It’s been a long few months of being more or less housebound, alone or together. For some it has been a nightmare, but for others it’s been a blessing of sorts. As things ease up a bit, it is easy to tell the most social amongst us, as they were out and about and eagerly seeking company for drinks, dinners and group activities as quickly as they could.
The rest of us may feel a bit of regret as life resumes its busier pace once again. We had adjusted easily to the quiet, the slower ways of passing the days. We got things done in the house and garden. We read books. We took long walks almost every day and watched the landscape slip from winter to spring to summer, perhaps in ways we hadn’t had time for before. We had the time and the energy to recharge, to catch up with ourselves and others in meaningful ways.
As the extroverts celebrate their freedom from what many of them called house arrest, some of us aren’t feeling quite as celebratory. In fact, some of us are pretty concerned about anti-environmental, pro-business trends that may be even more threatening than the still virulent virus. Our society quickly reverted to single-use plastic and paper everything, as that’s thought to be less enticing to germs. We no longer carpool but drive in individual cars to the same place. Public transportation has ground to a stop and our government has lifted all regulations that could impede any business in any way. While some thought the pandemic would bring us to our senses ecologically, it seems that the opposite has happened. For every person growing their own lettuce, there seem to be more tossing their takeout trash on the side of the road without remorse or shame. Dumping of large appliances and furniture in conservation areas has reached ridiculous numbers over the last few months.
Arts and nature groups have taken huge financial hits in the last few months and some won’t survive. This barely gets a shrug from our federal lawmakers. Ironically, arts and nature have kept many people from going crazy during the stay-at-home orders. As conservation laws are stripped and arts institutions remain closed or at barely functional levels, it may be time to seriously consider our priorities. As a society, we need to put our money where our love and attention is, not in the pockets of shrewd and greedy people who don’t care two bits about making our world a better place.
As I write, a family of orioles is bickering over the oranges and grapes I’ve put out for them. A blue jay peeks in my window. They and many others like them have been my constant companions these last few months. It’s been good to reconnect with them. They’ve reminded me we have much in common.
My daily walks have brought me back to places I love and reminded me that there are still many places to discover, even in a place I’ve lived my whole life. Simply walking connects us deeply to our own home, our neighborhood, our larger community.
Each place I wander has its own unique story to tell, its own special characters. There is a spot where hundreds of ebony jewelwing damselflies gather to flirt and mate each summer. There’s another where tiny toadlets can reliably be found emerging from a pond on almost the same date each year. There are the fledging ospreys, birds I once thought I’d never get to see because DDT was killing them off, and there are the spots where the ghostly white Indian pipes can be found.
Over the last few years my schedule has been a full one with meetings, work shifts and classes as well as writing and illustration deadlines. There were family obligations, sporting events my grandsons played in and all those usual things that fill up our calendars. My walks became closer to home, and were often only an hour long. The days of traveling about the Cape, walking and exploring for a half day or more, became rare events and I missed them.
As things “open up” and life begins to rev up once again, I hope we are able to honor and save the ways we’ve reconnected with nature. We need to actively and financially support conservation. If you think being housebound with nature as an option for relief was rough, imagine what it would be like without nature. If we don’t pay attention, it could happen.