Grieving creatively is the name of this series of articles. Today’s idea is quite simple: Sit and be. Focus on nature for 2, 5, 10 or 20 minutes. Really observe, really listen.
Imagine the scene. You’re sitting on a bench after walking through woodland for about 20 minutes. The bench is on a hill part way up, part way down in the midst of dense woodland.
As you look ahead, you see a mixture of deciduous trees, some already shedding their leaves, some still in full green leaf.
As you look down the slope, you see logs and branches piled as they have fallen, surrounded by leaves, probably last year’s leaf-fall. They create a golden brown blanket over the ground.
Immediately in front of you is a patch of green fern probably about waist high. Soon this too will change to a golden brown colour. It is the season of change.
As you first sit there, you think there are no sounds at all, but then as you listen more closely you start to notice there’s actually quite a bit to hear.
There are some birds chirping up high in the branches, different birds in different locations.
There’s a slight tap tap sound could that be a woodpecker
There’s no wind but you notice the occasional leaf flattering down like a butterfly through the branches.
A bee of some sort buzzes within earshot but not within sight.
Another leaf floats down effortlessly through the grove of birch trees.
Another bee zooms and buzzes harmlessly behind you
As you look down you’ll notice the blackberries so black, fat, juicy and ripe. Who comes to eat that fruit? Is it the blackbird that you’ve just heard singing high up? Is it the squirrel you saw scampering across the path? Walkers like you?
There is no need to listen to music or read a book in this place. You don’t need to distract yourself. There is so much going on on, quietly. It’s only because you’ve stopped and are silently observing that you realise the extent of bird life and insect life and tree life in the small woodland.
Now you breathe in slowly, breathe out slowly. There is a woody, fragrant smell – damp leaves, trees exuding their particular scents.
Moments of peace
I’m fortunate to live close enough to such quiet areas where I can sit like this.
Perhaps you live in the city or your health prevents you from taking such a woodland stroll. But even just opening a window and looking out – especially if there are a few trees around – and you’ll be amazed what you might see. The birds perching on a satellite dish. Pigeons having a romantic altercation on a rooftop. The shape of the clouds as they sweep by.
There’s always something to listen to and something to observe when it comes to the natural world. Let this be a quiet escape from the turmoil of grief if you can manage it.
It’s worthwhile underlining “if you can manage it.” Sitting still like this isn’t always possible. In the early days of my own tumultuous grief journey, I could not have done this. I wasn’t at peace and probably wouldn’t have been safe sitting in the woodlands alone. But eventually I did learn to find calm, watching the flowers grow (slowly!) and the birds pecking at seeds.
Since then I’ve found that using all of my senses, as much as is practical, makes my time of ‘being’ in nature even more calming. Looking, really looking at what’s around. Listening, really listening to the faintest sounds. Smelling the air in deep breaths. Having a taste if there’s something edible (blackberries on this occasion). And touching – feeling the rough bark of the trees, the softness of the moss on a rock.
Yet then there comes a moment when the exploration is over and it’s time to sit. Just sit. And watch. And listen.
A meadow of delight
All of this brings me to these lines of a poem by John O’Donohue:
…When your eyes
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets into you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green
and azure blue,
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.
(Taken from Beannacht / Blessing)