I started today at 5.30am with my five-year old crawling into bed with us, proceeded by endless wriggles and kicks in the ribs until the alarm (mercifully) went off an hour later and the other two smalls joined us.
My day continued with a sore throat (me), one tantrum (aforementioned five-year old), two school runs, forgetting to put the bins out (also me), two lots of sad news, the builders in, still drilling that hole in the wall, an additional run back to school for forgotten kit and then work.
What was remarkable about today is that it is rather unremarkable. In other words, today, life happened, as usual. If you ask me about my life and whether I am happy, my response will always be a resounding ‘yes’. I am forever mindful of what I have, of how lucky I am and with that, what joys need to be celebrated and what lows need to be ridden. However, this doesn’t change the fact, that all too often, ‘normal’ life leaves me feeling agitated; disconnected and yet all tangled up and always, always with my shoulders firmly raised up around my ears.
And so I did something wild. I closed my laptop, left my phone at home, grabbed my lazy dog and went for a walk in our neighbouring woodland. Instantly, I felt calmer. Aware of my individual senses, I allowed myself to explore them, almost decadently, as I started to walk. The path from our house was alive with colours; so many greens after so much rain and the vibrant contrast of the blackbird’s yellow beak against his pitch-black plumage made me smile. There was a rich smell of earth; as if the ground was being awakened by today’s warmth. Then the sounds began to drift into my consciousness; above it all the wind, wild today and blowing strong, a calming antidote to the heat of the sun, which has at last, remembered that it is summer. Beneath the noise of the wind, birdsong, the bleating of distant lambs and the far off, the exotic cry of a peacock.
My walk takes me first over the railway and down a sheltered path into the woods, where a stream trickles lazily through. At one point on my descent, I slip, a large stone rolling from under my foot. I catch myself, adrenalin racing and I regain my footing. I allow myself the briefest moment of pride at not falling, childlike in my own bravery, a nothingness and yet something small, just for me.
I continue on, pausing now at a huge oak which has fallen across the stream. I sit here for a while and allow the sadness of our recent news to be felt. I take a moment to cry, to be present for those affected and to feel the weight of it. In such a rushed, busy and happy home, it is sometimes hard to find room for sadness and yet, for me, it is a necessary part of acceptance and of healing.
The dog looks bored and so we make our way across slippery stepping stones to the other side of the stream. A high, rocky wall to scale and a brief jump down and we are in a tangled knot of trees, the ground almost marshy underfoot. I take a wrong turn, briefly lost in the ever-changing natural world. My mind engaged, I find my way back to the path and out from the woods into the meadow beyond.
The sunshine blares at me, demanding that I take off my jumper and embrace its warmth. I walk up the meadow, alive with tiny wildflowers in rich oranges, purples, blues, whites and yellows. The bees are giddy with choice, dancing happily as the wind buffets them from one plant to the next. At the top of the hill, I stop again and lie down in the sun, child-like once more as the grass scratches my legs and the insects whirr above me. It is as if time has stopped; I am alone, no houses in sight, no tasks to be done, no one to ask or be asked. I savour it, just for a moment, not remembering the last time I just did nothing.
As I neared home, I took stock of my physical state. I felt calmer, my shoulders were back down where they belonged. My hair was tousled by the wind, my cheeks warm from the hike, my body craving a glass of cool water with ice. I felt alive, I felt better, I felt (almost) human… Back home and the sound of the wind stays with me now, reminding me of what it is to be truly alive amidst the lives we are all living.