Nature Connection: Welcome, Summer

By: Mary Richmond

Mary Richmond Photo

In spite of all sorts of signs to the contrary, summer has arrived. It’s not going to be our usual summer here on Cape Cod, but I think it’s going to be an interesting summer. No festivals, county fairs, concerts, parades, fireworks, plays, or sporting events are on our calendars this year. And yet, summer is making her appearance anyway. I can’t help but feel a little like the people of Dr. Seuss’s Whoville when Christmas comes without presents or feasts. They sing and celebrate despite the thievery of the Grinch. I’m pretty sure Cape Codders will be doing the same.

This could be the summer when more people just go outdoors to relax, play a simple game in the yard, grill some fabulous food, and sing around a campfire while watching the fireflies. Imagine that. An old-fashioned Cape summer.

Over the last few months record numbers of people have reported being outdoors more than usual. We’ve all been walking, running, climbing, and hiking all over the place. Children have been catching tadpoles and learning what plants to pick and eat. People have been making dyes from plants in their own backyards and updating old clothes by changing their colors. There’s been a huge uptick in home cooking, building, gardening, and composting. Birdwatching has been a favored activity with many new recruits. Bird feeders and bird houses have been added to more than a few yards and butterfly and pollinator gardens have been researched and begun. Garden shops have been overwhelmed with business and social media is filled with pictures of people’s new kitchen gardens.

Nature took a deep breath these last few months. So did a lot of us. As things go back to whatever normal we think is happening, I wonder how many will return to all they were doing. Will some continue new interests and new endeavors? Will we as a culture slow down a bit?

Cape Cod is a natural haven for nature lovers. Even with events and businesses curtailed, summer is still going to happen. The beaches will still be inviting, nature trails will still be open and water activities such as boating, and swimming will still occur as they do every year. Maybe this summer will be the one that reminds us to take it down a few notches and enjoy what we have here. The events are gravy. The real attractions are the places that showcase our natural beauty. This could be the year we actually get that.

Maybe this is the summer when watching a family of snowy egrets feeding at sunset will replace other more crowded or resource-dependent activities. Maybe clamming or fishing will be new skills learned. Perhaps learning to row a boat or raise a sail will stand in for a night at the fair.

Being out in nature is a natural stress reliever. It’s hard to stay upset or focused on what is hard or bad or depressing when walking a beach. The rhythm of the waves, the crunch and smush of the sand beneath bare feet, the calls of the gulls and terns and the feel of an occasional seashell or smooth skipping stone in our hands can soothe us in ways no media or a shopping spree can.

These have been trying months and I’m not going to pretend that a summer without events and fully opened businesses is going to be easy. I grew up here and I know how dependent we are on the money our summer friends and families spend here.

Being forced to slow down, however, may have its opportunities. People will still come. Many are already here. They don’t just come for the events. They come because they love the Cape. Most will support local businesses as best they can, but they will also enjoy our natural beauty and the healing powers of nature. Maybe during this time, we can figure out ways to emphasize what is good here and work on ways to sustain that in the future.

Getting outside to watch the fish jump, the whales breach and the crabs run in and out of the waves can help us reconnect to the larger world around us. Pick some flowers, get to know the birds in your neighborhood, pick some wild blueberries or huckleberries and teach a kid how to make a pie.

Please don’t think I’m immune to the financial distress caused by businesses forced to close, or the potentially devastating financial impacts of canceling events and closing venues has had and will continue to have on our communities. I’m not. I’ve been affected personally and am not sure at all what will come next for me. I do, however, feel this is a time we can choose to reflect on and be grateful for what we do have and to look forward to a sane and sustainable future here on Cape Cod. Connecting to nature may be what gets us through. Happy summer, everyone. We’ve got this.