As I sat quietly in the corner of the waiting room by the only open window, I felt a brief sense of stillness in the hospital chatter as a cool breeze caressed the skin on my face. It’s easy to feel disconnected from the world in hospitals as time seems to move at a different speed: sometimes ‘take-your-breath-away quick’, but mainly agonisingly slow as everything becomes frozen in stasis as the day gets stretched out of shape with waiting, waiting and waiting.
That morning, as the air tantalised the skin on my face like a warm embrace from a close friend, I longed to escape from the centre of London and back to my country idyll. My thoughts drifted into nature as I allowed the breeze to reconnect me to the whispering trees, the dappled sunlight dancing through the canopy, the blackbird in full song, the hammering woodpecker, the deafening silence of the deer standing perfectly still watching me watching her watching me and the bees buzzing from flower to flower. That’s not some whimsical fairy land, but it’s where I live. I’m extremely lucky to live where I do but, that morning in the hospital waiting room, I felt a deep twang of sadness that my walks deep into nature were no longer physical ones as my illness had taken that away from me.
It’s so easy to take things for granted. That is, until we can’t. I wish I’d made more of my moments in nature, but regrets don’t help as all I have is now. All I have? Despite my fragility, I can still hear the birdsong, the woodpecker hammering and the whispering trees, so I haven’t lost this connection entirely; it’s just that the nature of my connection has changed. Despite my upbeat positivity I do feel undeniably sad that something as simple as being with nature is, by and large, now beyond my reach…
Of course, it’s easy to focus on what I’ve lost. There are days when it feels as though my world has no doors or windows. Sometimes it feels as though the walls are getting closer as my world grows smaller and smaller. Yet, inwardly, my world is expanding; just as my other senses have started to compensate for the loss of my sense of smell, my imagination has become more vibrant allowing me to reconnect to those simple experiences once again. It’s not the same of course, as it’s hard to get caught in a moment of natural majesty when one isn’t actually in that moment, but it’s the best I have.
As I sat in the waiting room, I continued to enjoy the cool breeze on my face and I became aware that someone had sat down nearby, so I opened my eyes and saw a slightly dishevelled looking young woman sitting in the seat diagonally opposite to me. She looked flushed and was sighing in relief at the cool breeze coming in from the window.
‘Why are these places so hot?’ she said, fanning her red face with a well-thumbed magazine. I always avoid magazines in hospitals as my somewhat irrational germ-fear makes me question the wisdom of handling something so well handled by so many in a place where there are statistically more sick people than average. I digress. The woman continued:
‘This place is my second home these days so I should get used to the heat, but I can’t, it sucks the life out of me’.
I smiled and she continued: ‘Home!’ she laughed. ‘My second home’ she said looking around the characterless room.
‘Some say that “home is where the heart is”, but I’m not convinced about that as, no matter how much I’m here, in this hospital, I couldn’t ever call this place home’ she said, grinning. She continued:
‘I came to realise that my home isn’t where my heart is, but it is my heart. I mean, it’s a feeling like a cuddle with my dog Charlie, a smile from my mum or my sister’s laugh. It’s all those little things that, added together, make home. That way, no matter where I am, even hospital, I’m always home: I carry it with me wherever I go. So, I’m not looking for it anymore and I’m never lost’. She smiled, fanned the magazine a few more times before vanishing out of the room as stealthily as she’d arrived.
I sat pondering her words and smiled to myself as she had managed to reset my focus as I was no longer hankering after what I’d lost, but instead feeling a sense of gratitude for what was left. My woodland sanctuary is still home as its forever in my heart; I someday truly hope to return in person but, for now, in this moment, I feel balanced. As I sat, feeling the breeze on my face, I felt a growing sense of reconnection to life, so I took a deep breath and smiled…