I noticed for the first time the beauty of my surroundingsSam Kunin for Varsity

Nothing is happening. For months life has felt at a standstill; I will soon turn 20 before I even got a chance to be 19. Spending hour after hour in front of a screen, burning through packs of chocolate digestives, it can feel like every day blends into the next and we’re just stuck here, static. That said, nothing is ever really still. Even in these frustrating and isolating times, the world keeps going and so can we.

“For months life has felt at a standstill; I will soon 20 before I even got a chance to be 19”

Over the first lockdown, I used to walk the same route almost every day. Sometimes with my dog, sometimes with family, usually alone, I’d walk down the hill to Eccup Reservoir, turn to the left and stroll across the fields, linking back up with the height of land and heading home. There, at the top of this slope, I would stop, turn off whatever podcast was blaring in my ears, and just think. I’m not, by nature, particularly good at thinking. Getting in touch with my feelings or inner spirit or whatever has never been something I’ve felt much interest in. Perhaps for fear of looking stupid, or ‘doing it wrong’ or just simply not finding much of interest to think about, philosophical musings aren’t generally my cup of tea. But, with no-one around and the countryside unfurling before me, I figured there was no harm in trying – I sat on a rock, looked out over the fields and hills and sky and just thought.

My first thought was a simple one – “Wow”. I had walked this route thousands of times, ever since I was a child, I knew every turning, every tree, every fence. And yet, taking this moment to pause and observe, I noticed for the first time the beauty of my surroundings: each field a perfect jigsaw piece; the reservoir below shimmering in the afternoon sun; enormous masses of cloud rolling in the wind. Only having taken the time to stop and watch and think was I able to truly notice these things. On other walks, I’d see flocks of birds swirling in the wind like sand across a dune or hear the cawing of jackdaws as they played in the trees: each like a thread in this beautiful tapestry of sound and land.

“I’m not, by nature, particularly good at thinking”

And there were many more walks. Each day of online classes, exams and stresses would leave me exhausted and irritable by mid-afternoon and my mum’s suggestion of “get some fresh air” could go unheeded no longer. This repetition through the weeks and months of lockdown at home brought me closer to an answer to my problem – the world was still spinning.

Over the course of that long spring and longer summer, I watched as the natural world around me changed. After a few weeks, the fields were tilled. I’d sit and watch over the following days as seeds were scattered across the hill. For a while, blackbirds would hop along, sweeping their way across the blanket of soil, and pecking at any seeds still left above the surface. Then came the spring rains. A fortnight or so stuck inside pouring over some grammar exercise or essay did little good for my mental health but, outside, the rains didn’t hold things back but pushed them forwards.


Mountain View

Breakdowns and Outbreaks: a very special week 5

As the days grew longer and drier, I was greeted on my walks with rows of verdant shoots. Looking over a formerly barren landscape of browns and greys, the world seemed to explode in a cascade of greens and blues. The summer months were perhaps the most remarkable of all. From tender shoots grew rigid stalks and from them burst ears of grain. Though stuck at home, far away from the friends and adventure of Cambridge, a remarkable narrative was playing out just down the road. As I packed for my return to Cambridge, I watched as the harvesters came and reclaimed the field. That which had just days earlier been bursting with life, was cleared away for the winter and left again for the blackbirds to graze.

A year has passed. While all I have to show for it may be copious numbers of sourdough photos and 8 seasons of Friends, the world has kept on moving. Life can feel slow, empty and, frankly, lonely at the moment, but truly nothing lasts forever. I had walked down to Eccup many times before COVID reared its head and hope to walk there many times more when this is all over. My goal here is not to push for self-improvement or a quick Couch-to-5K, but simply to note that, though things might not be great at the moment, “this too shall pass”. It won’t be long now before the tractors return, the seeds are planted, the waters fall, and life begins anew.