Some evenings the bird chatter – the kaa ka kas, the pep pip pips, the alarm calls- grate on me. During the day I love hearing them and it grates on me that it grates on me and thus a vicious cycle spins on.
This is a new thing. Normally I love hearing the birds as I settle into bed so I wanted to interrogate this, to try and understand what is going on.
My initial thoughts were about time of day; come evening, I am much more tired, and right now I am more likely to be fed up and despondent by the time I get into bed. This is also the first time I am really alone in the day and I sink into my subconscious whirlings. I don’t feel naturally aligned with appreciation, appreciation of anything, at this time of day.
I spend the day noticing and loving but by night I need distraction – tv, film, reading – something I can escape into. And whilst the birds are incredible, they are inevitably out there in the world, right now. And my mind will not let me forget that I am not, and will not let me forget that I am hearing them so much clearer because of the global pandemic.
The birds do not give me the escape I need in this phase of my daily cycle. Their caws and cacks instead pull me away from the fantasy world I plunge into and remind me that my escape is just an illusion. That however hard I try, I am still living in a world with a virus that could kill me and the people I love. A virus that has already killed.
I am still living in a world where the reckless acts of strangers ignoring the rules could turn out to kill. They could be carrying it, walking bombs waiting to be detonated. I am still living in a world where disabled people are being devalued repeatedly in clumsy attempts to get through this crisis, where we are told we may not get the care we need to stay alive (1). And that now that able bodied people are stuck home too, suddenly technology can be used to meet up, to do courses. to offer talks online. And suddenly working from home is perfectly possible.
The calls of the blackbird on the roof pulls me back into a world where people with a week or two of being stuck home under their belt, are suddenly experts on loving nature from home. Despite their daily walks, possibly through countryside and woodland, and their good sized garden, they speak with the authority of a housebound disabled person who has lived this for years. Our voices, those with lived experiences and expertise, are still not heard. We are shouting and going unnoticed because we are disposable, literally right now. Worthless. Valueless. (2)
I have shed many shackles since becoming disabled; the idea that my value is about my economic contribution and my productivity; that my self worth is tied to doing… Is the evening bird song grating against another shackle? One where I cannot be a nature lover, or a nature writer, if I cannot always appreciate it and embrace it?(3)
The nightly scrabble and scramble of starlings on the feeder doesn’t seem as endearing as it did hours before. And all that has changed is me. I have moved through my day, and now I want to tune out the world, and all the noise that tries to tell me I am unimportant. When the messages scream so loudly, so constantly, they cannot help but echo and reverberate around my soul.
By the time I get into bed, I need to escape. I need to live in a different world or a different time. And those birds that I love so deeply and dearly, peck through the bubble I am trying to build.
Come the dawn chorus, I am back to noticing, caring, loving and appreciating.
(1) A recent RIDC survey found 50% of people with care support needs are no longer receiving health or personal care visits to their home. Disabled people left off coronavirus vulnerable people list go without food. Ministers warned coronavirus bill threatens services for disabled people.