Squirrels, blossoms and a breeze: in praise of my window

Photo by PhotoMIX Ltd. from Pexels

We know what’s happening – there’s a pandemic, we all have to stay home to keep ourselves and others safe, so I will spare you and myself the lengthy intros that writers seem to love recently, even though we’re all living through the same terrifying and strange time in history. I’ll get straight to it – I am incredibly grateful for my living room window. Daily nature observation has become the highlight of my day, every day.

That’s not to say I feel like a prisoner with the window being my only solace. Not at all. I have always liked the act of standing by a window: out of curiosity, boredom or, less poetically, to divert awkward moments in conversation to the view outside. I sincerely hope to one day live in a house with window seats. Because of this, I don’t really mind being at home and I fully appreciate that I happen to live in a small flat that backs onto a very wealthy, and therefore green area. Luckily, instead of other people’s windows I see trees, vines, bushes, bumblebees and birds.

There are two windows and a balcony door, despite the lack of a real balcony. Before I started working from home, I would glimpse the gifts that this window reveals very briefly whilst getting ready to leave. Sometimes I’d stand there for a minute or two with a cup of tea in one hand and toast in the other, or look up from my phone and dive straight back into some hyper-productive artist’s Instagram story.

I would get really excited if I saw a squirrel, sometimes two in one morning, and talk about it to everyone in work. One morning I saw an owl, just sitting there on a branch looking like a little still, grey ball. It honestly felt magical, like I was chosen to experience this rare daytime appearance. I kept talking about it for weeks and only stopped once I was greeted with ‘…are you gonna tell me about the owl again?’. I clearly can’t stop and had to mention it here too.

Now my office is in the room with that window and I have long, slow mornings for looking. I make mental notes of how the leaves of the giant chestnut tree have gone from shy little buds to soon-to-be majestic, hand-shaped foliage. I count the squirrels and have got to know their schedule: they are easiest to spot between 7 and 8am and again just before lunchtime. They jump from one tree to another so quickly that they can be mistaken for birds, and leave behind trembling branches. They sprint right to the very end of a branch, the lightest, thinnest part, and jump off to somehow run across another, seemingly flimsy twig. They don’t hesitate. I had never thought about how much a squirrel weighs until now.

A few times a week I go for short runs around this green area very early in the morning. The houses are beautiful to look at and fantasise about living in, and each one has a drive so there is no danger of bumping into someone walking to their car. It makes it the perfect, quiet spot, when parks and promenades are still too crowded, even at sunrise.

It is quiet, not for the lack of sound, but because it is devoid of people. Trees shelter the area from the already reduced traffic noise and provide the ideal stage for feathered concerts. There are so many birds singing all at the same time that if you only focus on this sound, it becomes almost deafening. I can’t think of an accurate way to write down the sound that a singing bird makes, but imagine all of the ones you can think of concentrated in one place, on a crisp, cloudless spring morning.

I am doing my best to try to notice as many seasonal changes as I can in my immediate natural surroundings, but I still can’t help feeling a little sad about not being able to fully experience the transition from winter to spring. Leaves are not in their most luscious, fleshy form just yet but still in the delicate, transparent stage. When the morning sun shines through them from below, it gives each and every one its own tiny halo. Tulips and daffodils are in full Easter glory, some trees are shyly opening tiny flowers, others already blossoming profusely. Does not seeing them all the time make the short blossom period even more precious?

There was one morning when I heard a woodpecker. In the city! I couldn’t see it, but the sound was unmistakable and made me stop suddenly, in that retro cartoon fashion that kicks dust up from the ground. Another time I spotted a fox crossing the road, silently and sneakily. Perhaps foxes always look sneaky because they have little legs, and being close to the ground makes them look like they’re constantly creeping around. A fuzzy bumblebee comes to my window every day, buzzing around for a second and flies away. It will come back tomorrow.

Writing this text, I’m not focusing on the benefits of mindfulness, ‘forest bathing’ (whatever that means), morning runs or fresh air. It’s not advice on the best way to survive a pandemic at home, because I have no idea what that would be. I still regularly check the news, click on angry Twitter trends and get anxious before going to the shop. Most of all I worry about my Parents, especially because my Mum is a nurse currently working on an Intensive Care Unit. Right now nothing can directly help the situation we’re all in, nothing can stop these fearful thoughts. All I want to express is how grateful I am for this window, the bee, the blossoming trees, for the foxes and the squirrels. All of them thankfully entirely indifferent towards me standing there: distracted and unsure, yet always in awe of this view.