I made a friend on a Friday night and not a single nightclub queue or 2am drunken McDonald’s trip were involved. I have formed a bond with another living soul while sitting less than three foot from the back door. I am lucky enough to still be living with family and to have the luxury that is a little patch of grass to bring this new connection to life. It has somehow become more than a novelty friendship. It is a routine now bordering on a daily ritual. It is the little things that count in a crisis and this one is indeed smaller than most.
My new friend is a robin who we have named Christopher. He visits us most evenings whilst his other half (yet to be christened, maybe Chrissie has a nice ring to it) seems to only visit when the sun is shining. Yes – I would absolutely agree that I have crumbled amidst a desire for wider interaction in lockdown, had I not always appreciated a visit from many a robin ever since I was a child. And I know I am not alone in being utterly infatuated by the wonders of nature.
Christopher and Chrissie have embodied the crème de la crème of the natural world for the last five weeks. With the sound of beating wings I am launched into full-blown Attenborough mode; gentle head tilts and the sprinkling of Malted Milk crumbs (very David I’m sure), anything to make a 5’8 frame more approachable to a little soul with a little heart that has touched my own.
Nature in all its forms is a blessing: a rustle of leaves through a window ajar or a dandelion plucked by a tumbling toddler that instantly transforms into anything but a weed in the eyes of onlooking parents. London is classified as a green European city yet now more than ever there are still those who don’t have access to the feeling of grass through fingers or the momentary shade of an oak tree. Garden owners are kings and queens and those who can fulfil the grant of a daily walk are billionaires. So what do we do if we don’t have immediate access to the great outdoors, even when lockdown is eventually lifted and we all emerge back into the world full of thanks and banana bread? We enlist the help of nature’s companion: Hope.
Hope and nature (like eyebrows) are siblings, not twins. They perpetually grow together, holding each other’s hands. When nature is not immediately within our grasp, we turn to hope. We hope that wildflowers grow amidst the uncut grass of closed parks, even though we cannot see them. We hope that the air becomes cleaner so that we will never have to re-use our homemade masks again in times where a virus is no longer a threat. We hope that preserving nature and the planet will be at the forefront of all world-leading minds. I hope that the robins never stop coming to say hello, especially as it has taken a month to determine their favourite biscuit. And I hope that Christopher and Chrissie take these crumbs to a nest full of babies so that there are enough robins in London to pay visits to us all. I think they will make wonderful parents.
One of my most favourite beliefs is that ‘when a robin appears, loved ones are near’. If we are hopeful, that same joy that nature brings can be right by our side. Of course, hope is easier believed as a word on paper then it is in practice. But if evergreen plants can withstand the frost and blossom each year, so can we. And we will enjoy the blossom all the more for it.
Christopher has visited me three times while I have been writing this piece and with each visit, he gets a little closer to me, a little bit braver. Nature is brave and resilient and to be hopeful is brave personified. Now is a time to try and take a leaf (what else?) out of nature’s book. If this is too difficult, that’s okay too. Hope can always lend a helping hand.