The Irish Times view on nature: The solace of Spring
Timing of crisis at least allows us to get out walking, while enjoying the natural world at one of its most uplifting moments
Many of us are struggling to adapt to the difficult circumstances created by the Covid-19 crisis, with so much of the social fabric of our lives abruptly curtailed. However, we can hopefully find some solace in the approach of Spring, which offers us longer, brighter days and some relief from winter cold and rain.
The timing of the crisis at least allows us to get out walking, while enjoying the natural world at one of its most uplifting moments. You don’t have to be a poet, or a botanist or bird-watcher, to be delighted and moved by the myriad of transformations, taking place all around us this season, even in our cities. Every plant and animal is launching into a new cycle of life, in a dance that unfolds daily with subtly different rhythms and variations.
Fresh green leaves are already peeping out on hazel, horse chestnut and hawthorn, but are still locked in the slowly swelling buds of oak, ash and alder. Pollen-laden willow catkins are starting to dust hedgerows silver and gold, while celandines and dandelions are decorating the ditches with an intensifying yellow blaze.
Blackbirds and thrushes are flying with beaks full of twigs for their nests, when they are not singing their hearts out. If you are lucky, you may hear woodpeckers “drumming” to attract mates, or even find fox cubs playing.
Outdoor exercise obviously boosts the immune system. But there is now compelling medical evidence that tuning yourself in, even a little, to the resilient abundance of natural life brings deep health benefits to both children and adults. It is a powerful antidote to the anxiety inherent in this unprecedented crisis.
You can also increase the pleasure of family nature walks by learning a little more about what you are seeing, while expanding our national knowledge base to better inform conservation policy. A starting point is the National Biodiversity Data Centre’s Citizen Science Portal, records.biodiversityireland.ie/, which offers apps to assist you to engage more deeply with the rich web of life that still surrounds us.