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How Lockdown Made Me Rediscover The Nature On My Doorstep

by Leila Vibert-Stokes

As a print and textile designer, I have always been profoundly connected to the natural world. It is always an incredible source of inspiration, from the most dramatic landscapes to the tiniest of leaves, the greatest feline predators to the smallest jewel like insects. 

When the first lockdown started just over a year ago in the UK, I found myself confined to my small home, stripped of human contact, the outside world and creative inspiration.  I had always relied on being in nature to inspire and refresh my ideas but lockdown made me realise how much I had also been relying on it for my well being. 

Being in nature has well documented health benefits, from boosting our moods, reducing stress and anxiety to improving our physical health.  So how do you connect with nature and the animal kingdom when locked at home during a pandemic?

The one saving glory was my bit of garden nestled in North London. Watching this small, previously overlooked patch of nature go through its daily changes provided respite, amusement and gave rhythm to the endless passing of time.  Each morning, instead of rushing to my computer, I sat there with a coffee observing the daily routine of the local animals - the blackbirds and robins fighting over the best nesting spot in a particularly favoured bush, the visiting wood pigeon that always showed up at 9am on the dot, a stray cat dashing along the fence, morning catch in her mouth.  

Taking the time to enjoy the slow pace of daily nature brought calm and peace in a time of global anxiety. Knowing that all this fauna and flora continued to thrive, oblivious to the chaos a tiny virus was wrecking on the human world, allowed me to take a step back. I found a well needed sense of perspective when sat watching my garden. For the first time in my life it felt OK not to rush. Despite the stress and uncertainty, my garden reminded me that this pandemic was just a moment in time and that it too will, eventually, pass. 

I found a renewed appreciation for the small things I would have previously ignored or looked down on, deeming them too common place and not exciting enough - the rustling in the hedgerows along the canals, a fox crossing the street ahead of me, blossom blooming on the trees outside my house.  As time went on, I felt what I can only call a sense of “anti-wanderlust”.  I didn’t want to explore faraway lands, chasing the latest and greatest thrill. Instead, I wanted to continue enjoying everything I had just on my doorstep, seeing it all anew.  

A year on, that appreciation for the small things still remains - a picnic with friends in the park seems more thrilling than an extravagant holiday, a walk down the canals could be as exciting as a trek through a faraway jungle. 

I found this renewed love for the simplicity of local nature so inspiring I based my second homewares collection around it. Called the Joy of Home, it is inspired by the beautiful nature we have on our doorstep here in the UK, from manicured back gardens to messy hedgerows, and all the creatures that live there.  I was astonished to discover some amazing animals that live in the British Isles. The near extinct Red Squirrels, Puffins with their dramatic beaks, tortoiseshell butterflies and lime hawk moths, British octopus and short snouted sea horses all made their way into my designs. 

It is a series of fun, bold and colourful pieces that remind me daily to slow down, take a deep breath and just fully enjoy the here and now.