For a long time I was a city dweller, with a daily commute and a landscape that was largely concrete, and while I enjoyed my job and spent time with my friends – my mental health suffered. I didn’t always know why. I assumed stress and modern living. It wasn’t until I moved to Swallowtail Hill that I realised.
While surrounded by buildings and traffic and crowds it’s much harder to notice the seasons around us. Broadly the weather informs us as to the time of year, we have to look harder for changes in nature because there is so little of it around us. It’s more difficult to see the subtle changes of light through the year when the night skies in towns are never truly dark, harder still to notice the shift in scent of the air when the air is clogged full of city pollutants. And that dulling of my senses dulled my ability to find contentment too. By contrast here in the Sussex high weald, the incremental changes of each season are noticeable day by day and this sense of being part of something greater, something ever changing – is balm to my soul.
At this time of year when the days are still short – it’s possible to see the light returning, almost moment by moment if you look hard enough. That is something very precious, as the long nights and short days weigh heavy on me in the winter. Anyway, that’s a long way of saying that if, like me, you know you need nature to keep you connected to the world and to lift your spirits – I would urge you to keep a nature diary of sorts. Doesn’t have to be something formal – personally I don’t have the time or the talent to write a daily log of my findings and illustrate them with a beautiful watercolour (although the romantic in me would love to be able to do this!). I might take a photo on my phone, I might make a note in my daily planner – but more often I simply take a moment each day on my walk to consciously notice something – a change, however small, frost on a gatepost, dew on spiderwebs, buds forming in the hedgerow, moss changing colour, leaves unfurling. My ‘diary’ is most often just that moment – a pause. A moment to wonder and feel grateful. It really helps.