What do your lockdowns look like in this COVID-19 pandemic? Is this your first time in quarantine? Are you restricted in concrete jungles? Or is there nature around? 

There was a time I’d self-isolated in a tre- okay, college named after a tree, i.e. Tembusu College. It was the exam period. Staying in a university hostel meant lots of studying alone. Mostly only leaving my room to get food at the dining hall… which on hindsight, does not seem too different from our present situation.

My hostel room then was on the 20th floor that had the loveliest view. Skies, breeze, trees, and the tiniest people far below. This breath-taking landscape rested my eyes repeatedly. From endless lines on screen and paper, to staring blankly at trees and skies galore. Once as I sat on the window seat/ledge (safely), the swaying trees outside my window and I… had a conversation. I was thinking about how pointless studying seemed, how boring and purposeless my life was (dramatic, I know) and yet…

The trees looked so sure of themselves. Deeply rooted, standing firmly. Leaves rustling on its wide branches. 20 stories tall and reaching up to the skies. As if telling me that I too was right where I was meant to be. Almost bored to death, sure- but safe and breathing. Alive, right at this moment.

Today, many may know me to be a tree hugger and ask why. But there is no single story to define my love and care for our trees and the environment. I could write books if I really started explaining. The classes I took, the conversations I had, the thoughts in my head, the amazing groundwork I’ve experienced advocates and activists in the green movement. Personally, my strongest anchor is my faith, Islam’s, relationship with nature. That might not resonate with you. That’s okay. But I hope stories of beauty and emotional connection, like this, are worth listening. & admit it – our isolating at home in this pandemic has made many of us yearn for nature & greenery more than usual. We just want to get out. Jog, walk, stare at sunrises and sunsets. Do you wonder why? How does it make you feel in this moment?

I hope you reflect and find your own answers. Let’s transition out of this pandemic not the same person as before, but better. This is my drawing and my reflections.

A harmonious world of colour. Everyone growing towards the common sky (goal) of goodness apart or together – with purpose, meaning and sincerity. A vision of our future if we choose it now. By seeing, relating to the environment and each other. Warmly, carefully. Perhaps since that tree conversation, I have often thought of myself as a tree. Roots constantly digging deep to connect, strengthen and ground. Soil ever-changing but building up this tree all around. Trunk redirected, still steadying, and absorbing the soil’s colours to protect and provide little plants and animals on me. But then sparse leaves because I don’t yet know what I can fully be.

We all care for or identify with different things. #frontliners #migranjugamanusia #blacklivesmatter #SGUnited #ComputersAgainstCovid #insolidarity #fridays4future #kakakhowareyoudoing? #stayhome #mentalhealthmatters (& many more)

But there is real danger, to all the things we care and love around us. We are all living on the same humble ground. A world so beautiful and diverse, but also severely affected by human activities on Earth. So what better time than now, to care for and act together? Varied causes can have similar values. And to have shared value of things like the living soil’s diversity. The foundation of a world of colourful trees. Trees like one another. Independent and yet supportive of each other, even if rerouted, to reach up to the sky. Protecting & giving, even with challenges along the way. Widely, happily, gratefully.

It feels like this should end with a call to action. But that can be so different for each one of us, much less our reactions. So at the very least as we continue in the second half of 2020 in this pandemic, let’s all #staysafe #staypositive #sociallyresponsible and..

Don’t panic. Have (tree) conversations. Do the littlest, beneficial actions. Keep safe, breathing and alive like the trees (always, hopefully) in this very moment.

P.S. Although if we don’t act and care for the environment, we may no longer have trees. Without them, we really aren’t safe nor can be we breathe, and live every single moment✨