At least for a minute or two.
Last week I was helping my partner housesit for her parents while they were away on holiday. I worked during the week, but over the weekend had the pleasure of enjoying just being in the garden with no commitments beyond walking the dog twice a day.
It was glorious.
It was warm, so we walked early and late in the day. But the period after lunch, that lovely post-noon lull when you’ve eaten and have nothing to do for the next few hours, was a wonderful moment to just sit and be.
The world is busy right now. I feel like it will only get busier if we continue to let it. If we’re not bombarded with notifications from a thousand apps, WhatsApp groups, social media, things to do, hobbies to monetise, hustles to grind, and places to be, then we’re hounded by 24-hour news cycles of war, suffering, and climate breakdown.
Cities don’t help, either. Without green space, they become concrete jungles, where the roar of traffic drowns out the birds and the flutter of a discarded plastic bag is louder than that of insect wings.
It doesn’t have to be that way, of course. Spending time in nature, or forest bathing, is pretty much medically certified to reduce stress, blood pressure and depression, increase levels of serotonin, and just generally make you feel great.
Couple that with a complete disconnect from the digital world, and you have a recipe for relaxation.
There’s a hammock in the garden that I spent most of my time in. No phone, no book, not even any other humans to speak to. By switching off from any kind of consumption I could let myself be aware, more in tune with the world around me. The sounds, the sensations, the colours.
I reject the idea that you have to escape from the city to enjoy this. Cities shouldn’t be places we have to escape from in the first place. With 68% of the world’s population predicted to live in cities by 2050, we have to make them places that work for both people and the planet, or we’re going to have one heck of a health crisis on our hands.
Our parks, gardens and urban orchards need to be places of relaxation. Places people can go to unwind, just minutes from their homes as well as minutes from their offices. Living in an urban area should not mean sacrificing the beauty of doing nothing on a summer’s day.
I’m fully aware of the incredible luxury that I have, not needing to spend my weekend looking after a sick relative, working a second job to keep up my rent payments, or fleeing from persecution or natural disaster. I also make sure never to take that comfort for granted, because like anyone else in the world I could find myself in one or more of those situations at a moment’s notice.
But I also want to make sure that whatever difficulties come my way in the future, I will be able to take at least a minute now and then to do nothing, and to remind myself that ever existing at all was nothing short of a miracle.