My love of nature began when I was a little girl. Walks through Bute Park in Cardiff, summers spent in my grandmother’s garden, nature books and an affinity with science inspired a love of flowers, birds, wild life, seasons and the earth itself.
I remember creating illustrations of birds of prey in primary school, focusing on their amazing talons, and diagrams about climate change. In high school I did the Duke of Edinburgh Award. We went camping and navigated using maps. It was my first experience of sleeping under the stars and out in nature.
It wasn’t until I studied fashion and textiles fulltime by doing a BTEC National Diploma that I felt able to fully express my love of nature, and by then it had become a kind of personal faith expressing the divine. I hand printed birds, embroidered leaves, quilted flowers, and reveled in having the time and the resources to focus on this aspect of living.
I was a young woman then and as I’ve matured there have been many occasions when I have perceived the same divine quality in the natural world, yet capturing it has proven more and more difficult.
I was in hospital roughly a year ago, and in the hospital garden I found a pink rose growing in the middle of winter. It gave me hope and strength when I felt weak and uncertain. I drew a sketch in felt tip, hoping not to forget it. I would sit and watch the birds that visited the garden and pick up rubbish from the bushes, so that they would have a clean environment.
My love of the natural world feels overwhelming at times. I feel unable to capture nature in the way that I used to, but it’s always there, supporting me. Everyone has the opportunity to have a relationship with nature and I would encourage it.
Having your experiences redefined by another person is not fun, but the stigma that comes with mental health problems adds a few more frustrations to that experience. I was a young woman when I realised I loved someone, probably more sincerely than I ever had before. The shock of it came with a great big dose of fear as I realised that the person I had feelings for might reciprocate them. I didn’t feel judged in that moment, but I did feel worthless, even if only for an intolerable 30 seconds. Fast forward a year and I had given up on everything that gave me any sense of who I was and demolished a few pointless relationships in the process, which would usually be considered a bonus if they hadn’t been the only relationships I had. Still, you have to find positives where you can find them and sometimes you have to be strong enough to define your own experiences.
The reality is that for a few fleeting moments I perceived that love was possible and it has not left me. It is the truth. No matter how down I get, no matter intolerable life seems at times, I believe in something that so many never truly consider: that love is worth believing in. Meeting with someone entails them meeting back with you and I didn’t know the truth back then, which is enough to derail any living soul. Having love enter your world is enough to not only turn it upside down, but to help you find those long lost parts of yourself, as well as new ways of witnessing life.
What is troubling me today is that loving another seems to be on the impossible end of the spectrum. We hear horrid stories all the time of how love is an endless battle, how life is so terribly difficult that nothing positive or worth living for can truly thrive. Well I’ve had enough. I think it’s time to stop viewing each other through eyes of envy and lack, and instead start looking for signs that each of us can cultivate love, beauty and truth. That does not mean suffering relationships where nothing good can come of it, it means being brave enough to accept the good in your life and in others.