Lockdown Nostalgia

Nature has helped many of us through the various challenges of the past few months. We’ve watched nature thrive through our screens and spent time observing life with fresh eyes and ears in our gardens and from windows. We’ve really come to appreciate and value the benefits of getting outside in nature every day, even if just for a short while. For Biodiversity and Communities Adviser, Alan Cameron, Lockdown has turned out to be a mixed blessing…

I never much fancied working at home. Even on Fridays, I would prefer to drive to Inverness from home in Nairn, to do my work, see who was about for a chat and maybe go shopping on the way home. I kept travelling to work each morning, even as our collective anxiety rose. Then lockdown came and changed everything. Suddenly we were all working from home. There was no one to meet in the office anymore. Great Glen House had turned hostile, become a place of danger.

But lockdown turned out to be a mixed blessing for me. Being advised by the Scottish Government to go for a walk every day was an unexpected gift. For the coming weeks, my only direct experience of the outside world became a short walk by the river Nairn to the south of town. Each day for about an hour I traced the same route up the river for about 1km, over a small footbridge and back home.

There was something extraordinary about the liberation of escaping from my crowded makeshift office and computer screen into a world turned silent without cars or planes; into the gentle unfolding of life during March, transforming into the explosion of birdsong and light and growth during April and May. We all became accustomed to the uneasy mix of fear and solidarity that we felt as we passed and acknowledged strangers on narrow paths.

After 15 years of living in Nairn, the new bonds I forged with that section of land feel
permanent. But what are the feelings I have for this tree-lined corridor intersected by the
river? Is this some mystical attachment to a place, or a more universal connection made
with the natural world in a specific place and gratitude for the healing power of nature?

It was a world seen through the lens of the camera I took with me each day during what turned out to be a wonderfully sunny spring. The flowering wild plants; the closing canopies of translucent leaves overhead; the deepening reflections of woodland on the river; the changing moods of the water; and the light spring rains. All these helped me to put the world back into perspective, to inoculate me against the anxieties of the endless news cycle of doom.

I wanted to capture and share the essence of something deep and eternal, wonderful and mysteriously beautiful: to collect vignettes to reveal deeper truths, about the evolution of life throughout the ages; the flows of energy and matter through the natural world; the play of air, water and light, and life returning; the patterns of shoots, leaves and flowers, the growth of lichens on trees, the eddies and ripples of flowing water.

As we take our tentative first steps into a new world, as cars reclaim our spaces, as our lives return to the rule of timetables, I will remain grateful and nostalgic for the place where nature maintained its ancient rhythms and led me to peace and taught me lessons I will carry forever.

All photos Copyright Alan Cameron.

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