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I think it’s going to be okay

5 April 2020
Ben Pentreath
34 Comments

We’ve had another week of beautiful mornings – although cold, with a biting east wind. But our daily round of getting up and taking the dogs out as the sun is rising has been magical at clearing the head and sorting the brain…. I hope for you as much as for me.  Never in my life have I been more aware of the restorative power of nature, and the importance of tending to our little corner of the plot of the great garden that we call Earth. 

The Longhorn cows have been out on the high chalk hills. Their gentle, unhurried nature, touches the earth so lightly…

… in contrast, I will say (I’m afraid) to so much of the more aggressive farming around and about this valley, which thinks its alright to hurtle around tiny lanes and fields in huge over-scaled machines, destroying, only this week, lane-side verges where only the day before I’d noticed swathes of tiny violets just beginning to flower. Gone in an instant, crushed by a vast tyre…  Or which thinks nothing of ploughing up ancient untouched pasture to make a quick feed crop.

I understand why it happens like this, I understand it’s to do livelihoods, I (think) I really understand the tough realities of farming in the modern world –  but I cannot quite be sure it’s the right way – and I’m feeling that more strongly than ever this particular week which sees our daily round, morning after morning, drinking in the same views, and noticing the tiny details – suddenly crushed.

But the skies were blue and spring is bursting, despite the horrible news unfolding all around us. This morning, Bridie and I found out that our great friend David, who has exhibited his beautiful little prints in our shop for so many years now, passed away on Saturday morning from the virus; a wonderful, kind, brilliant, gentle man who one just knows had so many more good years to give, despite his great age of 90. And Bridie lost her great friend Sue yesterday as well. We’ve lit candles to them both this evening. 

 

Charlie has been hard at work in his garden. 

I’m slightly regretting that last autumn he made what felt like a perfectly sensible decision not to plant his usual thousands of tulip bulbs. We really thought we’d be spending as much time as possible in Scotland this spring. I know it makes me sound like a spoilt brat when I say that is not to be – but believe me, I am not complaining, I have never, ever in my whole life been more grateful that we have managed to rent this beautiful house, as well as live in London, for so many years now – it is a place of total solace.

We’ve had still, gentle evenings with pink April sunsets. 

I remember when I was living in New York in the time right after 9/11, that the city fairly quickly split into two worlds – uptown, where semblances of normality returned within days of that terrible moment; downtown, where I was living, where the sense of crisis, of war, almost, lasted for months and months. I suppose the same thing may happen again, where our cities – which are meant to be full of life, love, laughter, intensity, bustle, trade, rough trade, people – lie silent while life in the countryside can in some way or another carry on.  Time will tell.

Today, on our walk, the skies were blue and the sunshine and dryness felt almost like midsummer – a summer just missing its leaves. But they are bursting, literally day by day now. A few weeks from now this entire view will be an intense, vivid spring green.

And I’ve got to admit – despite some of what I’ve already written this evening – I find that an immensely optimistic thought just now. Just for a start, I think of David, the greatest optimist I ever knew – he wouldn’t have wanted the world to be fearful, or closed, right now.

But I’m finding my optimism this way, at the moment, too: for years, I used to have a time persuading my Mum not to worry about the things that were out of her control. It’s a mantra – let us face it – that I’ve written about time and again on this blog when we’re faced by strange or hard or evil events in the world, or things we find difficult to accept. Be informed, but don’t worry about the things outside of your control. Gently, calmly, quietly look after your own bit of the patch.

Two or three weeks ago, I somehow started to get into my head that it was my responsibility to sort everything out. But it’s not. That’s a collective task, which is now underway, not perfectly, let’s admit it, but then again not terribly in the circumstances either. In fact, pretty well, I’d say. We are all involved in a huge collective effort now, and it currently feels sensible, and balanced, and worthwhile.  Other people can fill up column inches writing whether it is better to save old people’s lives or the economy. I’m not interested in that question – in fact, I imagine, that an answer will arise, over time, with common sense; which tries, haltingly, to do a bit of both until science or drugs or vaccines make the answers easier and the results less conflicting.

But no: none of this, none of these questions, are actually to do with me. My responsibility is quite small.  It’s to look after my employees, and our clients, and suppliers; to love my friends, family, neighbours, and of course Charlie – and to help strangers where we are able – not that any of us are encountering many strangers these days. That’s it.  And, that, I hope, we are doing, and doing okay.  And I’m sure you are too, in your own large, or small way.

I’ve pretty much stopped listening to or reading the news. None of it is really changing anyway.  And I think the media are right now fuelling obsessions of grief, sadness, hope, elation, despair (followed by another cycle of grief, sadness, hope, elation, and despair, ad infinitum, in the hope that you’ll carry on reading… absolutely nothing new). May I recommend this, more so now that ever?

It will pass; the only question is how long.

And that’s a question for others, and it’s not a question for us, because it is not in our control. But the question for us to think about so very carefully now – to use this time – an unbelievably challenging time for so many (including me, I will add), but also precious time – to use this time to think carefully and profoundly and with love and humour about the world we’d like to see together on the other side. And I think it’s going to be okay.

 

34 comments on this post

Ashleysays:

Thank you so much for your very thoughtful words and the beautiful photos. I needed the reminder today.

Jessica Marcumsays:

You always put things so beautifully. I needed to read this today, thank you.

Diane Keanesays:

Ironically, having stopped listening/reading to the news many years ago,I am now doing so often due to the virus. Of course, living in the United States, where we also have to deal with a government run by a benighted sociopath, awareness has become a necessity. I pray that lessons learned from this pandemic will include realizing that we can never “conquer” Nature, and that the capitalist pursuit of profit above all else is not sustainable. I hope, but I have my doubts. May it be your vision and not mine, that comes to pass.

Darlene Chandlersays:

Dear Ben and Charlie: Thank you again for the lovely scenery pictures and words of wisdom. I so look forward to Charlie’s garden in the future, and it is sad about the tulips, but who knew what was going to happen this year for us all. You are right it is out of our control, we only can hope for the best and do our best to protect ourselves, loved ones and hope everything will come out fine in the end and a better world where we have all had a chance to spend more quality time perhaps with love ones and thinking of others needs. You have the beautiful nature and love around you to get you through this. I am so sorry about your friend David, his work was lovely. And my thoughts to Bridie for the loss of her good friend at this time. I think taking time to reflect for each of us or hope it will lead to a better future of appreciation. Some say live for the day and make each day count in a special way, one does not know what is down the road. Take care and thank you again.

Alicia Whitakersays:

Dear Ben and Charlie, it’s reassuring to see that you are keeping well and finding solace in the natural world. I read something yesterday that resonated with me – nature is innocent. Yes, she is, and is such a source of comfort now. I’ve been at my house in the Hamptons since March 11. What has been wonderful is to be here every day to see spring unfolding. There are so many things that I miss as a year round resident who is here for long weekends — being here every day makes a difference. Stay well – your inspiring messages always strike a chord with me, but especially now. My best to you both and the dogs, Alicia

Nicolasays:

Totally agree with your description of the parameters of our personal responsibilities. And I’m also very disappointed in the media; yes they have to fill up their awful so-called rolling news programmes, but did Brexit teach them nothing? And this is far more important and serious. One despairs. My best wishes, Nicola

Silsays:

Thank you, Ben, for this beautiful words and pictures.
Hope everyone is safe and healthy. And I too think it’s going to be okay.

David Sanderssays:

I agree, Ben. The constant cycle of news spewed out by media outlets is destructive to one’s own state of wellbeing. Yes, It’s all just “grief, sadness, hope and despair, ad infinitum.” Poor old Boris has really been through the wars; I do like his optimism and energy and it’s really sad to him looking so poorly – suffering from Covid-19. Hope he gets well soon and that he gets back to his usual bouncy self.

Junesays:

Your blog has been therapy and joy for me for quite a few years. Thank you so much, Ben. I’m very sorry to hear of the loss of your friend and Bridie’s.

Yesterday, I lost my mom, aged 92. She lived a long life on her own terms with lots of love. She was in hospital because she fell and broke her hip. She never really stabilized and soon just slipped away, but the hard part for us was not being able to enter the hospital at all due to COVID-19 restrictions. She was alone for her final days. So I’m trying to accept the way this has happened; I certainly have no access to a why this happened at this time. Once again your words and outlook are comforting and and helpful. Thank you. Yes, nature is the healer. I’m fortunate to live by the ocean and stopped at the closed beach access to watch the pelicans dive for bait fish in the crashing surf. I faced the wind and breathed the salt air and knew my mother was out there and at peace. And it helps.

Anne (in Virginia)says:

Charlie’s bulbs in pots inspired me to pot up daffodils and muscari this past November for my terrace. I am so grateful to have those beauties to look at every day while in isolation. Take care.

John Hartsays:

Great Blog, Ben. I absolutely agree with your comments about the media reporting of the current virus situation. I am particularly disappointed in the BBC.

Frannsays:

Thank you, Ben, for this beautiful and needed musing.

Alexandra Bennettsays:

Dear Ben and Charlie,

Many thanks for the beauty and care you share living your lives.
Ben your posts are the light to fuel my start to Monday.
I instructed my family and friends to avoid the news as much as possible.
There is so much misinformation, and noise.
Focus on eating well, exercise, fresh air, restorative sleep and the friends and family we love and support. Connect via phone and virtual methods. In Canada where I live I support my farmers who now provide fresh organic produce to be pick up respecting social distancing.
Rather then using large shops. Restaurants that prepare and deliver to the boot of the car. Payments premade online.
Tending to the garden to restore my soul connecting with my 80+ aged relatives in the UK where I give honest health advice they can trust.
Our Queen was so wise and honest and most importantly hopeful.
To speak to us on Palm Sunday was very meaningful. Holy Week this year will be different than we have experienced in your lifetimes. Yet will be all the more meaningful.
Alex 🙂

Your blog and photos of the countryside are such a sweet tiny respite from the pandemonium of a pandemic. Thank you…

Lisa D.says:

I’ve said this before, but I so love looking at the beautiful, pastoral pictures that you post. Thank you for sharing them, Ben. I’m so very sorry that you have lost a dear friend. When one hears on the news about the number of people that have been taken by this virus, that’s bad enough, but when it takes someone that you know, it brings perspective as to how serious this is. Stay safe and healthy –

Lisa from California

P.S. Do you happen to know what kind of plant makes up the hedge
in the sixth picture down from the top – the one behind the
picketed gate?

carolynsays:

Dear Ben, your blog always is so generous – and now, in addition to the beauty and wonder – there is a heightened GIFT of spiritual balance and sustenance. Thank you.

Jacquelinesays:

Heartwarming Post Ben thank you . ‘Ravilious with a camera’ lifted my spirits and the arrival of Swallows here in the hills of Florence . Jacqueline

Johnsays:

We too have a second home in the country as a retreat from the city but are staying put in the town as required, much as we would love to go there.
Are you living in London or Dorset? You may have missed the opprobrium heaped on the hapless CMO of Scotland if you are not reading the news.

Shane about the tulips.

ANOUSHKA ALEXANDERsays:

I’m so sorry for your recent losses;I wish you strength to bear them.

Thank-you so much for your beautiful blog — I really appreciate it, your words and the calming images of an ancient landscape steadily carrying on.

I live in SE London, a stone’s through from central London, really, but a world away from it. Due to long-term health problems (not Covid-19-related) I was stuck in bed for the last week, but today I managed to go for a walk to one of my many local parks. It is actually remnants of an ancient wood that covered this whole area. Wild violets were carpeting the ground underneath the trees, I gathered handfuls of wild garlic (which I’ve now made into pesto and frozen) and a woodpecker was busy hammering away.

You are so right about limiting our exposure to the news. All I seem to have done since lockdown is listen to the news and waste time on social media. I have now decided to go back to listening to the news only when I would have done anyway, and to limit time online to an hour a day.

Birgitsays:

Dear Ben,
I am so sorry to hear this, my deepest condolences to you and Bridie.
Your words are so heartfelt, God bless you.
The images are very peaceful and beautiful, thank you so much.
Please stay safe and healthy you both and Bridie.
With all my best wishes,
Yours Birgit from Germany

Cillasays:

Thank you

Anna Ksays:

Wise and uplifting words, Ben, hitting exactly the right note. I was sorry to hear of the losses you and Bridie have had.

Yes, we must nurture our little bit of earth, and our family and friends – and not worry about things beyond our control. ‘Worrying does not ease the troubles of tomorrow; it robs today of its joy’.

Best wishes to you and Charlie and all those you love. Stay well!

Richard Duncalfsays:

A wonderful and lovely reflective piece. I agree that there is a sense of powerlessness and for those of us used to having some measure of control, all we can do now is to look after and support our loved ones wherever they may be. Best wishes.

Wonderful blog Ben. We must all count our blessings and look forward to a bright future both at work and play. As we all try our best to work from home, home school and generally keep our heads up, the last thing we need is the press trying to dampen our spirits. I’m not sure why they think this makes for interesting news. I would much rather hear stories of our fellow citizens who are rising to the challenge and making the most of the situation.

Julie Wakefieldsays:

Thank you, Ben. Such a lovely post, with such heartfelt sentiments.

And very good advice!

I’m so sorry for you loss, and hope that eventually we will survive to regain health and freedom once more x

Joyce Morrissays:

I always read your blogs Ben, but have never posted before. However, this one has prompted me to add to all of the lovely comments.
Thank you for the gorgeous, peaceful photographs.
Thank you for the, encouraging and apt, words.
We are all in this together and your blog helps us to get through this dreadful time, with hope and optimism in abundance.

Sally Bedell Smithsays:

Oh, Ben, among the many silver linings in this awful time are deepening connections, finding new friends (e.g. a lively new email correspondence with someone I met several years ago) , and making discoveries—namely, your evocative and sensitive blog that you referred to today on Instagram. I think you wrote this before the Queen’s uplifting and beautiful speech, but you make the essential point of commonality. So this will be a weekly Sunday pleasure from now on. Thank you for your gorgeous images and thoughtful words.❤️ To you and Charlie, S

Andiesays:

Bless you sweet man and your words. I look forward to them weekly. I am so very sorry for you and Bridie’s losses. Stay well!

Deborah Wagnersays:

Your advice is spot on, Ben.

I am sorry for your and Bridie’s losses, and I’m grateful beyond words that no one in my family or circle of friends has come down with it so far.

Today I planted more peas in the cold frame, tended to my sprouting flower seeds, and monitored the pots I planted up with vegetables seeds. The world goes away when I’m doing that, even if it’s only pots on tarmac in a city driveway.

HM was wonderful. I cried.

We will come through this—and hopefully so will the PM and everyone else who is suffering.

Love, Deborah

Mikesays:

Her Majesty’s speech hit just the right notes as always -calm,steady and reassuring. As did yours though I did take exception at the end. The response in the states has been uneven at best on the state (here in California the governor has been on the whole proactive) and abysmal on the federal/national level. Not quite shambolic but damn close. Like you I don’t dwell upon it but I find it impossible to tune out completely because my husband is a doctor and it is our reality. I do believe we will eventually emerge from this wiser and hopefully much better prepared in future. But that is a ways away and in the meantime we must carry on. I am looking forward to your newest book to add to my Pentreath collection.
And deepest condolences on yours & Bridie’s losses,never easy whatever the cause.

Hettiesays:

Your weekly blog is always very therapeutic, but even more so during this time. Also enjoying your countryside walk pictures on Instagram, which I find equally restorative. Endless gratitude that we are facing coronavirus during the springtime, instead of the depth of winter. Sending much love, and many thanks xx

Michelesays:

Bless you, Ben. This week’s post made me cry in its utter goodness, simplicity and common sense. So sad that you have experienced loss. We here in the US hunker down and focus on carrying on. (You are completely correct about watching the news. None of us would have the energy to carry on if we kept watching.) Take care. My sympathies to Bridie.

Deby (in Canada)says:

Oh Ben… you have certainly found the right words this evening and I think such good advice to
take in less newscasts and focus on our own today’s and the hopes we have for our friends and family in the time ahead…. sharing your and Charlie’s walks all week has been a soothing start to confusing days. So sorry about the loss of your friend xx
and God Save the Queen

Debra Mooresays:

Dear Ben l am sorry to hear of the loss of yours and Bridies friends. The virus is taking lives now and we can all relate to the grief and loss it is as if the virus is getting closer to us. Never before In our life time have we been faced with such uncertainty. I totally understand how our world nature our friends family and neighbours are all so paramount in what life is about. We have hope and the brilliantly educated doctors and scientists and government who will hopefully help us to get through all this. Your blog was so sensitively written and with such gratitude and praise of life you fill our hearts with love compassion and joy and hope thank you for your wonderful sharing of nature pictures and words of strength and comfort it is a gift of love. God Bless you Charlie and everyone at this uncertain time.

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