• Emily McDonnell

#10: An appreciation for the outdoors

I’d spent 3 days in self-quarantine, and just found out I was Coronavirus negative. After pacing around for days, I was ready to run free, to move my body and see more than just man-made structures.

I, of course, realised the need to keep my distance from others. While in limbo, not knowing about my own positive/negative health status, I’d thought of all the people I’d been in contact with before I got the news I’d worked with someone who was Coronavirus positive: a friend who was 4-months pregnant, another with severe asthma, and my partner’s grandma. The ripple effects of meeting people for a short coffee could be huge.

So, I wrapped myself up, covered my face, jumped on my bike, and I cycled to a large park on the border of Wedding and Tegel. Volkspark Rehberge - thanks for the tip Ana - was meant to be a zoo. But then the First World War came and the open green space remained empty. Now wild boar and roe deer roam in their enclosures, and people stroll under tall trees.

It began to rain. Cold drops dripped from my helmet onto my face. Usually I’d consider turning around to take a hot bath and wrap myself in a big blanket, but after just a few days of being cooped up, I was lusting after this connection with the natural world.

I noticed everything. Purple crocuses pushing their way through piles of brown leaves, green moss sprawling over decaying wood, and tiny insects scurrying across the dirt. I felt my body, my mind, my breath slow down.

I wandered aimlessly, following a falling leaf or the breeze. I marvelled at the wild boar. Have you ever seen one up close? They are such powerhouses, covered in wiry fur, constantly sniffing out something to gobble up.

I approached a tree, ran my hands over its bark, and put my foot on a branch. Muscle memory kicked in, and I clambered, hand over foot, as high as I could go. Some joggers glanced at me, but why should I care? Why should this exploration be seen as peculiar just because I’m 29 and not 9?

We all know, deep down, how important nature is for our mental and physical wellbeing. And science is starting to back this up: taking a 15-minute walk in the forest causes a 16% decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, a 2% drop in blood pressure, and a 4% drop in heart rate.

When I got home, coat stained green from moss, hair soaked from the rain, and shivering from the cold, my partner looked at me and remarked on how calm I looked, how it appeared the stress I’d been wearing on my face had melted away. The natural world is so powerful, seek it out whenever you can.

Greenery in the city

We’re incredibly lucky that Berlin boasts a huge number of public green spaces. A few of my favourites are:

  1. Volkspark Friedrichshain

  2. Volkspark Prenzlauer Berg

  3. Humboldthain

  4. Park am Gleisdreieck

  5. Treptower Park

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