Published in the Irish Independent, 17th March under the title, ‘Nature’s Message Is One Even Supermarkets Understand.’
And just like that it all stopped. Life on hiatus. We have sailed into the doldrums and are becalmed. The brakes have been applied to how we live, which many us knew for decades was too fast to be good for us anyway. That most elusive of commodities, time, is now something that suddenly we have an abundance of.
We have been pushed so far out of our comfort zone by all this inaction that some of us are meeting parts of ourselves that we had forgotten existed. It’s like our lives are being pushed through a sieve and all the nonsense is being forced out. We are now beginning to realise that perhaps the stuff (and it is often actual ‘stuff’) that we have chased relentlessly for years, is really not important at all. Are we actually being distilled down into our more authentic selves?
These days of enforced calm, of staying home, means that we have time to talk and to listen to those with whom we live. And yes, I am aware that there is a slight feeling of Christmas about being corralled with your family for long days and nights. But with all the constant remainders to look out for each other and without the pressure of enforced festivity, we are perhaps being kinder and gentler to each other right now, than we often are when supposedly celebrating the birth of that great teacher on loving one another other, Jesus.
Our dogs are delighted with this turn of events which has their humans at home to give them more attention than they usually get. The jury is still out on what our cats think but those of us who share our lives with felines at least have constant reminders on how to remain chilled and relaxed. Cats generally aren’t bothered with stressing.
Supermarkets, who normally fill our Sunday newspapers with large ads full of their upcoming special offers, are instead advertising messages of reassurance and, most refreshingly of all, they are publicly thanking their staff who are keeping our shops open and stocked with food. I like this new caring side of our supermarket giants.
A look at my local supermarket shelves also reveals that we are baking. We are baking a lot. And nothing speaks of home, of security, of love, of comfort than home baking. Our instincts are good.
We have been forced to walk away from jobs, to close businesses, to abandon a lot of what is totally familiar, to paddle in these very uncharted waters. We are scaring the bejaysus out of ourselves, with no real of idea of what lies in the weeks ahead but we are so far coping in a way most of us would have doubted possible two weeks ago. And under all this staying calm and carrying on, I am wondering if real changes are taking place.
When this is over, what will we want to keep from this new way of living? Will we demand more time at home with those we love and especially more time with our small children? Working from home is something that many companies have been very slow to implement but they have now been bounced into making happen for their employees. Could this be game changer in how we work? Imagine the time saved and the gridlock relieved by large numbers of us no longer commuting. Our cities could breathe again.
We are rediscovering the simple joy of going for a walk. We are relearning the importance of nature to both our mental and physical wellbeing. We are flocking to the beach, the park, the forest because nature, much like baking, soothes our souls. She is oblivious to our travails. The earth is still turning and spring in bursting forth in spite of our lives being in a weird holding pattern. Instinctively we know that Mother Earth’s message is something we really need to hear right now.
Our global village reinforces just how connected we all are. Globally we are learning from each other and locally we are contacting our neighbours to assure them we care and that we can help those who may need assistance during this crisis. We are staying apart, not just to protect ourselves but to protect those of us who are vulnerable.
And our health service, broken in so many ways, is being kept going by some of the bravest and most generous of our citizens. They are the real heroes of this crisis. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude for all they are doing and will continue to do in the uncertain days ahead. And when this is finally over, in tribute to their selflessness and the people’s sacrifice, we must finally ensure we have a health service we deserve.