We offer a social nature connection experience, enabling people to meet together on neutral ground, shed of their ‘secure foundations,’ to realise a much greater truth: we are stronger together than we are alone. And we all NEED connection.