If there’s anything that has come of this whole self-isolation (today, April 20th being Day 38 for me), it’s that I envy the heck out of people’s sunny backyards and garden spaces. I am ever so grateful to live in a flat with a nice balcony, but not having my own outdoor space is a hard pill to swallow during these times. I suppose it’s inevitable when you want to do and see everything, when you want to live everywhere. I was lucky enough to grow up with a huge backyard at my disposal. In the nicer months, there wasn’t a day I wasn’t out there. I never realized until I moved to Europe how important that space was, and really is for me. But, when one of your dream is also to live in a pretty old flat in a European city, there sometimes aren’t many possibilities to have a backyard or garden.
So, thank goodness, living in the Czech Republic means that unfettered exposure to nature is still thought of as essential. No thirty minute mandated walks here! As long as you make sure you are distanced from others, going outside into the countryside or forest is considered acceptable. The forest has since become my home, the trails, local parks not too far from my house — anywhere to get a bit of sunshine.
Additionally, I’ve come to realize that the simple act of just sitting and looking, breathing, feeling the outdoors is better than most other things I could be doing.
Last weekend, Easter Saturday, we went out to a park near our house for some sun and just generally to feel the grass between my toes. I’d brought a book with me but I didn’t even crack it open until about an hour in because the surrounding natural stimuli was too interesting. Sitting next to the confluence of the Vltava and Malše rivers, watching fish leap out of the water. Crows squawking across the way, a flurry of activity as they build their nests. Listening to birdsong and watching the movements of the tiny birdies directly overhead (and hoping they don’t try any funny business!). Watching people move to and fro across the long pedestrian bridge over the Vltava. I couldn’t believe that all of this was enough to fill an hour! I can’t remember the last time I was that happy just to go outside.
For someone (lucky enough to be) working a normal schedule during this pandemic, I’m finding that there’s a bit of a media overload as many publications round up the best things to stream or listen to. I do find it really fun and it’s been amazing having our bi-monthly “culture night” where we’ve streamed a play or opera, but sometimes the best thing to do is just nothing. Just sit, preferably with an open window nearby or in a sunbeam with your pup, maybe even in a garden. Just notice all the life that is taking place around you and how the Earth is reawakening. You might also be surprised how interesting and much more refreshing this little time out is than anything else you might be doing at that moment.
We had a lovely Easter time with unbelievable warm temperatures–undoubtedly, the warmest I’ve ever experienced in eight springs in Central Europe–and if I wasn’t sitting, soaking up rays in a park, I was on a wander throughout some of the most beautiful trails in South Bohemia.
We climbed a hill (Kluk)…. were followed all the way down that hill by an off-leash dog gone rogue (and had to contact the owner)… had a picnic by the most beautiful rybník (pond) I’ve ever seen here… marveled at just how typically South Bohemian some villages look (it’s like they were trying). We ate chocolate ice creams and freshly baked hot cross buns, got a little sunburnt, traversed a pipeline ditch that most certainly wasn’t marked on the map. I picked dandelion leaves to go with our Easter salad. It was a bit of a strange Easter time (no Monday Easter caroling, green beer, nadívka, cheesy Očko music videos), but absolutely a pleasant one. There were blossoms, ice cream bars after a long hike, hot cross buns, mazanec french toast and plenty of sunshine.
I hope you are having nice spring days and finding the sunny side to all of this. If you live in a place where you are not even allowed to go outside into the public sphere at all, I feel for you so much. It hurts. I hope you can find a little space maybe outside a front or backdoor to listen to the birds and drink a cup of tea – or even just having a “purposeful” walk for no other purpose than for mental health reasons.
Even when I feel a little down about it all (and today happens to be one of those days), it’s hard not to smile a bit under your face mask with the coming of the better part of the year.