Nearly six and a half months ago, as we gathered with family and friends to see in the New Year, no one would have envisaged what was in store for us in 2020. The novel coronavirus happened. Then it was declared a pandemic. As if a mighty hand had pressed the Pause button, our busy, chaotic and sometimes stressful lives came to a standstill.
No more rushing to the train station, no more queuing at the security check-in and waiting for the flights that were forever delayed. As an international conference interpreter, for me, no more preparation for a medical conference which might involve learning hundreds of new terms. Instead, I could have a lie in and read a book to my heart's content or stay up late to watch a drama that I might have been looking forward to for ages. I could enjoy a nice cup of coffee in my favourite corner in the back garden.
As we are adapting to this new 'normal', Nature is also going through a few not so subtle changes. Without warning or an invitation, a family of wild boars in Bergamo decided to pay a visit to the city, enjoying a nice and unhurried stroll on the street. A herd of goats took over the deserted streets of Llandudno, North Wales. The cheeky animals peeped through people's front windows and chased each other across the roads as if they owned the place. In Sichuan, China, lazy pandas deserted their bamboo groves and suddenly discovered that it was safe to wander onto the motorway. In Beijing, rare birds were sighted in residential compounds. In a village in England, a herd of sheep ventured into a children's playground and had a go on the roundabout. Round and round they went, having the best day of their lives.
If those videos were not shown on TV news channels, you could be forgiven for thinking these scenes had something to do with the creator of the Lion King.
Since the lockdown started, instead of distant traffic noises, I woke up to bird songs every morning. The happy chirping that glided through the tranquillity at dawn gladdened my heart. In the midday warm sun, the fragrance of the wall flowers, roses and honeysuckle permeated the air. You could hear bees buzzing and crickets singing. You could see butterflies gingerly landing on the tips of the flowers. During our evening strolls, street lamps shone on empty streets, suggesting what life might have been like before the advent of the motor vehicle.
While we watch what is happening in the world in horror and anguish, Nature is offering us comfort and solace. I would like to say that life is actually good if I could forget for a moment what is going on in hospitals and I wish it could stay like that forever. All of a sudden, we have time to stand and stare at the beauty that Nature provides. We have time to enjoy a leisurely meal or watch an old comedy with our children, not having to worry about deadlines and catching an early train in the morning.
Some people say that the coronavirus is the revenge from the animal world. Others say it is God's way to give Mother Nature a break. Regardless of the causes of this pandemic, there is one thing that we could all accept - we have left huge scars on Planet Earth from which it might never recover. Extinctions of species, deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, the melting of the icebergs . the list goes on and on. We, the homo sapiens, are the most savage and destructive species on earth, if not in the entire universe. Wherever we go, we leave a trail of destruction behind. This process started a couple of centuries ago.
While we are causing destruction and damage to our planet, we are also harming ourselves and our future generations. Air, water and soil pollution is linked to various types of cancer, as well as respiratory, cardiovascular and skin conditions. As governments in some countries relentlessly pursue economic goals and the corporate world single-mindedly chases profits, we, the individuals, suffer the collateral damage. Our mental and physical health has been compromised and become more fragile than ever. Based on a survey, over 80% young people (those under 25) in this country have mental health issues.
All of my jobs have been cancelled, as the Chinese delegates for whom I interpret have not been able to attend international events since the outbreak of the virus. I have not travelled to another city since the end of January 2020.
The silver lining of this crisis is that it has reminded me how much I have missed in life and helped me to rediscover Nature. In my pre-Covid-19 life, I could easily miss an entire month or season due to work commitments. Tulips and cherry blossoms come and go, rose petals open and fall, new leaves of birches and oaks unfurl in the spring and turn into a rich copper before swirling in the wind and landing on the ground. The spring rain gently falling on verdant grass, mist shrouding the forest on an autumn morning. All of these wonders bestowed by Nature passed me by while I was locked in a booth, stranded at an airport or consumed by worries and anxieties about late trains and difficult assignments.
What will our lives be like when the pandemic ends? Will the new normal replicate the old? Will our lives be changed forever and for the better? We need to rebuild our economy without which the society will simply disintegrate and ordinary people will suffer. No doubt about that. Nevertheless, we could always consciously slow our pace, even just for a moment, and reconnect with Nature. If we care to stand and stare, we could watch the sun rise and set, allowing the magnificence and beauty to envelop us. We could watch a seed break through the earth and the robins and the wrens build their nests, allowing our hearts to swell and soar with joy and content. While we relax our mind and body, we are giving Nature a moment of respite.
Find time to stand and stare and forget about a life that is full of care.