During the last lockdown one of the things that soothed me most was going on a daily walk with my camera, seeking out beauty in nature, the small things. I live in Edinburgh, and would walk down to my local beach, and back along some of the old railway lines that criss cross the city and are now cycle paths, punctuated by woodland areas and dominated by huge trees. I would get distracted by cherry blossom trees, watching as tight buds bloomed into fresh, lime-green leaves, the constant song of birds bringing hope and colour to an otherwise scary and frustrating time.
This new lockdown has come at arguably the most depressing time of the year, the excitement of Christmas gone, the trees bare, the days short, dark and cold. So I am trying to concentrate once again on the small things, on losing myself in the beauty of nature, even for a short time every day. The first day of this new lockdown I decided I would again go out every day again, armed with my camera. It was a grey morning with an icy, easterly wind, choppy waves at Wardie Bay beach, not very inspiring, but the sand was covered in frost, the seaweed and pebbles had a beautiful sparkly outline and for a moment the sun peeped out from behind the clouds and a sliver of pink sky emerged along the horizon. It started sleeting hard at the end of my walk and the rest of the day was decidedly dreich as they say in these parts, but that moment was worth it.
Winter holds such wonder and by going more slowly, taking time to savour what I see, I find much to be grateful for. The intricate patterns of bark, the low sun giving us an almost all day golden hour, the sparkling icy pavements. Taking time to stop and absorb our surroundings is a luxury we don’t normally have, but if ever there were a time, it is now. Life is so busy that taking this time to walk sometimes feels like an indulgence, but for me it is a lifeline. I often walk alone, trying to vary the times of day I go out. I love early mornings the most, witnessing the sun breaking the horizon , the sea birds soaring in the pink sky, the crisp frost on the sand, no other footprints to be seen.
Sometimes I take my children, armed with an old camera of mine. This has become a treasured time together: I love seeing what they find beautiful, literally seeing the world through their eyes as they sit for ages watching the waves to find the perfect one that catches the light, and the joy when they get a photo they love. It is a wonderful way to document this time, to treasure the connection we have with nature and with each other.
So I encourage you to go out, take a phone, a camera, or just use your eyes. But look up, look down, stop, go slowly, watch the light play on the water, see how the sun haloes around a tree. Take your time and savour this: think of it as a way to calm and soothe your soul. Biophilia is the term for the innate human tendency to interact and connect with nature. It is known to induce calm and good feelings, and we all need more of those right now.
• Anna Deacon is co-author of For the Love of Trees and Taking the Plunge (Black and White Publishing, £20 each)
• Share photos of things you’ve noticed on your lockdown walks by posting them on Instagram with the hashtags #guardiantravelsnaps and #thejoyofsmallthings