Spring is arriving here in fits and starts. The male cardinals in our neighborhood have been loudly singing the past few weeks, alerting all the other birds to start thinking about nesting time. I saw some early wildflowers on south-facing banks, like Colts Foot, and in local gardens, the planted Crocuses and Snowdrops, and then the bright blooms of yellow Forsythia. And, there was a dead worm on the sidewalk, apparently a bit too eager to visit the world outside his underground burrow. None of his friends told him to watch out for occasional frost…
But the budding red maples are adding a wonderful rosy glow and hue to the tree-tops. And there were reports from neighbors of the first chipmunks to emerge. But then we had snow and everything kind of shut down for a while… Even the Spring Peepers quieted down for a few days.
My wife and I were hiking in a nearby state park the other day, and were half a mile into the woods when we saw a garter snake, sunning itself on the rocks along a trail we were on. Wow, I thought, it’s just late March…… isn’t that kind of early for a snake to have emerged from its winter den? The rest of the woods were quiet and seemingly devoid of movement and life, except for the nearby rushing of a stream and the occasional resonating, manic call of a distant pileated woodpecker. The air temperature was in the 40’s but the sun was strong, the pathway covered at times with damp layers of brown decaying leaves. Water dripped slowly from the sides of vibrantly green mossy boulders and cliff sides…… It was a gift to be there, a quiet blessing, far from the nearest road, and far from the latest news.
Amidst the pandemic we collectively find ourselves constrained by, Cory and I been cherishing the time we’ve been able to enjoy in local woodlands, and on parkland trails. Finding that access, and that “away-place” has been a wonderful balm for the mind and soul….and, miraculously, it’s just a quick journey into an entire world of its own where the snake and the woodpecker and the beaver go about their business. Where an early bumblebee, bright in its yellow and fuzzy black outfit, seeks a bit of pollen on a pussy willow flower.
Sitting on a rock, deep in the woods, alongside a burbling creek has brought both of us a wonderful sense of normality - untouched, unspoiled, and un-affected by the current affairs of the world. An oasis in another world. Of course, we all have to go back home and confront the news, wear masks to the store, be very careful about social isolation, and deal with what is. And, I would add, consciously think about, and pray for the well-being and lives of the health professionals and others who are protecting all of us.
On a more personal note, I have to figure out ways to make up for what looks like an entire spring season of my teaching work at outdoor centers and local schools going down the drain. I’ve been looking forward to months of fun and engaging work with kids, and a structure that gets me out of bed in the morning. And time with colleagues, friends, and fellow tree-huggers. That’s a lot of thwarted intentions and unfulfilled expectations to manage. To say nothing for the money. But then everybody else is dealing with this, or something similar. Or much much worse.
I’m thankfully being forced to re-discover the great importance of a sense of gratitude for what is, rather than putting my attention on what is missing, which is so easy to do. Maybe this is just another way of describing the popular yet slippery and challenging practice of “mindfulness,” which I’m finding is a key tool in fighting off thoughts of disappointments and losses.
And on a more local level, I can see that the sky is clearing today, turning a brilliant blue. The doves are coo-ing, the squirrels continue to chase each other on the back lawn for the best area of fallen birdseed. My phone and computer are working fine, and in my very, very fortunate bubble of middle-class isolation, I am, for now, okay! I hope you are too. Remember to get outside. Spring is unfolding and there’s a whole world of little discoveries and great joys to uncover.