The entrance to a rambling 135 hectare country park is just across the road from my home. Once inside, there are hills to climb with countryside views as far away as the neighbouring counties if the weather is fine; small lakes, open green spaces, winding paths and patches of forest. Birdsong in the mornings is amazing, and if you get there early, you might spot the occasional rabbit or squirrel hopping out of the undergrowth.
It’s a country park, which means it is a natural environment and no flower beds, but there is plenty of colour. Golden yellow gorse, purple heather, white blossoms. Later in the year the blackberries will be in abundance.
The park is enjoyed by dog owners, walkers, runners and families. At the moment it is quiet because of the coronavirus lockdown. I am fortunate, along with my neighbours, to live within walking distance. I try to get there between 8 and 9 am for my hour’s walk. It is blissfully peaceful albeit with a lively chorus of bird song. I pass barely a handful of people on my 5 km walk up and down the far edge of the park. I enjoy the solitude of my walking.
Not everyone is fortunate enough to live so close by. To avoid people driving here at this time, the parking area has been closed off with a concrete barrier. It doesn’t appear that this was sufficient, and the other day I saw that a second barrier had been erected. I do feel bad for the people who would like to have enjoyed the park on these sunny days but have been unable to. Yet abiding by the travel restrictions is something we’re all having to do in order to cut down the spread of this horrible coronavirus.
Right now we are all somewhat ‘behind the barriers’ and cut off from each other. Social distancing is not easy and if we are grieving it might make our time even more difficult. Perhaps we are yearning for the comforting presence of a close friend or family member. Chatting on the phone or via digital means might be better than nothing, but it’s not the same as a warm hug.
In the meantime, unless we’re a key worker or otherwise occupied, we are finding ourselves with a lot of time on our own. It can seem like too much time, especially if our grief takes our thoughts down sad paths. There is no easy answer for this. Sometimes, if we find ourselves in a particularly dark corner, it might help to try to give ourselves a break. A bit of distraction won’t go amiss, even in the form of the TV or a book, if we have the concentration required to read.
On the other hand, within this solitude, we might find some beauty. On that subject, here is a poem shared by Rosalind, a very dear friend, who grieves for her beautiful daughter Hannah and is missing the company of her other daughters during this time of isolation.
Today the sun is shining, defiantly
down on this troubled earth,
boosting the budding blooms and
my heavy mood upwards and beyond.
Happy now and assured, all is well.
For solitude is a friend of mine, it
wraps me in a cheerful blanket.
Familiar and welcome,
to be by oneself is a balm from the
bustle of this mad, distressing world.
Walking now among the laughing, smiling
daffodils, I share my thoughts with the
encouraging wind, whistling in the steadfast trees.
I sing with the buoyant blackbird and
I breathe in the air of optimistic
hope in the soft, gentle breeze.
I share this space with affectionate spirits,
past and present. All are within my heart,
their faces appearing as I call them.
My body may be solitary but my
soul is brimming, bursting with a chorus of
ethereal love that crosses all
boundaries of death and separation.
I celebrate this isolation for
with my senses
heightened and my heart forever open,
I can hear eternity and
Not all of us will find that solitude is a ‘cheerful blanket’. But as we take a deep breath and reflect on the good aspects of our loved ones’ lives, remembering them with love, we too might feel the presence of their ‘affectionate spirits’ and be comforted.