When Alison asked me to write about something positive that 2020 brought
me, I initially thought that, at best, I could manage a Haiku; 17 syllables
should easily wrap up the good that 2020 brought me.
Everything has stopped.
Silence on the street outside.
But not in my head.
That silence on the streets is the absence of activities outside the
house this year. Those activities, which I used to take for granted, were
limited to the first few weeks of the year and a to a few weeks in the summer.
As 2020 passed, this New Normal settled down, a thick smog stifling the lives
we knew. This metaphor sums up how I thought I would regard 2020. However, one
year is a lot of time to just let life pass by and this is not how to remember
such a pivotal year. So we look a little deeper.
Amsterdam during lockdown
As of writing this piece, I have managed to avoid boredom. I have
developed new interests and rekindled long forgotten ones. My relationship has
come out of lockdown stronger than ever, though we each believe the other
speaks way too loudly during video conference calls.
These are good realisations to have, and I can only thank 2020 for
them. However the one thing that stands
out for me is the resilience that the natural world has shown. After just a few weeks of lockdown, we were
seeing how nature was able to rebound with spectacular resilience. Jellyfish in
the canals of Venice. Dolphins in the Bosphorus and Hong Kong. Flamingoes in
Mumbai. Mountain lions in Santiago. Wild boars in Barcelona, Berlin and Haifa.
We are in a manmade age of mass extinction and nature has used 2020 to grab us
by our lapels, shake us awake and shout loudly in our faces that it is not too
late, so don’t give up!
Dolphins in the Bosphorus
I know that we will eventually return to our hurried lives, but I like
to think that we got a collective wake-up call from nature to allow it more
space to exist. This resonates with me because
my time in Italy is largely spent in the hills behind Cortona relishing
the nature around me. I keep a log of all the nature I have seen in the garden,
including a roe deer with fawn, masses of fireflies, stick insects, pine
martins, squirrels, boars and wolf spiders giving piggy back rides to their
hundreds of offspring.
This is re-wilded nature that I enjoy. The woods that surround the house
were farmland a few decades back; after the war, the valley depopulated and the
unused terraces slowly reverted back to forest. This was part of a broader
trend and today there are organisations working hard to re-wild parts of
Europe, with one of the most important sites being the central Apennines, where
the Marsican brown bear has its last refuge.
To our north is Parco Nazionale delle Foreste
Casentinesi, Monte Falterona e Campigna. Connecting such areas to each other is vital for the long term success
of larger fauna.
Marsican brown bear with cubs
Our home in Italy is in the (re)wildest area we could find and it gives
us great delight to be in a corridor between these important sites for the
Appenine wolf, which is still classified as vulnerable. We are far from where
we should be and in many areas we are still not gaining the ground that we
should, but the reactions to nature’s message in 2020 has given me hope that
there are many more people who could start to think like this and make this
vision more attainable.