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  • Barbara Copperthwaite

Peace in the wild city

The afternoon sun had decided to make an appearance, but was suddenly blotted out momentarily. A glance skywards instantly showed me why. Flying immediately overhead was a Grey Heron, its huge wings at full stretch, its body a sleek line from the tip of its sharp beak to the long, thin legs trailing behind it. Slow and easy it glided, disappearing from view as it passed over a tree I was standing beneath. It didn’t come out the other side though. Curious, I backed up, peering at the canopy to see if I could spot it. There it was, looking exotic and magnificent as it sat at the very top of the tree, silhouetted majestically against the sun.

It was the perfect end to what had started out as a rather grumpy day for me. I had gone out yesterday morning feeling all distracted and tense, because I was due to receive my novel back from the editor. For those of you who don’t know, I should briefly explain that I write psychological crime thrillers, and my debut was a bestseller last year. I recently finished my second novel, and it was being checked by my editor – which meant I was due to discover if there would be just a handful of tiny amendments, or a lot of work ahead of me. It’s fair to say I was feeling rather keyed up; I am not very good at waiting for things.

Walking to the park, I strode along, Scamp hurrying beside me. Suddenly I realised that I was not really taking any notice of my surroundings, and that instead of working off my tension, I seemed to be feeling worse.

A new tack was needed, so I decided to simply sit for a while. With a huff, I plonked myself down on the bench beside Henbury Pond. To the right of me, a Wood Pigeon cooed gently. Like a master hypnotist, it worked its magic on me somehow, and within minutes, its soft, rhythmic call had slowed down my breathing. As I calmed, I noticed Greenfinches to my right calling to one another, insistent and reedy, and a Blue Tit joined in momentarily. I closed my eyes and let the sounds wash over me, noticing more and more as I relaxed: the buzz of insects, a tiny splash as a Moorhen entered the water, the gentle rustle of leaves in the breeze.

Tense neck shoulders loosening slightly, I opened my eyes once more and looked around me. Really looked. A Great Tit was fluffed up against the slight damp in the air that morning. A Small Tortoiseshell landed in the grass before me, and its colours were so vivid even on this dull day that I can only think it was freshly emerged. Absolutely beautiful. A little way away from me came the fluttering of a bird landing. When I looked closer, I saw a juvenile Robin, still in its fabulous camouflage garb of flecked browns, not yet grown into the red breast that makes it so famous and eye-catching.

The Moorhen pair swam across the pond’s surface, and as one turned away from me it fanned out its tail, showing off the pristine white either side of the black. I was suddenly struck by how beautiful it was, and wondered if I had ever taken the time to fully appreciate that before.

The pair dabbled around the lily pads. Only a few of the pale flowers were open, as the morning was so overcast, but the ones that were looked immaculate against the greenery. The curve of their cup shape, which looks as though it would nestle in the palm of a hand so perfectly, juxtaposed with the crisp zig-zag the petals form across the top.

Above and amongst the flowers were damselflies, those tiny blue needles of movement darting and resting, darting and resting. Tranquillity washed over me.

That’s the thing about taking time to connect with nature. It’s so good for you. In this frenetic world of constant information onslaught, and interminable decision-making, it’s good to slow down for a second. Nature makes you do this. It makes you unwind, breathe, and reconnect with yourself and what is important. It is a fundamental necessity. Nature as therapy, I’d definitely recommend it.


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