Back to the future

Mike Brooke reflects on the past year.

I don’t think a day has gone by since Covid-19 entered the UK that there hasn’t been a news item or a conversation about the illness. Amongst the most frequently used words are pandemic and lockdown. The latter appears to be a new word to most of us, and certainly a new experience for all of us. We have experienced three separate lockdowns so far, all different in character, but all hoping to achieve a single outcome: the end of the virus, and with it, a return to “normality”. But is this what we should really be wishing for?

It has been important during lockdown to keep in touch with family and friends, to know that they are keeping well and safe and that everyone’s needs are being met. Thank goodness for Zoom and the opportunities this social media tool has created, especially for those who have been able to access it. While virtual meetings are far from ideal, they have provided the social interaction and support that many people have needed to see them through these somewhat dark days. Being able to share experiences can be as uplifting as the experiences themselves. While we may have had many different experiences, there are some that have been universally enjoyed and have made a lasting impression.

Perhaps the most striking was the silence that emerged during the first, and probably the strictest of the three lockdowns.  With an almost total shutdown of businesses the journey to work or to the shops ceased and the roads became deserted. The resultant peace and quiet enabled us to hear and enjoy the remarkable sounds of nature. Wildlife seemed to emerge from the shadows where it had been hiding to extol, through song, the pleasures of real freedom. No longer was it just a dawn chorus but a day-long symphony, and birds rarely seen in our gardens became regular visitors to the feeders. There were more butterflies and other insects, and for the first time since we had moved to our present house, we saw bats furiously flying amongst the trees in search of their supper.

With the lack of traffic came a reduction in air pollution which meant we could all enjoy a better quality of air while out walking, but also the views became clearer. Rainbows appeared brighter while many sunrises and sunsets were spectacular. This was a special time, a time when we could be at peace with nature, appreciate its beauty and begin to understand its importance to human life. It was a glimpse of what could be. 

Will we continue to hanker after our pre-Covid lifestyle or will we divest ourselves of the “Back to Normal” mantra and embrace the new “Back to the Future”. The choice is ours to make. One leads to destruction of the planet, the other to peace with nature.

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