LIFE

SIGNS

In difficult times, it can be very easy to get bogged down in the bad news cycle, negative thought patterns and predictions about what might happen. This is totally understandable, but can also be overwhelming. One thing we can do to lift our spirits or lighten our mood is to focus our attention towards signs of life and vitality that we wouldn't ordinarily notice. We might think of this as a form of the pagan practice of summer finding, which celebrates the signs of life returning after the winter. 

This will, of course, be easier if you are lucky enough to have access to outside space, or are able to partake in some outside time. But it's not impossible to do indoors; just a bit more of a challenge. 

Whether you're doing this exercise in your garden, on a daily walk, or in your living space, you'll need a notebook, or some other means to make notes as you explore. 

If you're outdoors, look for signs of plants and animals reclaiming human space: weeds growing in wall or pavement cracks, bird's nests, snail shells, butterflies and spider webs. Look for lichen and moss growing on bricks and tree bark. Listen out for bird song and the buzzing of insects. Look out for signs of life in ponds, rivers and puddles. See if you can spot animal prints or tracks. 

If you're indoors, try looking out for nature from your window; some research calls this a 'micro-restorative experience"*. If you open the window, can you feel the breeze on your skin or hear the wind rustling leaves nearby? Can you identify any natural scents, like recently cut grass? Can you spot any foliage, shrubs, blossoms, or flowers? Is there any moss or lichen growing on your windowsill? Can you hear any birdsong? If not, try looking more closely indoors. Can you spot traces of any insects or spiders in your home? Do you have outside lights that attract moths? 

Make lots of notes about what you find and things you are able to see, hear and smell. Write down how these things make you feel and any shifts in mood that you notice while you're giving these things your attention. What do they remind you of? Do they evoke any memories for you? Do they inspire any interesting thoughts? 

When you return from exploring your garden, local environment or living space, write about your experience, describing the signs of life you found; how they made you feel; and what they made you think of. It can be in the form of a poem, a piece of flash fiction (i.e., very short fiction) or a slightly longer prose piece, like a personal essay. 

Remember, if you'd like to share the outcome of any of our writing prompts on our site, send your work to e.j.perry@kent.ac.uk

* Korpela, Kalevi et al., 'Nature at home and at work: Naturally good? Links between window views, indoor plants, outdoor activities and employee well-being over one year' in Landscape and Urban Planning, Vol. 160 (April 2017) pp. 38-47