The other day, I was in London for some dull work training thing. Now, as a massive introvert, I don’t deal well with crowds and loud places, so large cities like London tend to be hell for me and set me off on panic attacks.
Thankfully, the journey in wasn’t too bad, I managed to get a seat on the train and then walked to my destination instead of taking the claustrophobic Underground, and there weren’t too many people about.
However, by lunchtime, a morning of being “on” professionally and dealing with people and my personal dread of group discussions, I needed to get out of there, so I went across the road to Russell Square, one of the many little handkerchief-patches of green space that dot the centre of London like tiny punctuation marks amongst the constant chatter of the city.
I found a knobbly old tree (afraid I wasn’t able to identify the species, though according to Trees of London, it may have been a Holm Oak, Quercus ilex) that had a bulbous “seat” at just the right height for me to climb on and sit there. As I nestled against the trunk, I watched the comings and goings around me, firstly the people: office workers eating lunch, tourists taking photos, locals passing through staring at their phones. But then, as I stayed still, I noticed the other creatures which live with us even in the biggest and busiest cities: pigeons and squirrels of course, but also blackbirds, thrushes and finches. All just getting on with their lives, caring nothing for the hustle and bustle of humanity, the bankers and lawyers and accountants all managing their imaginary wealth and status.
It’s easy to think of these creatures as “sharing our space” in the city, but sitting there, I was the outsider, in their space.
Taking a simple moment out of the day to let go of the work-stress and the people-stress, I allowed myself to merge with the nwyfre of the tree and simply…be. Just for a moment.
It wasn’t formal meditation or ritual, and to all intents and purposes I was just another office type in shirt and trousers sitting in the park to get a breath of whatever mix of fumes and particulates passes for “fresh air” in London, but to me it was a small moment of Druidry.