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Lessons from the hedgerows

The blackberries came early last year, did you notice?

Barely into August, the fruit began to ripen in the hedgerows. It delighted me to see them, but it also saddened me a little, too. A simple, yet poignant reminder that nature was out of kilter. A sign that autumn may no longer include the pleasure of an afternoon spent scrambling through brambles and nettles in search of juicy rewards. I, for one, revere such seasonal joys found here in Britain. At this time of year, we’ll begin to give up our long, dark winter evenings (hoorah!), in a gleeful exchange for some Vitamin D and the sight of wild garlic in the hedgerows.

Last summer was glorious and took the strain off what was happening in the world at large, so I’m secretly hoping this one will be equally as good. Exquisitely long days spent making the most of the sunshine whilst avoiding the crowds on the secret, quieter beaches of Selsey, West Sussex (don't tell anyone ;) Shallow coves that few know about; forgotten corners of the world mean bliss for me and a few others. Moving into September, whilst it still felt like summer, there was a chill in the evening air and my thoughts began to turn to the changing of the season once again. One morning, I decided to get up early and head out in search of blackberries. And as I headed out, I wondered, would there be any left?

As I cycled down a small track in the hope of spotting brambles, I passed upon an old man out for his early morning walk. I could have easily passed him by, put my head down and kept going. But I slowed down and stopped to say hello, exchanging pleasantries and delighting at the warm days we were still experiencing. We both agreed. It felt like borrowed time.

The talk soon turned to my morning task. I had no idea where I could find the bounty I searched, yet in an instant he offered the information I needed.

“There’s tons of blackberries down Mill Lane!’ he exclaimed.

Just around the corner, that’s luck. I thanked him and we each went on our way.

And there were. Plenty. The hedgerows were thick with them. Information freely given by the generous stranger which would have taken hours of searching for myself. Offered simply, in that chance encounter. I felt lucky. Grateful to the old man, yet he would never know my gratitude.

I began picking. And after 5 minutes I decided it was time to move on as I’d already got quite a bounty from the first bush. Yet something stopped me. Why move on when there could be more where I was? It was a bad habit of mine; the thought that there may be something better on offer. So instead of moving on, I purposefully stayed and persevered — seeking out every piece of fruit on offer. It was a lesson in learning to stay put, looking harder and paying better attention — all hugely valuable lessons I knew I needed, and it was this humble blackberry hunt delivering them to me. So, I decided to take further advantage of my morning classroom and try my luck at something else.

Whilst staying put and persevering where I was, it may sound strange to you, but in that early morning light I decided to say hello to my blackberry bush and thank it for offering up its fruit. I asked it to show me where the best berries were; the good, juicy ones that were hiding from my view. And as strange as it sounds, it seemed to me that it answered my cheeky request, for shortly after, the hedgerow yielded up more and more abundance. And an hour later, with a pot bursting with ripe fruit, I felt overjoyed.

You may laugh that I spoke to a plant? Yet I doubt you found it so odd that I spoke to the old man? Yet it seemed to me that both responded to my interaction. One silently, the other through speech. And in this short morning excursion I learnt 3 powerful lessons which I wanted to share with you:

Lesson 1 — Connection with others Despite being more connected than ever before, we live in an increasingly disconnected world. Covid has exasperated that beyond all recognition. Don’t put your head down and pass on by. Talk to a stranger. Find an unexpected connection with another and discover the treasure to be found in the exchange.

Lesson 2 — Staying put Don’t be too quick to move onto the next thing. Stop for a moment and look again at the task in hand, or the problem you need to solve. Pay better attention and you may be surprised to find that what you’re looking for may actually be right in front of you, after all.

Lesson 3 — Connection with nature When we remember to connect with nature, it brings joy and a sense of deep peace and belonging. After all, we’re just variations of complex cells, each making up different species — man, animal, plant — or human and more-than-human world. Yet unless we’re involved with science or nature, we seem to have forgotten this. We find it funny, even the suggestion of it, that we’re all connected. We’ve lost touch and have become the opposite — disconnected with ourselves, with nature and with others. So instead, if you’ve read this far, try connecting back with nature, go deeper, take a few risks (of seeming silly).

So much is now being uncovered about the powerful effects that being in nature can have on us — to encourage us to reconnect with this planet of abundance we live on and from. Forest bathing and using nature to aid stress in the business world is also big news in countries like Japan where suicide is common, and people have forgotten who they are.

Don’t be one of them. Put aside your judgement and reach out to a plant, a bee or a bird and talk to it. Ask a question and look out for the answer in subtle, ways you may not at first recognise. You’ve nothing to lose other than your initial resistance and pride. And you’ve everything to gain.


New Scientist Magazine — Slimmer, Fitter, Less Stressed. How a positive mindset can create a healthier body — (although please note you will have to subscribe to read the full article).

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