Nurturing hope in the garden

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Spring is nearly here and the growing season is well under way on the smallholding by now. Every inch of windowsill space in the sunroom holds trays and propagators with seeds growing this year's harvest. When seedlings are big enough and in need of more light than they can get in the sunroom, they get moved to either the heat mat on the shelf in the potting shed, the greenhouse or the polytunnel.

This time of year is always very exciting, full of promise and wonder at the huge potential for growth and transformation held in a tiny seed. Right now, spending time gardening, sowing seeds and nurturing seedlings offers me a much needed sanctuary away from the troubling news relating to the spread of the Coronavirus.

As a society, a nation, a global community, we are navigating unchartered territories as we deal with the challenges we face in tackling the progress of the epidemic and with this comes a tremendous amount of anxiety, fear, panic and uncertainty for us. Naturally, we respond to these in different ways and this past week the panic felt by some was obvious in the supermarket. Hearing the word "pandemic" on the news and learning about the restrictions put in place to limit the spread of the virus is enough to paralyse me with fear and dread. It feels as if this situation has the potential to turn into a global catastrophe that threatens our very existence as a human race and that's, naturally, very frightening. It is a challenging time full of uncertainty for us all, not just in terms of contracting the disease but also the consequences for us as a society. What to do when faced with an existential risk of such enormous proportions? How to go about our normal day-to-day living when the world feels a very different place now?

We have, of course, put in place all the practical measures recommended to protect ourselves and others from the virus and we are taking sensible precautions. But they alone afford us only limited comfort and our troubled minds need soothing by different means. As always, nature offers a good source of distraction, support and nurture. When I place the seeds into the trays of compost, I plant a promise of hope. I don't know at this stage how the harvest will turn out but I hope it will be a good one. During its journey from tiny seed to ripe fruit, plenty can - and will - happen to the plant as it grows and matures. Pests and diseases can threaten its existence along the way but I sow anyway and hope for the best. I find that to be the most powerful antidote to the despair and fear I feel within me as we go through this difficult time.

There is something very grounding about sowing seeds and tending to seedlings. I feel soothed by the process, a return to basics that has the power to slow down my racing thoughts and calm my troubled mind. An hour spent in the potting shed or the polytunnel gives me the strength I need to be able to face hearing the news so I can remain connected and informed. It brings balance to my life and pulls me forward, away from the despair. There is joy and pleasure to be found in the garden and in nature, even during unsettling times.

Spring is the time when the garden begins to burst back into life, green, vibrant and alive after winter, adorned by spring bulbs bringing colour too. The season is full of hope and promise and by spending time in the garden or out in nature, we can soak up some of that atmosphere to nurture us and carry us through challenging times. The melodious song of the wren by the kitchen window, the bright yellow daffodils flowering in the orchard, the purple crocuses popping up in the lawn, the green shoots on the soft fruit bushes, the tiny pea sprouts in the tray, the little green lettuce seedlings and the first crop of homegrown rhubarb have all brought me much pleasure this week, their presence a powerful gift that soothes me, nurtures me and gives me strength.




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