How nature’s helped my Coronavirus recovery

Janet Packham - Janet Packham Photography

Two weeks ago, I was enjoying a much-needed break from work - a chance to recharge after a tough few weeks in my personal life. I was starting to breathe easier and unknot the anxiety in my chest. But then I fell ill with suspected coronavirus, although without testing there is no way to know for sure.

I was hoping to reset and get back to work, and now I find myself having to adjust to a whole new normal whilst recovering from the virus. As someone who works outside every day, in all weathers, being confined to a house is not something that sits easily with me. So, I’ve had to find ways to connect with the natural world and all it can offer to keep my mental health on track whilst allowing my body to repair itself.

When I was in the worst days of the illness, I couldn’t do much more than look out of the window and watch the clouds rush past or listen to the rain hitting the glass on stormy days. Even this small reminder that the world was still turning helped me feel some sort of normality through the fog of fever and coughing. As I started to feel a little better, I took myself into the garden and realised that the natural world was waking up and signs of spring were abundant. When I first ventured outdoors my eyes were instantly drawn to tadpoles wriggling free of the confines of their frog spawn into the big wide world of the garden pond. Then, looking up, I saw a butterfly resting on a tree branch - the first comma I have seen this year! I had forgotten that time was still ticking on, and my soul felt instantly soothed by the sights and sounds around me. The first chiffchaff of the year singing from a nearby tree; sparrows with nest materials in their beaks flitting in and out of the shrubs; the song of skylark floating in on the air from nearby fields.

As recovery began to shout louder than the illness, I’ve started to try to build some semblance of routine back into my day. With the glorious weather we have been sent this week my mornings have begun with hands wrapped round a mug of coffee on a step in the garden, with forget-me-nots brushing my feet, feeling the rising sun warm my face and listening to the building dawn chorus. The robin and wren vying for the loudest morning broadcast; a charm of goldfinch chattering away; a green woodpecker laughing in the distance and sparrows adding their chirping conversations to the choir. I’ve seen a sparrowhawk silhouetted against the bright blue sky, and the past few days been greeted by a scarlet tiger moth caterpillar who has taken up residence in the garden. Mornings have always held a certain magic for me, and it has never been more important to check in with what feeds you and walk towards it in whatever way you can.

In this challenging time these reminders of the continuity of nature are soul food for a broken system. The loneliness many people are feeling is, in part, a product of the isolation and disconnection we humans have built into our collective psyche, and the separation we often feel from the natural world. We are part of the chorus of birds, the flutter of butterflies, the rising of new shoots from the earth. The more-than-human world cannot, and will not, be locked down; spring cannot be cancelled.