As part of our Tales From the Pandemic campaign, Daastan got the chance to interview therapist and author Ruth Allen. We discussed lockdown, isolation and getting out in nature.
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Ruth Allen on “Grounded”
Ruth Allen discussed her new book “Grounded”. Her book is about ‘rewilding’ and mental and physical healing through a connection with nature. Daastan asked Ruth whether she was inspired by the COVID 19 pandemic at all. To which Ruth responded that her book was conceived pre pandemic, in August of 2019. But by the time she was getting towards the end of the manuscript, we were in the throes of lockdown. The book had “nothing to do with it” but also “everything to do with it” (the pandemic) by the time it was finished, according to Ruth.
Changing Relationships with Nature
Ruth was asked if she had noticed a shift in how the people around her responded to nature during this time. At the beginning of lockdown, Ruth responded, there was a sense that there was “nothing else to do”. But later on, the connection grew and we were able to watch the world blossom in the UK, as we were stuck at home, and things were going “down the drainpipe”. Ruth exclaims that nature “became a real sanctuary for people”, during such a difficult time. During lockdown there was a sense that people couldn’t go away at weekends and turned to their local community for refuge.
“You had to make do with what was on your doorstep, and some people worked out there was really quite a lot.”
Abuse of Nature
Ruth also discussed the possibility of nature being used in negative or non-mindful ways. she suggests that we have always used nature as a species and are part of nature ourselves. The issues arise when we use nature in a mass produced and mass commodified way and destroy it. As we have been doing for hundreds of years now. There is a danger, according to Ruth, that nature becomes “zeitgeist-ey” and “trendy”. She wants to change the narrative around nature so that our relationship with such, is more one of mutual respect.
Nature and Isolation
We asked Ruth whether she felt a greater sense of isolation at home during lockdown or on her solo hikes. “I have never really felt lonely in the wild by myself” Ruth says. She suggests that she feels a great sense of community with trees and birds in outdoor spaces. Crowded spaces full of people, can be equally as isolating, according to Ruth. She suggests that the pandemic was eye opening for many people because they realised that their fulfilment came solely from human contact. This is a great opportunity to open oneself up to other resources, such as nature, and seek connection elsewhere, Ruth says.
The Art of Being Alone
Ruth discussed her thoughts on solitude and artful loneliness. According to Ruth, being at peace in one’s own company is an invaluable skill, which we can draw on at times of need. Solitude can be restorative and can help us manage being around other people. Sitting with your thoughts and being comfortable with yourself is important. Ruth suggests that being part of a caring community is equally important, however. At the beginning of the pandemic in the UK, there were lots of “really hopeful signs” that we were going to protect the vulnerable members of society. Ruth says “whether this endures, remains to be seen”.
The Pandemic and Social Media
Finally Ruth touched on her complex relationship with social media. She said that she constantly has to keep checking whether social media is serving her. And increasingly the answer to that question is no. She says there were times during lockdown when she found it comforting to stay connected, but also times when she found the constant barrage of information about COVID 19 overwhelming. She has decided that going forward, she wants to live a life which is less “scroll-ey” and social media focused.
We would like to thank Ruth for taking part in this campaign. It was so great to get her expert thoughts on this topic. Follow Ruth on Instagram to get more wonderful content on nature and the outdoors. If you haven’t entered our short form poetry competition yet, please do so here. You can also watch this interview in its entirety on our instagram @mydaastan.