Guest Blog: Confessions of a Couch Potato

13 May 2021
trees botanics

This week's guest blog comes from Jo McFarlane, Poet and Bon Viveur:

Yesterday I went to the Botanical Gardens and enjoyed myself! In fact, not only enjoyed the experience, but vowed in all sincerity to return as soon as possible. My partner Sally and I had walked the four-mile round trip to get there and back (which, at my level of fitness, is a not inconsiderable feat) and found ourselves invigorated to be sitting on a bench as our reward – not an ice cream in sight – with a feast of flora stretched out before us, its intoxicating perfume filling our senses and a pair of courting songbirds for our very own companions. If my description seems a little laboured, it’s because nature is a wholly unfamiliar muse. And that’s why I’m going to concentrate on how it made me feel.

Everything about being out in the open (again, please excuse my impoverished reference) is good for body, mind and soul - all the more so for a couch potato like myself. The fact I don’t know the words for such delights of nature, whilst embarrassing for a poet to admit, was somehow of little consequence as I sat enthralled, drinking in the beauty all around. Wordsworth wrote about a host of golden daffodils but I was sitting there among them with no need of verse to ground me in the moment – just an open eye, a wakeful mind and my heart captivated by their splendour. I would go so far as to say it was transcendent. I truly felt I was in heaven – something that I cannot recreate sitting at my desk, even had I the fancy words at my disposal. And so, being a novice to the experience, or rather, to the awareness of nature (for it’s always there even if I choose to close my eyes and ears) all that I could do was give myself fully to it.

This late awakening of my senses is not so much a point of arrival as a gathering of momentum on the journey to being fully human. As I get older, I crave solitude and the intimacy of those closest to me (above all, Sally) to strip back the rough and tumble of life to its bare essentials; and this is never more keenly felt than when we are out for a walk through the Meadows, or wrestling the wind on a blustery day at Portobello beach. Being ‘out there’ in the elements reminds us we are part of the cycle of life - vulnerable, ephemeral, and yet, in some senses, masters of our fate if we choose to meet it with awareness. I truly believe that a sense of connectedness within ourselves and to all that is around, is the essence of good mental health – however it makes us feel. Nature brings perspective to our busy minds – that we are here for all too brief a time to waste it on regrets, anxieties and fears; that we can choose to lose ourselves in this very moment of joy at the sound of birdsong and the promise of new life therein. Or empathy for the grief of a tree that has shed her leaves. On a good day we might even look at a tree and forget that we are human!



What a gift -

to feel nothing at all today.


Not to be gripped in envy or resentment,

not to feel abandoned or betrayed.

Not even pride, or attachment, or fear.


Just a quiet acceptance

that everything is as it is


and the trees look beautiful today.