At the moment, by the end of the day, I often find myself unable to listen to any more news. Last week, instead, I decided to download some new piano music. I have not had the time to play for ages, not that anyone would want to listen, but it makes my brain relax. One of the pieces I chose was “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel – “Hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again ….”

I love this song not least because I have become so aware of silence again especially when taking the dogs out late each evening and looking up at the stars with Venus so bright towards the west. Perhaps they were always clearly visible, and I was just not looking, but I do think that the world around seems increasingly still, with more to listen to and more to see.

For so much of my adult life I have been so busy I have not had enough time “to stand and stare” but, as a contrast to the anxiety all around us, the peace and tranquillity nature offers has become even more precious and essential. Rather like friends and family who perhaps we did not see often enough, or pick up the phone to, I hope that this exceptional time will impress upon us that nature matters and it is not ours to take for granted. We are lucky to be part of this world in the same way that Geordie and I do not really own Highclere: we are just stewards for our lifetime. We hope we have planted more trees, touched the landscape with light hands and mixed our need for food and farming with nature’s need for balance and peace.

Going out first thing with the dogs, once they have settled and recovered from their giddy excitement at another new day, I walk in silence listening to the birdsong which seems stronger and more beautiful than I ever remembered. The birds are so small, and the branches on which they balance slight, yet the notes travel as they mark the cycle of the day and the seasons. Wherever I walk with dogs I see where our ancestors lived, the shapes they have left in fields, flat where buildings were, dents showing the remains of walls or ditches, sunken areas and now, as the sound of our world recedes, I can hear more of their world as they would have experienced it.

Mankind has lived here for thousands of years but in the last 150 years has begun to make such a noise both above and below ground, creating disharmony and upsetting season and cycles, thinking he is able to control and be in control. We have failed to listen and observe and, if there are any green shoots of hope from this devastating time, I hope we might remember we need to do that, to manage our actions and choices, not just talk about it.

From Highclere’s painting competition

In the UK, the rainbow has a become a symbol of hope and support and they are such a mesmerizing phenomenon in nature. In Norse and Viking mythology (and the Marvel Universe), the rainbow bridge connects the worlds of men and gods, whilst in Ireland the Leprechaun’s secret hiding place for his pot of gold is at the end of the rainbow; an illusion in itself as the end is just a beautiful mirage. A rainbow is beautiful and makes everyone smile yet we will never own it.

Story telling round a camp fire has become something of a forgotten pleasure. Some tales are happy, some more frightening:

“One day… there would come a time, when the earth being ravaged and polluted, the forests being destroyed …..the fish being poisoned in the streams, and the trees would no longer be, mankind as we would know it would all but cease to exist”

We sometimes seem perilously close to achieving this. Yes – we need to begin to “crank the car” and go forwards soon for the sake of our economies, families,  our health and lifestyle. If, however, we could remember the sound of silence, the cycle of the seasons and their importance for future generations, perhaps we will do better when we do start up again.” Somewhere over the rainbow , Way up high, And the dreams that you dream of, Once in a lullaby”…..