Cloud formation above a country path

Five minutes in nature: Taking time to ‘stand and stare’

Museum Marketing Assistant Tricia Harnett writes:

Since the first lockdown I have discovered a walk right behind my house which I didn’t know was so beautiful. I had walked it many times before. I had hurried round, trying to get my health app to register more km than the day before, thinking about my next task, the weekly shopping, the dinner, work….. I hadn’t really stopped.

Ice crystals on the stems of a wild plant
Image credit: Tricia Harnett

I have realised that stopping, even for a moment, is such a pleasure. Even in lockdown, when the whole world is out walking, it is rare to see anyone on this walk. Probably because there are many other local walks –  ‘better’ walks. But any walk is amazing, if you combine it with stopping. Because nature is incredible. Part of the walk is a road bridge across a dual carriageway – definitely not the most scenic part – yet this is what caught my eye:

It’s a roadside weed. It’s nothing special in the summer but in the winter weighed down with ice, it’s beautiful. It would have been so easy to walk past.

Sunset across a field
Image credit: Tricia Harnett

In my view, walks are always rewarded, and perhaps the ultimate reward is a sunset or sunrise. Especially if you didn’t go out expecting it. They are always worth stopping for, in fact, you must stop in awe at a sunset, because they are incredible and wondrous. The day I saw this one, I wasn’t going to bother going for a walk. I was deliberating between a walk or watching the coronavirus briefing. I’m glad that I chose the walk:

Cloud formation above a country path
Image credit: Tricia Harnett

Another thing that I have started doing – I have begun making a point of looking up at the sky. Two days are never the same when it comes to clouds. And sometimes cloud formations are totally amazing. I don’t think I really appreciated them before.

Stopping is also extremely good for your hearing. Wildlife cannot always be seen, but can often be heard and it’s pretty noisy. Purposefully stopping gives a heightened sense of your surroundings, a sense of pleasure that always makes you happy to be outside.

One of my favourite childhood poems is ‘Leisure’ by W.H. Davies.  It really sums up why stopping has been on trend for over 100 years….

Leisure by W.H. Davies (1911)

What is this life, if full of care
We have no time to stand and stare
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows
No time to see, when woods we pass
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass
No time to see, in broad daylight
Streams full of stars, like skies at night
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance
And watch her feet, how they can dance
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began
A poor life this if, full of care
We have no time to stand and stare

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