Catching up with a friend for the first time since the pandemic started, our conversation turned to what we've been doing since the last time we got together. Obviously this can be a somewhat limited topic just now, so we inevitably ended up mentioning walking. She said that after a while she had got a bit bored of her local parks, a complaint I have heard a few times recently. She was rather amused by my enthusiasm for taking the same walk every day and chose not to join me on my morning stroll. Unhappily, I have discovered that routine suits me. I don't like it, but there is no getting away from it. I was brought up with a father so afraid of routine that he doesn't really agree with eating the same thing for breakfast two days in a row. I now live with a man at the other end of the breakfast spectrum. Unless we are visiting Manchester, then breakfast is as exactly the same every day. (If you are in Manchester, do check out the full vegan at the Eighth Day Cafe though!)
The thing about nature is that although, of course, it follows a regular cycle through the year, equally nothing stays the same. A flower that is in bud one day is in flower the next, and not long after is a seed pod ready to start the whole process again. Grass grows ever taller and then goes to seed. So my walks are never boring. Even on the darkest, wettest days of winter there is variety, puddles are deeper for jumping in, or frozen, there can be the smallest hints of life from footprints to new shoots. Everything changes, except for the fact that every morning I am there to see it. Of course it's not just nature that I connect to. Although I don't know the name of a single other human in the park in the mornings, I can greet every dog by name, and over the last year I have met more neighbours than I did in the previous 5 years. I know you can find support for anything via a quick internet search but apparently research shows that people who experience nature as part of a daily routine, whatever the type of experience, are more connected to nature and more likely to implement active pro-biodiversity practices. This was a study done on people living in a city too, so not people surrounded by "proper" nature. Routines work.
Yes, I regret this new discovery about myself. That if I go to bed at the same time every day, if I leave my desk at lunchtime, if I take a little bit of exercise, then I function better in all areas of my life. It's not earth shattering but it is life changing. Possibly more so for someone who would much rather take a maverick approach to bedtime and eating.
As a final note, the more I read about "getting back to normal" the more I see the voices of people who are simply not able to, and who perhaps are being forgotten about. I am grateful that I can get out every day, that I have a park within a short walk of where I live, that I can get there at a time that it is relatively quiet, but recently, after a slight mishap with my foot, I have been thinking about other ways to inject some of the park spirit into life indoors. One thing that has been a constant source of joy has been the sunflowers on my windowsill. Not a natural window box plant, you are thinking, and you would be correct. They are not the monsters of the garden I pass en route to the park, but every day, another inch, a swelling bud or a blooming flower. I'm back to standing more at my desk which means I can see the trees and the sky. It's just a small thing, but it really helps.