I remember the urgency of rushing out the school door, driving to the nearest grocery store, dashing around the aisles, putting anything familiar into the trolley, meeting people I knew but keeping a distance.
And then finally uttering a sigh of relief when I was in the car heading for home.
And there begins my journey to finally get to know and explore my home place.
After 40 years, all stop
You see, I’ve worked all my life as a teacher and was now in my 40th year of service.
Having reared three children - looking back, my life is a blur of car journeys, daily work and more car journeys toing and froing to music, drama and swimming classes, not to mention the drop-offs to GAA pitches and soccer fields.
Evenings were busy cooking and preparing lunches for the next day.
Nothing extraordinary or heroic about all this (it’s something all working Mums do), it is only to make the point that without warning on 12 March this life was over, for the time being, and I was now standing in my driveway, confused, nervous and not sure what the future held.
My husband is semi-retired, but still busy on the farm and my three adult children have flown the nest.
If it wasn’t for COVID-19, this new situation sounds idyllic; teaching online, lots of opportunities to shop, have coffee and take trips to new places.
But as we all know, that wasn’t happening. We were all confined to home with 2km for exercising.
I had to have a plan to get through the days to come.
I decided that I would do something for myself each day and then deal with all the necessary decluttering and all that goes with hanging around a house 24/7.
That something for myself became a daily walk with my two very best four-legged friends - Sandy and Poppy.
We ambled along for an hour or two each day inside the front gate and what an adventure that was.
I was walking through fields I’d never been to before, scrambling through gaps and crossing trenches.
I asked Patrick my husband one day who owned such and such a field.
As he strained to follow my finger and after a lot of “yes, up there beyond the big tree” and “no, to the right where the electricity pylon is” he looked at me disbelievingly and said: "That’s our field..... that’s 'Jack's meadow'.”
I really was taken aback, because it dawned on me that I’d been living on this farm for almost 36 years and I didn’t know one field from the other.
Getting to know birdsong
I’ve always loved nature and nothing gave me more pleasure in the classroom than recounting The Cuckoo story to the children I taught or doing an in-depth study of the wonders of spring with the help of that lovely poem Spring the Travelling Man.
Now I was in the privileged position of being in the midst of nature every day and what a treat that was.
It all became possible with some lovely books of Irish songbirds
The birds were busily singing every morning and hurriedly swishing by carrying twigs, pieces of fluff, moss and anything that would line their carefully crafted nests, a home for the precious eggs they would lay.
For me, I needed to know names, and identify birdsong.
It all became possible with some lovely books of Irish songbirds and YouTube tutorials on birdcall.
What a treat it was after a lot of deliberation to finally recognise the goldfinch as it passed by and also identify the amazing call of the song thrush.
I was in my element and my two walking buddies shared my excitement as I called out bird names either by sight or sound.
On another occasion as we travelled through the sandpit field, I saw beautiful little fox cubs playing near the hedge.
Sandy was on to it immediately, but all in vain, they disappeared in a flash and as we came near I saw the den hidden behind a fallen tree trunk.
Their mother’s cry was a familiar call each evening after that as dusk began to fall.
One night I went into the yard with Patrick to check on a young calf and out from the barn flew a majestic white figure gracefully flapping its wings as it passed - a barn owl - how beautiful.
Calm and grounding
I could recount lots of stories but suffice to say my daily walks filled me with awe and splendour and awakened in me a desire to be out and about and part of the wonderful natural world.
It brought a sense of calm and grounding to my life and made me realise that as human beings we need very little - just simple things such as fresh air, food (some of it we were now growing in raised beds), heat and a few clothes.
I appreciate how lucky I am to have this space and freedom. I wonder if I would have ever really realised how precious the simple things in life are without COVID-19 restrictions.
I acknowledge that it has finally taken me 36 years to find and love my own place called home.
As I write, our visitors the whooper swans have landed on 'the horse’s field'.
They look a bit shook after their mammoth journey from Iceland. Lots to note there, but that’s for another day!
Note: I dedicate this piece to the memory of Sandy, our beautiful golden retriever, who, along with Poppy, our cherished cockapoo, came on that journey with me every day from 13 March 2020. Sadly, Sandy passed away suddenly in November; all too soon for my dear canine friend.