The lockdown due to coronavirus has meant a change in the way we live our lives, both professionally and personally and we’ve had to find ways to cope with a situation that is new to us all and the challenges it would inevitably bring especially mentally. Seeing Matt's call for guest bloggers I thought it would be great to share what I've been up to and how it's helped me cope. Taking a leaf out of Matt's book and being inspired by him, I have been open and honest about how I'm doing.
As a freelance wildlife researcher and photographer my outdoor year would normally start in March and carry on through well into the autumn months with several days a week being spent recording, observing and photographing plants, invertebrates, amphibians and reptiles, not only that it would normally be a busy time of year with talks, The Photography Show, workshops and trips.
(The Garden when we moved in)
2020 was always going to be a different year and to some extent a difficult start to the year for me as I continue to recover and rehab from an ongoing shoulder and neck injuries meaning photography would have to wait until later in the year regardless of the lockdown, but this would leave me time to concentrate on other aspects of my job. But as the virus took hold in the UK and restrictions started to come in, eventually reaching lockdown I saw all my paid work commitments through to July so far postponed or cancelled leaving me, as with many others, with no income and wondering what to do as the lockdown was announced.
A few months before we started to see cases of coronavirus increase I had already made the decision to use my time recovering from surgery to properly sort out and clear up my hard drives, going through several years worth of images, reprocessing and sharing and to work on the text for a couple of projects and books.
But I couldn’t just sit at my computer all day, day in day out, I needed something I could work on outside away from work. I had already been making plans to continue redesigning our garden to make it more wildlife friendly and manageable in a changing climate and the lockdown really gave me the kick I needed to make a start. One thing we have been lucky with during the lockdown has been the weather, certainly here in Somerset anyway, and as it turned warmer and drier we started by ripping out all the decking leaving a blank canvas to work with.
I had all these plans in my head about what I wanted to do, including putting in a bigger pond, but in the end I just went with it to see how it would develop as I did each little section. I have to admit I'm enjoying the journey and also spending so much time in the garden, although I do often get distracted by the bees in particular at the moment.
With the decking removed, it allowed me to finish the pond, put in a bird bath and make a start on creating a fern and rock garden and sowing patches to native wildflowers and grasses found in the area that I live, a seed mix that I was able order online and have sent through the post. Being able to throw myself into creating little mini habitats and the creation of a garden we could enjoy as it matures has really helped me to deal with the situation mentally, and having to do it gradually partly due to physical restrictions but also due to availability of seeds/plants and other materials has allowed me to schedule time in every day to do a little bit. The garden is far from finished and the next stages will be gradual as I am making the individual stepping stones that lead up to the seating area, once these are made and in place I will finish planting the rock garden plants (when I can get hold of some), wildflowers and seeding the remaining areas.
Although I have continued to post through my social media channels, sharing images from my archives and garden progress, they are, for me, very much part of my work so rarely share anything that relates to my personal life and how I’ve managed to cope through the last 9 weeks or so. For me it's strange, because actually not that much has changed other than not being able to go out to do any photography, but at the moment I am unable to do that anyway, other than losing my talks/workshops my work processes have largely been the same as they would be under normal circumstances. What I have found very hard though is all treatment for my shoulder/neck has been put on hold meaning I have to deal with constant pain which effects many aspects of my life leaving in tears most days at some point not being able to deal with the pain. For me being able to concentrate on the garden has given me something to really focus on and take my mind of the uncertainty of when I will be able to see the medical team again and get back on track.
I have found that having a daily plan and schedule has really helped me over the last 9 weeks, spending my mornings working on my computer and work projects then going for a run or cycle or doing another form of exercise and then spending the afternoons working on the garden. Having this routine has really allowed me to cope mentally day to day and also keep track of the days. I won't lie, it hasn't and still isn't easy but at least I know that my garden will be finished in the next month or so rather than in a couple of years time so I can enjoy all the wildlife that comes to visit at all times of the day while having a cup of tea and reading a book.
I hope this inspires you to maybe make some small changes to your garden if you can, because although I've really only got ahead with it due to the lockdown it is something that will benefit us as a family and of course our amazing wildlife for many years to come. Giving me a space to retreat to when I need to clear my head and eventually hours of joy (and probably frustration) with my camera, not only that but it will give me somewhere I can gradually build back up using my camera and getting back to my macro photography without the pressures of having to come home with images. For now, I will enjoy creating the rest of the garden and watching all the invertebrates and of course frogs in the garden.
Thank you to Matt for allowing me to be a guest on his blog, stay safe and well everyone and look after yourselves mentally and physically.
Victoria Hillman is a Zoologist, photographer, speaker, writer, tour guide and competition judge.
Twitter - @vikspics
website - www.vikspics.com