Small Steps toward healing…

This was going to be about Spring inevitably bursting forth into being, amid even the calamitous atmosphere of the Coronavirus outbreak…but then as I walked out into my garden, (sadly the only walks that seem to be safe these days), I noticed a change about me…

I startled a robin, or more like we startled each other. She had built her nest in the ivy growth on a tree trunk at barely two feet off the ground. Each year the robins have nested in the ivy, though they build much higher, hence my surprise as I reached over to lean against it. And, not five feet away the Carolina wrens fluttered out of the bramble. It would appear they too had nested, almost at ground level in the bramble. Bluebirds that barely come close enough for a clean picture, now want to nest on my deck. I caught glimpse of a pair vying for the wren nest box, though it’s a tight fit. I’ll have to find them new digs and soon. 

As I rounded the corner to the front, I startled a groundhog who scuttered away waddling his bulk into the brush. He’d been sunning on my front porch, ha! What a life! Strange and surreal things are truly in the works here! 

Then this afternoon I saw the most delightful sight out my kitchen window. Two fox cubs having a rough and tumble on my lawn. I’ve had a fox cohabitate on this land for years. I think she (or her ancestor) was here long before we built. Yet I’ve only seen the female as she skulks about the perimeter on her pre dawn and dusk hunts. She knows I’m watching her as she watches me and never flinches. It’s as though we both know her right of way. But to see these cubs on their own out in the open out of the woods shocked and delighted me.  As I stood at the window watching them they merely threw a glance my way then went back to playing. And when the vixen returned, bouncing out the woods came two more, four cubs, wow! She didn’t seem to mind my presence either. She stuck around for a bit and then left them in my care, or so it seemed, and disappeared to resume her hunt. Quite an experience and I’m still smiling. Can hardly wait to seeing them in the days to come. How long will they stay together, how long before they part ways.

Last week looking out the back yard I saw two deer prancing about. Deer often stop by here but they too keep to the edge of the wooded perimeter as they graze, all while keeping a watchful eye. Only in the winter dawn hours do they venture closer into the garden beds when they’re pressed for food. But this carezfree playfulness was a first. I’d never seen deer in playful behavior right here in the backyard. Wonderment. Spirit uplifted. Even if for just that short moment. D

I can feel a change is in the air. Things seem different, perhaps I t may only last for awhile, but I’m basking in the kindness of it. These encounters are a welcome relief and are what’s keeping my spirits up in these harsh unknown and unknowable times. 

Yet I can’t help wonder what’s bringing about these changes and how long  they’ll last. Could it be that with the decrease in human footfall, the lack of automobiles plying, the reduction in human noise are emboldening our wildlife friends. The roadways are eerily empty, hardly any traffic on the tar. Even county parks have been shut down. There aren’t any airplanes flying overhead, I haven’t heard one in weeks! The mechanical sounds of the humans are considerably diminished. With Stay in Place ordinances now extended from a fortnight to another month and possibly longer, our presence out and about reduced or absent, the quietude that has settled over the land is changing wildlife diurnal behavior. For the better.
Nature is healing.

Will byways and roadways become animal paths and crossways, playgrounds and hunting grounds for wildlife. For now it would seem so. Now, I know this is in just one infinitesimally small spot in the world I’m talking about, but I can’t help wonder if it’s happening everywhere, in small towns and cities In the US where there aren’t any cars plying, in countryside and hill walks in Europe and the UK where walking pathways across fields and meadows are now almost devoid of humans, in downtowns arenas and cities around the world where people are no longer loitering about in crowds, and in parking lots free of cars and of the smell of automobile exhaust outside empty buildings, theaters and shopping arenas. I see a slight shift, an imperceptible change happening around me. The wild is moving closer taking back what once belonged, even if perhaps temporarily, and I’m thrilling from it. 

Our lifestyle was changed in an instant. At the micro level, we’ve been forced to make changes to our daily routines and our social and communal behavior, keeping six feet distance from strangers. Forced to stay home many are working from home, my husband now teaches this semester’s graduate chemistry class from home and my daughter uses Zoom to carry on with her work. We’re getting accustomed to using social media for work and personal communications with family and friends and curbside pickup and drop off for essentials. What other changes will we have to make? Will wearing face mask be the norm going forward? Albert Camus’ haunting tale ‘The Plague’ comes to mind.

All this because of a single virus. A microscopic piece of genetic code wrapped in a skin of protein. That has the capacity to adapt and mutate and spread with the slightest of contact with ease. A virus that is to have come from bats. Bats, they say can live with this pathogen in their body without being affected. They shed the virus when they are stressed! We were forewarned about this by a group of international scientists, but no one listened. What human behavior has caused this stress? Will it get worse? Like I said confusing unknowable times.

Our lives are changing every day, as we adapt to social distancing and self isolation. and when I look out there at what’s happening worldwide and close to home and how quickly the virus is spreading and leaving an aftermath of devastation, we can’t know what’s yet to come. We do know that more changes will have to be made. There is so much uncertainty unknown and unchangeable in the path we are on right now. We can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Yet there is light, there is hope, if we chose to change our way of life. For there’s an even bigger cloud out there that is fast moving toward us. This may be mother nature’s way of a dress rehearsal to prepare for the inevitable.

Yet on the bright side, what will the reduction in our carbon footprint be at the end of April 2020? What will it be after that if his shut in goes on longer? Or what will it be if we resume? It’s time to give pause and let this settle in. If this is merely a derivative, even in small measures, of the circumstances that have endangered our lives, what more could we achieve if this were a concerted global effort. Can we make work at home a norm, without having been forced to do so by a life threatening pathogen? How long will it last, the virus and our conscious effort to live in harmony with nature?

What changes or unusual wildlife movement have you noticed around you? How are animals responding in habitats around you during the day? Have you seen cleaner skies overhead, do you feel the lack of pollution in the air you breath? How has a slightly lower automobile emissions affected the micro climate where you are, how are lower mechanical sounds and less lighting in buildings at nighttime as businesses, restaurants and bars are shut down, affecting nocturnal behavior of wildlife? These are all things we, as humans often don’t think of while we’re hustling and rushing about. We came in and changed the environment on earth as betterment for us, but a negative impact for wildlife. Our advancement precluded any thought or consideration of cause and effect. How many species have been pushed to the edge of extinction or have vanished without a trace  as a result.

So I’m left wondering….this current healing of nature, how long will it last… can we cohabit this earth in compassion for all life? What will the nature of our future be? We can make that decision in solidarity.
Thoughts or comments?