Can the lockdown prompt us towards a new symbiosis between nature and human beings that is both healthier and more sustainable? We are currently asking ourselves this question in Paris.
It was Bruno Frappat in his column in the newspaper, La Croix, on May 22nd, who launched me on this reflection. Writing about nature: he said that you would think it was talking to us in these times of pandemic. Among other things, he imagined it telling us not to be afraid, that we will end up having summer holidays after a rotten spring. At first, I thought, “It’s true, Mother Nature has not been kind to us this spring! ” Well, we have had good weather, but what use is that when you’re confined? Here in Paris, we have been forbidden all access to nature, from the large woods and forests on the outskirts of the city to the small squares with their few trees and a children’s playground.
Visiting friends of longstanding
It’s been hard, and not just because we depend on these spaces for some fresh air and to counterbalance overcome the crowdedness of densely populated city. Once settled in Paris, you develop habits that become almost ritualistic. Spring is the season when you visit the Botanical Gardens to admire the giant Japanese cherry tree. It’s the season when the wisteria blooms in the inner courtyard of the Great Mosque, the chestnut trees in the squares. I know them and every year I visit them as I would visit old friends.
Because of the lockdown, I haven’t been able to visit them this year and it has really thrown me. It’s like someone has cut a quarter out of my annual cycle. , I have stayed at home, ready to do my duty in the name of the common good but I confess that I grumbled in my head against the government – “You thieves! And on top of that, we missed Easter because of you!”. I am a soul from the northern hemisphere and have always made the connection between Easter and the signs of new life in nature.
An intact beauty
I could have succumbed to the temptation of real self-pity, except that Bruno Frappat didn’t finish his paragraph on that note. He ended instead with these words:
“Don’t be afraid, you still have a future…
and we, nature, are going to help you
thanks to our unspoiled beauty. »
When I read these words, I stopped feeling sorry for myself, because other images came to mind. First, I saw Mother Nature continuing her life, despite us. At the time of writing this reflection, the gardens of Paris remain closed to visitors, but that doesn’t stop the trees from blooming. I even imagined the large cherry tree saying, “Let me be, you human beings, allow me to give back my beauty to God alone. Come back when you have stopped treating me like a background for your “selfies”, when you have learned to really look at me and appreciate me. »
Nor have I seen the large, mown lawns of the Luxembourg Garden with its squares of greenhouse flowers, planted ruler-straight. No, but Mother Nature presented me with a little gem just two minutes from the community. One day, while I was doing my one-hour’s “recreation”, I spotted a small pond. I could have missed it, on the other side of the railing, the grass and aquatic plants had grown so high! The water was full of goldfish snapping at the insects in the air above the pond. It was a moment of pure gratuitousness and wonder in a neighbourhood that was otherwise dead of atmosphere.
Living in symbiosis
Finally, Mother Nature spoke to me through her emissaries, the birds. The latter live in symbiosis with human beings in Paris in a more or less adapted fashion. For some, the lockdown has been an ordeal. I’ve never seen crows look so bewildered, almost morose. What does a crow eat when there are no students in college, no fast-food restaurants open, and no rubbish bins full of junk food leftovers to peck at? Like us, they have had to change their habits and learn to live soberly.
Other species of birds have flourished. Thanks to less air, light and noise pollution, the birds are less stressed, and of course, they have not been confined like us. The ornithologists are pleased because species have been spotted where we rarely see them in “normal times”. In a single day confined to the community, I noted:
- three bluebirds playing together on the rosebush in our courtyard.
- swifts rolling and diving in the sky above the building.
- a blackbird, perched on the gutter, singing its heart out.
More free gifts for which I gave thanks.
No, the spring has not been rotten, it has just been different. This year, Mother Nature has visited me a visit and helped me not to be afraid. Now I look to the future. The deconfinement has begun, and Parisians will soon return to their bad habits. The bin bags will be full again for the crows to peck at. At the same time, I can’t help but hope that this period of having to live differently with nature will prompt us towards a new symbiosis that is both healthier and more sustainable.
Sr Rhona Burns dj