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As I take a break from my work-at-home desk, I head to the backyard where a hummingbird zooms past after sipping on the kangaroo paws blooming nearby. And last evening as I walked our dog, I was treated to a massive chorus of frogs, singing as the sun began to set. These small signs of spring are keeping me grounded these days amidst the shelter in place order and all things pandemic.
It’s amazing how fast the world changes. Like you, I’m watching the spread of COVID-19 and am challenged to create new patterns for daily life as the impacts cascade through our communities. It’s a lot to process, and for me staying grounded and finding gratitude helps.
A couple of my go-to strategies are short walks through my neighborhood or just sitting outside the house. It is here that I can unhook from the endless Zoom meetings and connect with the natural world. Feeling the presence of the spring season and finding small moments of beauty in the world around me clears my mind and takes me away from the challenges at hand. And when I see one of these little natural signs of life, I think “What else have you got for us, Mother Nature?”
Here are a few signs of the season that give me hope and make me grateful for the healing and ever-present power of the natural world, especially during these strange and scary days:
1. It’s the start of the growing season
It’s springtime, and while the fields are wet, our farmers are working hard as the growing season begins. Crops planted in the fall are now ready for harvest, and the early season varieties — the tough, cold-hardy plants — aren’t far behind. At the same time, it is planting season, and with that comes the hope of healthier, brighter, warmer days ahead.
I am so grateful that we don’t need to travel far to experience this. Even in our neighborhood, there are many trees in bloom, reminding me of the delicious fruits to come later in the season. There are buds on local grapevines, ready to come alive with fruit as the days grow longer. The bright green tips of the leafing trees offer a splash of color that is only found in nature. These signs of renewal and brighter days ahead are all around us — we just need to slow down enough to stop and breathe them in for a moment and trust that Mother Nature is minding her seasons.
2. It’s almost the end of the wet season
At this moment, I can hear a drizzle of rain hit our skylight. After a very dry February (a record-breaker, actually), I am grateful that Mother Nature is filling our reservoirs, soaking the soil and dumping snow in the Sierras. And while I tire of the gray skies, I feel a sense of relief as the wet days of March blow through and replenish the land. I think of the buckeyes, big leaf maples and gnarled valley oaks as they sprout new growth — they seem to be responding with gratitude too.
If you’re new to the area, you should know that our climate here is “Mediterranean,” characterized by cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers. I love these spring rains as there will soon be little or no moisture at all to dust off the leaves, moisten the mulch and keep our hills a bright and joyful green.
3. It’s the peak bloom for wildflowers
As the winter and late spring rains subside, it means that our showy displays of wildflowers are right around the corner. April is typically the peak season for local flowers but, depending on where you go, there’s a lot in bloom already. And while some preserves where wildflowers thrive are not open due to the shelter-in-place order, you can find places close to home where wildflowers are visible in gardens, fields or hillsides.
While oh-so-pretty, our wildflowers are more than just nice to look at. Some plants, like the California plantain (Plantago erecta), are the food source for native species like the Bay checkerspot butterfly that only lives here. I love the bright splashes of California poppies along our roadways. Not only are they uplifting, but they play an important role in supporting local pollinators.
Just knowing that these gracious and delicate flowers are out there, performing their vital function in our ecosystem, gives me the grounding perspective that this too shall pass. It’s the little things that keep us strong.
4. The birds are busy
With all of the empty streets around my neighborhood, the busy, busy, birds are impossible to ignore. In the morning and evening, their various songs are boisterous and joyful. And why not? They have a lot to sing about.
As you may already know, not all birds migrate. And with our local climate, many species live here all year long. For them, this is a season to nest and reproduce. That’s part of why there’s so much song in the air — they are singing to court and find mates; the age-old “rite of spring.”
For migrating birds, spring marks the beginning of their long journeys. Some species will fly as far as the Arctic Ocean, almost to the top of the world and passing right through our region. Amazing.
So, while the streets are quiet with no school buses, harried carpoolers or commuters racing through, the birds have seized the day and made it their own by minding the eternal rhythms of nature to thrive and be joyful. It helps me put the current pandemic into the perspective of a much bigger, resilient natural system that is able to adapt in ways, large and small, to every challenge it faces.
We all have our own ways of coping. In these difficult times, I hope that you and yours are finding ways to keep perspective, be patient, ride it out and find grace. These are some of my simple strategies and I hope they provide you with the inspiration to go outside and rekindle your sense of the season. Stay strong, my friends, and may the healing power of nature provide you a framework through which you find grounding and gratitude, even in your own backyards.
Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 79,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more