For the third time in as many years, our community is facing a crisis that will test its capacity to steer through massive, frightening change.
Unlike prior years during the fires, when people all over the world could support us, almost everyone is facing their own challenges from this pandemic. In fact, our connectedness is one of the core issues. We need to go against the very lesson we so recently learned in order to get by: instead of coming together to be strong, we must stay more isolated, at least physically, to slow the spread of the virus enough to be able to manage it.
However, by no means should we face the crisis alone. We just have to find other ways to show our support for each other, and we’ll need to be inventive to do this, especially as this crisis may last for weeks or even months.
The natural world offers an alternative to help cope with this crisis. We’ve learned that one of the most healing and healthy aspects of the natural world is also something that can help in a time of human isolation. The living world, all the biodiversity of plants, animals, and other living things, is made up of an array of connections that we’re hardwired to enjoy. Just going outdoors into a natural space offers us beauty, reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, provides movement and exercise, and teaches an infinite number of lessons about ourselves and relations among our fellow beings. It’s not surprising that stories of great human leaders finding enlightenment often happen in nature.
We live in a place where nature thrives. We have a richness of geography and varied soils and climate that makes for a fantastic abundance of species, and of different kinds of places to experience. Our landscapes provide a welcoming space that we can enjoy because we’ve had the foresight to protect some of them and to provide access. And, importantly in these times, we can enjoy our open spaces, alone, and with others, and stay safe and healthy.
There may be few silver linings in the weeks and months ahead, but our wish for you and your loved ones, and our wish for our community, is to take advantage of the beauty all around us. Life is a miracle. Get outside where you can, take your time as you need to, and enjoy this remarkable place on earth we happen to live in.
We’ll be striving to help with special, social-distance appropriate outings and other activities. There are also many ways to be outdoors that you can do by yourself and with others that will keep spirits up as we get through this crisis, together. Especially if we consider that togetherness can extend to millions of living things, many of them interesting, most of them harmless, even beneficial, and quite often beautiful, that make up our world.
This message was written by Richard Dale, executive director of the Sonoma Ecology Center.