It’s always been common sense for many of us that getting out into the great outdoors makes us feel good, whether it’s that brief moment of British sunshine or getting some fresh air and exercise, it's a seemingly simple thing that can have a profound effect on us. In recent years gardening has rightly had some great links to mental health, there are many charities that now focus on getting groups into the garden as an accessible means to the outdoors and as treatment to common mental health conditions. The Japanese have for years exploited the benefits of spending time in nature and Shinrin Yoku or “tree-bathing” has warranted scientific study and has proven its benefits.
I am a frontline worker in the Corona pandemic, I work as a full-time Intensive Care Nurse in Yorkshire. I started this blog for myself as a means to reflect on what I have accomplished in the garden, it’s all too easy to think you have made no impact without giving yourself something to remind you of how far you’ve come, but in recent weeks it has evolved, I now see my garden as a lifeline that keeps me sane.
Never before have I experienced the pressures at work that I currently have. Between training redeployed staff, caring for multiple patients in new repurposed environments, conducting multiple, complex, essential procedures ordinarily one of which would make for a busy day now occurring up to 10 times a shift, arriving early and leaving late to decontaminate appropriately, having difficult phone conversations with families who are unable to visit or even speak with their loved ones due to their condition and we are limited whilst in Covid areas so that we cannot eat, drink nor use the toilet all whilst head to toe in hot PPE. I am physically drained, mentaly drained and when I get home I am exhausted. Adrenaline gets me through the day and it keeps me up at night so when I get out into my garden, switch off the news and see a new seedling has sprouted I feel transported into my own personal oasis.
We have all undergone upheaval during the lockdown, our routines have changed, what reason is there to get up and dressed if i'm not going anywhere? Well when I get up I know that when to put on my jeans with the muddy knees means I am going to end up in the garden, I have to water my plants, check the seedlings, clean out my chickens and only then I can make a plan for the rest of the day. There is also something of a beautiful metaphor in nature and gardening because there isn't a day the flower doesn’t feel like blooming, it always shows up, but you have to get up and outside to see that.
There have even been unexpected positives as well, I have found ways of connecting with family I can’t meet at the moment though a sunflower growing competition. It's a great reason to chat and connect with people about something other than Corona and it's an excuse to pick up the phone, send photos and share tips, and it's bringing my whole family together in this tough time. I’m not sure how but I'm certain my sister is cheating because her seedling is huge already and mine hasn’t even sprouted!
Projects give me long term goals. Now more than ever people are finding the time to do that thing that they have been putting off for so long, my sister has found a pantry she never knew she had and my mother has never had a cleaner house, finding things in the attic that had been long forgotten. There have been a number of overwhelming jobs I have been meaning to get around to in the garden but each one was longer than a one day job and finding the time to start them seemed impossible. Now I know I’m going to be in the garden so starting doesn't seem like the mammoth task it used to, I can come back to it tomorrow or the day after and there is no rush, it’s there for me to take my time and enjoy now and that's part of the fun! It gives me something to look forward to, something I can break down into small chunks and when something is completed, the rush and pride and achievement keeps me coming back for more. Already in a few short weeks I have completely gutted and revamped my greenhouse, created more raised beds for veg, dug out overgrown areas and planted more seed that I can shake a stick at. I had planned to take all summer to achieve this much so I’m amazed at what can be done when a bit of purpose and motivation strikes.
But there remains much more to do and the glory of a garden is that you have to let go of control too, I can plan and plant as much as I like but it has a life of its own and there will be challenges ahead I cannot control or foresee. Some things will grow and some won’t, there are wins and losses and I cannot concern myself with how the world turns, when it rains or the many things out of my control. But I look forward to the challenge, it’s going to test me and keep me thinking and it's going to keep me on my toes.