As I’m writing this blog, it is a sunny day and unusually warm for Aberdeen. I’m sitting outside – I’m lucky to have a garden. Last autumn we took out the large shrubs and replaced them with vegetable planters and fruit trees. I didn’t know it then, but this decision would be key in helping me cope with the Covid lockdown.
Being an inexperienced gardener, I had planted various veg in neat little rows – but without any netting to protect them. Well, the pigeons soon punished me for my stupidity. They sat on the edge of the planters, burping contentedly after making a meal of my broccoli.
So, we put up some sturdy netting. I said sorry to the headless broccoli’s. I left the stumps in the ground, and to my amazement they grew back! They produced lots of tasty leaves that were much bigger than before. It was as if they told me ‘we will not be defeated’.
Then the lockdown happened. I work as a lecturer at the university and all the teaching stopped. To work from home I set up an ‘office’ in the bedroom, and my colleagues and I have regular video-call meetings. Sometimes these meetings are hard; even though you can see people’s faces, they’re not really there. Trying to persuade people is harder, disagreements arise more easily and are more difficult to solve – you can’t shake hands or wink to the person sitting next to you. You can feel quite isolated sometimes.
But I have an Ace Card: my ‘home office’ overlooks my vegetable patch. When it gets tough, all I need to do is look up from my desk and see glorious cabbages. And chards with their leaves held high. Onions, that I knew from when they were tiny little seeds. Pak choy’s that have forgiven me for putting them in the greenhouse initially (they’re much happier outside). When I’m getting no-where with an online meeting, I can see how a determined bumblebee is definitely getting somewhere: stuffing himself with nectar and pollinating my apple trees in the process. Whenever I look at my vegetables and my fruit, I am filled with deep satisfaction and reassurance – nature knows what it’s doing. I can’t be speeded up, or slowed down. It leads a simple life. Sunshine, soil, and water are all it needs to do its thing. (though I do believe that my veg like to be talked to as well…)
Humans are naturally drawn to nature – it even has a name in Psychology: “biophilia”. Being in nature makes us happy, calm, and helps us to escape any stress we experience. And you don’t need an all-day hike in the Cairngorms to get the effects. Simply planting some seeds in your windowsill, and caring for the seedlings, can give you a mental boost. I will certainly look back at 2020 as the year where the humble vegetable helped to keep me sane.