Lockdown in our small house in Melbourne this year meant: no travel, no office, no commute. For the first time, I was restricted to our small house and our small garden, but I learnt that this might also be an opportunity.
Locked down and curfewed-in, during the July and August winter, I gently sawed away the stray branches from the maples and the Ornamental Cherry Blossom tree in my garden so spring could bring leaves and flowers.
In early Spring, I watched my garden’s first coral bark maple leaf unfold after Melbourne’s long, chilly, restricted winter. It was hesitant at first, like us coming out of lockdown; it seemed to stop and take the measure of the world and then continued to unravel.
 Coral bark maple trees (“Sango-kaku”) are Japanese maples which change colours in the four seasons.
Then the Sugar Plum blossoms appeared one by one, with tiny white paper petals, delicate filaments, and anthers waiting for pollinators. The bees appeared, hovering with pollen-laden legs and plastic whirring wings, floating, from each flower to the next, dipping in, moving on, dipping in, and moving on, like a reader leafing through books on a bookshelf.
I noticed each leaf appear until there were too many and each flower until they seemed to all unfold at once in a symphony of spring.
One hundred days in Melbourne’s lockdown allowed me to notice the leaves, the flowers, and the bees. It taught me to slow down and to see the change in my garden. It’s a lesson that will help me when I teach and when I learn. Slow down, notice the leaves, notice the flowers and the bees, but mostly, notice the change.
Nigel McQuitty has worked in English language teaching for the past thirty years. For twenty-three of those he has worked for Cambridge University Press in Taiwan, Singapore, and now Melbourne. When he’s not reading, walking, watching movies or doing yoga, you can find him close to the sunflower in his small garden.