I first began to walk in nature when I couldn’t. When I could only lie in brief snatches on my sofa and peer at the world outside through the window. Where the horse chestnut tree grew leaves and lost them, when it’s rose-pink blossom bloomed and fell. I would dream of the breeze on my skin, imagine the feel of the ground under my feet. Then, exhausted, I would to return to bed.
I was twenty-seven and bedridden with M.E. for a year, housebound for another six months. My goals through my CBT treatment included graded mental and physical activities. Week after week I built this up until I could walk to the first green space beyond our communal garden, a small, inner-city park ten minutes away. There I would sit and listen to birdsong and smile as the flowers unfurled and grew.
I next began to walk in nature a decade later. I was diagnosed with severe Complex PTSD from childhood abuse. I was bound in a 24/7 hell of day-time flashbacks and night-time night terrors and panic attacks. I was a fly snarled in the web of my past. In the two years I waited for NHS treatment, and the eighteen months of ravaging EMDR reliving therapy that followed, I dragged myself out to walk five minutes uphill to the lush, landscaped jewel of Waterlow Park. I would stand beneath the willows and the hornbeams and gaze up to the cyan or slate of the sky. I would pad over the grass and around the ponds; a park of small valleys, and lakes, of blue spaces and green. I would watch the waterfowl and their chicks, and hear the blackbirds sing. I would breathe.
I now walk by the sea, every day. Sometimes for half an hour, sometimes for two. I listen to the ripple or boom of the waves on Edinburgh’s shoreline, I beach-comb for shells. I sink into sandbanks, and battle the forty, sometimes eighty kilometre winds. I take photographs. I write. I walk and I think and everyday I try to leave my past behind.
And with every step I am grateful that I can.