Sheltered In Place with Nature “a la Lindsay”
Discovering the Natural Treasures at your FeetPosted on: May 29th, 2020
Sheltering-in-Place Blog Entry #8
The last two months have been some of the strangest times of my life. For the first time, we have seen the entire world deal with a global issue that affected and threatened our own survival directly. In retrospect, any person with even a cursorial interest in science would say, “but wait, we’ve been dealing with global issues all our lives, generations even. We’ve heard for a long time about massive industrial pollution, the so-called population explosion, the loss of biodiversity across the globe, several pandemics, and, most of all, climate change.” And you would be right. In fact, all of these—and quite a few more—have been in the news for years, close to home or far away. Major catastrophes regularly impact large areas of the planet, earthquakes, and the often-ensuing tsunamis, hurricanes and typhoons (same thing, different name), tornados, plagues of various kinds (viruses, bacteria, and other diseases), and wildfires. There are also wars and political unrest, which have become a regular feature of every American generation for over 100 years. When they happen close to home or to us directly, our lives change, our priorities shift, and we eventually adapt to our new conditions. And the world goes on turning. We’re no strangers to tragedy and mayhem.
But in the last few months, especially during the past 9 weeks, we have faced a challenge like no other of the many in front of us. This thing, this COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) and the virus that causes it SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2), has done something we’ve never experienced before. The virus spares no one, no matter where you are, how old you are, or how wealthy you are. Before you raise your virtual hand to object to that last statement, I assure you that there are glaring economic inequalities that put people more or less at risk depending on the resources they have to shelter in place, to acquire and stockpile supplies, and to entertain themselves while the disease runs its uncertain course. There’s a lot to unpack and discuss in there, but this is not what I’d like to share today.
Most of us are either working from home, challenged by the novelty and idiosyncrasies of juggling personal and work lives in the same location or working on an essential onsite crew such as Lindsay’s. We do all of this while the regular activities we usually carry out to balance our lives including the gym, dining out with friends, movies, concerts, sports gatherings, school events, and others, have been disrupted or stopped cold due to the shelter-in-place mandates from the health agencies. So, many of us have turned to gardens and parks for our recreation and sanity, conducting personal wilderness explorations or engaging in the ancient rituals of gardening and growing a bit of our own food. Those without access to private gardens go to parks in or near cities or to the coast, where nature abounds, the sky is clear, horizons are vast, and personal distances achievable. The urban “jungle” of shopping malls, bars, restaurants, discotheques, churches, and other places where people gather and congregate is, for now, unsafe. And avoiding them, for now, may not be a bad thing at all.
Most of my life has included some type of garden to explore, such as my backyards, wilderness parks, and my father’s and uncle’s ranch. There have also been nature preserves in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Florida, and California where I worked, wildlife ruled, and humans took on the role of stewards and managers. There were the rainforests of Costa Rica and Central America where we were studious interlopers and observers, researching the rhythms of nature surrounded and often becoming food or substrate to its bewildering diversity. And there are the manicured but wild gardens of my relatives in Germany who maintain significant portions of the same biodiversity that European pioneer naturalists, such as Darwin, Humboldt, and many others enjoyed. Exploring gardens in their near-infinite possibilities becomes a refuge from the chaos: places to slow down and literally “smell the roses” (or other flowers). Gardens and parks hold mysteries to discover, including the everyday work of bees, earthworms, ants, and spiders, the cycles of bird courtship and reproduction happening in front of our very own eyes, and the nighttime shenanigans of raccoons, opossums, and skunks, which happen while we sleep. But you can only discover and enjoy this biological wealth if you slow down and crouch or get on your knees, focus, and see with unwavering attention. This world will open up to you if you get closer than you thought was possible with a magnifying lens or reach out and bring things closer to you with binoculars or spotting scopes.
Gardens and parks allow you to test-drive skills you have admired in others, skills that are now close at hand if you dare try them, including things like sketching, drawing, painting, writing, observing, photographing, journaling, composing a song, writing a poem, or simply collecting information for later research on the Internet. Lindsay can be your guide to some of these activities, which can be enjoyed equally by adults and children. We’ll take you out there, to your own backyard, point things at you, give you examples of where to watch, how to listen, how to help our wildlife, and how to appreciate the benefits and delights of backyard adventures in nature.
In the next few installments of this blog and through the Weekly Wildlife Wonders issues, we’ll go for a few walks in various gardens and natural areas, exploring, discovering, and making connections. We’ll simply enjoy the stunning beauty and exquisite complexity of the simple things, and the tools within our reach to help us take a break from the stress of dealing with this changing world.
Nature is everywhere, from the majestic redwood forests to the clump of little weeds pushing out from a sidewalk crack. We can be your guides if you let us. We are here for you.
Yours in nature,
Carlos de la Rosa