Category Archives: Spring

Day Forty: Spring

Escobaria vivipara or Spinystar in bloom.

Spring has finally gotten it’s act together and shown up here in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It’s about damned time! Like many people, spring is my favorite time of year. The green of new growth is one of my favorite colours, and the bustle of the birds and proliferation of plants suggests an optimism that has been lacking these last few months.

We will get through this. And if we’re really lucky, and all pitch in, we might just come out stronger. The recovery from the Great Recession left so many of us behind. The economy hasn’t met the needs of the working class in decades. This is our chance to reset, reassess our values, and pull a phoenix.

That might just be the weather talking. Sunny optimism isn’t my default setting. Still, it’s nice to think that through a horrible circumstance, we have been given a once in generations chance to change course.

Noccaea fendleri or Fendler’s Pennycress.

The season also reminds us that no matter how awful COVID19 is, it’s not the end. Individual outcomes will vary, but babies will keep being born, the grass will keep turning green, the flowers will keep blooming, the songbirds will keep returning. The planet will certainly survive this hit, and so will humans on the aggregate.

Signing off. Take Care, and Take Care of one another.

Day Thirty-Four: Luminous

Pulsatilla patens or Pasque Flower.

Spring is finally here, and the days are utterly luminous. I’ve written before about living in the Märchenwald, the fairy tale forest where all the stories are true and urgent. This never seems more so than when spring is on the land. The generative mystery of sprouting seeds and the sudden appearance of flowers where there were none is a form of magic. The clouds billow and spread like runes, or semaphore, or celestial hobo signs.

When I am out in nature, especially, it seems, in spring, it feels like my glasses have suddenly gained clarity and saturation. Stepping outside is like stepping into a high def world with a stunning 3D feature. The old slogan for audio was ‘it’s not live, it’s Memorex.” It’s not Memorex, it’s spring!

A lot of people in my area are frustrated that folks come up from our nearby city to crowd our parks, and I’m on board with the principle that if the lot is full, you should move on. But I’m always glad to see people from the city, often obvious from their clothes or shoes.

Leucocrinum montanum or Star Lily.

Humans need nature. We crave it like vitamin C when we are deficient. And so often, when we’re living in urban space, we don’t even realize what we are craving, we just know there is something missing. How could I justify being jealous with “my” nature? How can I not celebrate people having a chance to fill the hole in their relationship with the environment?

I live in the woods because I am lucky. I live in the Märchenwald because I understand that the universe(s) is an awefully big place, and everything in it isn’t always apparent. Today I went for a walk around the lake, and went for a run in the park. I wish everyone had an opportunity to do the same so easily.

Day Thirty: Quiet

The littlest birds sing the prettiest songs.

The birds seem louder now. The phenomenon has been much observed, but I was surprised to realize it applies even in my semi-rural area. Spring isn’t just here, it is burgeoning and bustling. Now that we are, at last, hopefully, done with snow, the early flowers are blooming, and the songbirds are congregating.

Living in the woods, it’s easy to miss how crowded my area is. My abortive attempt to deliver the mail here was a revelation. If Evergreen ever incorporates, it will probably qualify as a small city! It doesn’t feel like it, because the various developments are hidden by trees and folded into creases of the foothills.

But the sound of traffic carries a long way. A car passed me on the very short paved section of my run today, and I was struck by how loud tires are against the asphalt.

Hearing the startling increase in tweets, twitters, calls, and songs makes me think of the title of Rachel Carson’s famous book. Our springs have been growing quieter and quieter, barely able to be heard over our clamor. And that’s without even considering all the species and habitat loss.

But if you give nature half a chance, spring comes roaring back. How can we build on this chance?

Signing off. Take Care and Take Care of one another.

Day Twenty-Three: Introverted

It’s hard to dwell on your troubles when this is happening.

Someone once explained to me that the difference between being introverted and extroverted isn’t really about gregariousness. It’s how you recharge your batteries. After a long, intense, and stressful day at work, are you eager to go out with your friends to decompress? Or do you need to hole up for a while with a good book and no company but the cat?

I found this definition entirely useful. It gave me permission to be both outgoing (except for around cool strangers, with whom I am shy) and an introvert.

I’ve been making a real point of counting my blessings during these strange times.

For introverts who haven’t had loved ones come down with COVID19, and who haven’t gotten it themselves, this has been an amazing chance to recharge. I feel like my batteries are full for the first time in many, many years, despite the ever-present anxiety causing a constant drain.

I think even the dedicated extroverts can get something important out of some solitude. Or perhaps it’s that I associate solitude with getting outside and going for a walk, preferably in a natural environment. Everyone can benefit from that, as seen from the popularity of the badly translated (from Japanese) shinrin-yoku, which can mean taking in the forest atmosphere, but is generally rendered in English as Forest Bathing. Who can I talk to about getting that changed to Forest Immersion?

For me, nothing is as conducive to mindfulness as a walk in the woods, or even just the park or a neighborhood with mature trees and limited traffic. Mindfulness isn’t always the be-all-end-all simple fix that we seem to think it is. Yes, it has a lot of benefits, but it’s both a lot harder for some than others, and more beneficial for some than others.

I find that I have to sneak up on mindfulness. My photography hobby keeps me grounded in the present moment, always intentional about looking around and drinking in my surroundings. Dog’s wagging tail and delighted grin are an antidote to negative rumination. And if a dog is unavailable for some reason, just try dwelling on your problems when being vigorously scolded by a squirrel.

Introvert or extrovert, mindful or less so, what a blessing it is to have time and inspiration for long walks. The future is terribly uncertain, and I’m terrified about my job situation. But in many respects the crisis has, itself, given us a mechanism to cope.

Signing off. Take care, and take care of one another.

Day Twenty-One: Waiting

Image courtesy of

My siblings are older than I am, and when Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled around, I remember spending hours in an agony of anticipation, waiting for my brothers to come over.

Now we’re all waiting. Waiting for our suspended economy to restart. Waiting for our stimulus checks. Waiting for businesses to start hiring again. Waiting to see our friends and family. Waiting to go out without a mask. Waiting for our daily exercise outdoors. Waiting for better weather. Waiting for school. Waiting for the gym. Waiting to eat out. Waiting for spring to burst into bloom. Waiting for normal, any normal.

Waiting is a forgotten skill.

We aren’t even practiced at waiting for web pages to load anymore. We’re a culture that collectively fails the (discredited) marshmallow test.

What does it mean to learn to wait? defines wait as:

Verb (used without object): to remain inactive or in a state of repose, as until something expected happens (often followed by for, till, or until): to wait for the bus to arrive.(of things) to be available or in readiness: A letter is waiting for you.

Verb (used with object): to continue as one is in expectation of; await: to wait one’s turn at a telephone postpone or delay in expectation: Don’t wait supper for me.

Noun: an act or instance of waiting or awaiting; delay; halt: a wait at the border.a period or interval of waiting: There will be a long wait between trains.

I’m not sure I’d call this a state of repose, but I like the definition for things: to be available or in readiness. I’m available and ready for a video call. I’m available and ready to take Dog for a walk. But the third definition is really what we’re all doing – continuing as we are. Holding out.

The fractal nature of branches

While we hold out, we have a once in a lifetime chance to really observe the world around us. Our precious time to exercise outdoors can be filled with the wonder of nature; the fragile intricacy of a leaf, the fractal nature of branches, the pattern of a pebble. Our time inside can be filled with all those little projects we have never had time for. We can really pay close attention to the shows we watch, catching all the nuances of good TV. We can read experientially, diving deep into our imagination to co-create a world with the author.

And we have the chance to create. We can make content and memes. We can do drawings and paintings. We can knit, we can sew, we can crochet, and needlepoint, and embroider. We can cook and try new things in the kitchen. We can photograph and take video. We can write. There is no reason that this time shouldn’t be remembered as much for a flowering of creativity as for the COVID19.

Perhaps it isn’t so much about learning to wait. Instead it is about what we do while we wait.

Signing off. Take care, and take care of one another.

Day Twenty: Wonder

God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illumined by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason.

— Dag Hammarsköld

Here are some small wonders I have seen recently.

Day Nineteen: Staying Positive

Pollution has massively decreased.

The human brain is wired to give more weight to negative developments than positive ones. It makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. We form vivid memories of bad experiences as an essential part of learning, which gives us a chance to correct actions that could be hazardous to our health.

It is worth noting here that this is especially powerful when it comes to social interactions. In the evolutionary environment, our status within a group could literally be a matter of life or death. That’s why bullying devastates us, gaffes are excruciatingly embarrassing, and we’re always hungry to impress someone we perceive as higher status.

Some things have changed in the short time since humans domesticated themselves. Now that we are much safer than we used to be, or at least were until recently, our fixation on the negative isn’t always adaptive. It can be part of a wide array of mental health problems.

Perhaps we are at a point when a little negativity is suddenly a good idea, again, if bad news will help us stay home and flatten the curve.

But there is a real danger that the combination of relentless negative news and our social isolation will provoke rumination, depression, and anxiety. Counteracting that with positivity is not only super-cheesy, it’s hard! Nevertheless, it is worth brainstorming a list of positive things going in our lives. I’ll start:

  • How happy my dog is when we go for a walk.
  • It doesn’t look like it today where I am, but it really is spring.
  • I’ve been able to reconnect with a great Instagram community, and am working on a fun photography challenge.
  • The curve really is flattening in many places.
  • All those people making masks.
  • All those people keeping our food supply going.
  • All those kick-ass doctors, nurses, janitors, lab techs, and other medical personnel.
  • All those letter carriers and other delivery personnel.
  • I’m getting $1,200 pretty soon. It might not really make ends meet, but I didn’t have to do anything for it, and I don’t have to pay it back.

And those are just a few. Please leave yours in the comments!

Signing off. Take care, and take care of one another.

Day Seventeen: Calculus

Yard work is a virtue.

I felt virtuous today. I got a lot of raking done, and I cleaned out the rain gutters in preparation for snow that I am really hoping will melt fast. But as I sat, enjoying the view up on the roof, I had to ask myself if I should feel good about my choice.

The simplest decisions have become fraught with a sense of moral calculus. Was it really socially responsible to scramble up onto the roof and, even riskier, scramble back down in the midst of a pandemic, when emergency services have their hands full? Is the risk offset by the fire mitigation benefit of cleaning out the gutters, a responsibility not just to ourselves, but to our neighbors? Am I being absurd to even be thinking about it?

I ran across this interview today with five ethical thinkers about the national moral calculus involved in opening up the country again. And I also ran across this piece arguing that sacrificing lives or sacrificing the economy is an unnecessary choice.

If it is a choice we come down to, how do you weigh deaths from COVID19 in the short term against deaths of despair in the long term? How is the moral calculus effected by the fact that both this disease and deaths of despair are horrifyingly segregated by race and class?

It seems like all the smart people are saying we’re going to have to get serious about testing and contact tracing. This makes sense to me, but as one of the ethical thinkers pointed out, we have to make sure we still have a country we want to live in when this is all over. How many civil liberties should we be willing to sacrifice? How can we be sure we will get them back? How can we ensure that all the data gathered won’t be misused? Who defines misused?

There is also the question of sustainability. It sounds callous to say (and I generally try to avoid that), but this is the best thing that has happened to the environment since we stopped making a hole in the ozone. If this puts a brake on our frenzied and ecologically disastrous consumer culture, shouldn’t we think twice about getting back to normal? Could we ever have an economy that focused on a simpler lifestyle? What do we owe to the estimated 200,000 Americans who die from air pollution every year?

The danger, in both our individual lives and our national life, is that we turn away from these questions, and let events carry us where they may. It’s really uncomfortable to engage in moral calculus. As it should be. But we owe it to ourselves to make engaged and thoughtful decisions about where we go from here. When you refuse to make decisions, events decide for you, and usually not in your favor.

Signing off. Take care, and take care of one another.

Day Twelve: The Sound of Mud

Claytonia lanceolata or Western Springbeauty, the first flowers I have seen this spring.

Today I’m grateful for the sound of mud squelching under my hiking shoes. I’m grateful to have finally found my first flowers of spring. I’m abidingly grateful to live in the woods. I’m grateful for the birdsong drifting in my window. I’m grateful for the warmth of a strong sun.

If this has to happen, at least it is happening in spring. It’s hard to be depressed in spring. If this were the depths of winter, I’m not sure I could even keep my composure, let alone stay okay.

Populus tremuloides or Quaking Aspen, about to burst into leaf.

But now we have warm days to get out into, gentle breezes to penetrate our masks and dry our icky damp faces, slushy muck to tromp through. We have the wind soughing through the trees, robins and nuthatches bringing nesting material to their sites, little rills and seasonal streams trickling down from the mountains.

The folks at lower elevations have the smell of lavender, the color of new leaves, the chatter of city squirrels.

When the only option for getting out of the house is to go outside and exercise, we could all do worse than basking in the wonder of the season.