How mindful walking and wildlife photography can be the simplest form of therapy.
“What did you do during the pandemic Grandad?”
Words that are usually associated with a previous generation who went to war. However, I fully expect my three infant grandchildren to be asking me that question at some time or other.
It can’t be denied that the Coronavirus pandemic is having an enormous impact on probably every person on the planet in one way or another. I guess, in due course, it will indeed feature in history lessons.
So how do I answer that question?
Immediately before the coronavirus outbreak and ‘Lockdown 1′ across the UK, I was a police officer. After 30 years’ service it was time to leave policing. I needed time to ‘decompress’ before looking for an opportunity to use my skills to find a job somewhere else. After a challenging career, and one that I look back on with a huge sense of pride and achievement, it is clear now that it also left me with a number of physical and mental issues.
However, as soon as the ‘Your Country Needs You’ message came out from the Government about key-workers, I felt guilty. The feeling that I was not contributing to the battle against Coronavirus alongside my ex-emergency service colleagues was far greater than I imagined. I needed to do something constructive – immediately!
Some months before lock-down, I had rediscovered my life-long love of being outdoors, especially climbing mountains.
Coronavirus put an immediate pause to my rediscovered sense of adventure. I knew I had to get out walking in one way or another. Having bad dreams about the things I had dealt with during my police career, I needed thinking time. Outside.
So, like many other people up and down the country, I began to explore on my doorstep. Initially, I was quite dismissive and feeling ‘hard done by’ because I did not live near any mountains. I convinced myself that it was flat and boring. To add to that, my previous approach to being in the hills was seeing how far I could walk; how high I could trek; and how quickly I could do it!
It was time to slow down. Time to take a more mindful approach to being outdoors. It didn’t need my detective skills to put a picture together, and it was only then that I began to really see and hear the wonder of my local nature. I heard the individual birdsong within the dawn chorus; I saw the tiny yet wonderful wildflowers that had previously been dismissed as weeds; and I gazed at a plethora of industrious bees, butterflies, and beetles that had previously been brushed aside.
Within walking distance of my town centre front door – even in my small backyard of a garden – I realised I could immerse myself in the richness of the ‘therapy’ available to me. My walks on the outskirts of town were no longer featureless, but now filled with reed warblers, wheatears, damselflies and small skipper butterflies. One of the many highlights was seeing one of the Storks re-introduced to England, breeding here in 2020 for the first time in 600 years.
And the realisation that I had been regularly walking across the site of a medieval village believed deserted during that other famous pandemic was absolutely fascinating. Standing on the ground where the old village church once stood was quite moving in the current climate.
It doesn’t matter how long you are outside or how far you wander. It’s the way in which you approach it I found. I literally began to “see the wood for the trees”…. and the streams, and the reedbeds, and the marshland that I had never noticed before.
Photography …..What a picture!
And the final pieces that bring this jigsaw together are the photographs. I had never been interested in photography, unlike my younger brother who had been developing his own work as far back as the mid-1980’s. I could never see the attraction of such a time-consuming, complicated, and fairly expensive hobby (in those days).
During the first weeks of lockdown I saw many beautiful pictures of local wildlife posted on social media. I now wanted to share my experience with others. Having bought a camera just weeks before, it was ideal for me as a ‘point and shoot’ affair. I later became aware of some of the other whizzy things it could perform. Those photographs now feature right across my website.
This added dimension to the enjoyment and my outdoor therapy is something I could only have dreamed of. My wildlife knowledge grew. After each adventure, I would research the weird and wonderful creatures I had captured in full colour.
The pictures illustrate the beauty of the nature all around us, as moments in time. It can be captured by anyone with a camera or phone, and the patience to be observant for a moment or two.
What was the original question?
“What did Grandad do during the pandemic?”
First of all, like so many others, I took the opportunity to re-connect with nature. Secondly, my approach and mind-set reaped huge benefits to both my mental and physical health. And finally, it didn’t take me long to realise that I wanted a new career in outdoor adventure. It was time to use my skills and experience from one of my hobbies to continue to help others…. yet in a completely different way to my first career.
Step outside and experience nature on your own doorstep. Mindful walking and wildlife photography can be the simplest form of therapy.
Start your new adventures….today!