The past couple of weeks have been weird.
Daily life changed gradually, then all at once. We now find ourselves at home practicing our best “social distancing” protocols. Incredible technology allows us to stay connected, and that’s fantastic.
But it’s ok to put the phone down. It’s ok to turn down the news from time to time, and take a long walk outside in nature. This week, I took my own advice.
Amidst the simple beauty of nature, I draw one deep breath… and then another.
In the forest, I glimpse a furtive movement - beyond the shoulder of the rural, dirt road.
One handsome squirrel sits perched on a fallen log, slowly twirling a hemlock cone in its forepaws. In the warm morning sunlight, he yawns…unimpressed with my presence. In his narrow economy, it’s spring and the kitchen larder of conifer cone seeds is running low.
Above me, a March wind coaxes a flock of bluebirds to an open, sodden pasture.
Springtime arrives this year, just as the bluebirds do– hopeful, tentative, uncertain.
Eventually, I make my way back home, taking my time.
By a nearby bird feeder I see a flock of 60 or 70 goldfinches. The males have begun to turn bright yellow in splotches as their new feathers grow-in, their summer, breeding plumage.
I watch chickadees, white breasted nuthatches, tufted titmice and juncos. These hardy birds have been with us all winter. Their dark, inquisitive eyes lock-in as they watch me refill a tube feeder. I’m drawn to consider their realities; I wonder what they’re thinking. They don’t waste time considering the same about me.
And for a moment…just a few moments… it feels just like any other springtime in New Hampshire.
Maple sap is pulsing in the sugaring lines, filling the roadside tanks with the promise of boiling maple sap to sweet-scented steam. I speculate about the inevitability of an abrupt end of maple season at bud burst.
Maybe it’ll happen gradually…and then all at once.
But Spring is here. I doubt I’ve ever been more grateful for its arrival.
At an unprecedented time when our world feels smaller than ever; when we’re told to keep our distance from one another, there may be no better solace than time spent outdoors.
And you needn’t scale a 50 ft ice wall… or brave Tuckermans to feel renewed, or experience a sense of wonder in the great outdoors.
It’s possible to find a moment of peace in our own backyards; or by bringing your child to a nearby field so she can fly her kite, or simply watching a flock of goldfinches at your birdfeeder.
When you think about it, we’re fortunate for our proximity to natural areas, conservation lands where we can quiet our thoughts, and find comfort in something that’s free, readily available, and precious.
The restorative power of Nature - warm sunlight on your face, a few deep breaths and a wellspring of fresh perspective - await right outside your door.
Take a virtual nature walk with Something Wild's Dave Anderson, weekdays at noon. https://www.facebook.com/ForestSociety/
Something Wild is a joint production of NH Audubon, the Society for the Protection of NH Forests, and NHPR.