22nd April 2020
We are living through strange times. As the UK government has instructed us to stay at home to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus, I have been spending much more time than usual in my garden. We only leave for local exercise, or to collect essential supplies.
What I have found myself doing, is spending time deepening a very tentative practice of contemplative prayer, and grounding myself in the now, becoming aware of the moment, as my senses bring it to me. So, despite all the truly tragic things going on for so many people, these “now”s are a close attention to the spring. In response, I am jotting down impressions in my notebook, and sharing them with you here, in the hope that, whatever circumstances you may find yourself in, these notes from the garden, or the house, will help you too, and feed your mind and heart. I expect it will change as the lockdown progresses, and perhaps will keep some kind of record. It is more obvious than ever that we don’t know the future, but we can know now.
“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work,” wrote Mary Oliver.
Someone said that we may all be in the same storm, but we are not in the same boat. I hope that I can rig up a line with these poems, to help us pass over supplies to one another, or connection, or a glimpse of the spring.
I call them poems, but I don’t know if they qualify. They are rough, and spontaneous, and a record of these strange and lengthening days. Some of them may turn out to be early drafts of something more considered, more effective, but I hope that by sharing them in the raw, we’ll be able to journey together through this time.
So, here is the garden gate, and a bench to sit on, and sunshine, and birdsong. Take a moment of peace here with me.
I am absolutely delighted that one of these poems was featured on BBC Radio 3’s The Verb on Friday 15th May at 22:00 BST. You can catch up with the programme following the link above. The programme is called Birdsong, and my contribution is just over 20 minutes in. I would recommend starting at the beginning, though, as there’s a beautiful section on nightingales. They discuss how our relationship to birdsong is being changed by the lockdown, and how people are rediscovering a deep connection with their places through listening. I am so pleased to be able to participate in this shared, solitary experience of listening to the birds, to the song of the world. The programme will be available to listen to on iPlayer after broadcast, too.