Italians are singing from the balconies like birds chorusing springtime renewal. As we, too, face the likelihood of many of us staying home in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have a suggestion. First, we should be like the Italians and sing, sing sing! This is also the time like no other to map, name, record, and celebrate the nature of what lies outside your door or window–from balconies to backyards, and from a flower pot to a front yard garden.

red squirrel
Douglas squirrel nibbles sunflower seeds at one of our feeders. Take time to note every detail–the tufts on ears, the nimble paws, the upturned fluffy tail, and oh yes–those eyes….

I believe in music and the nature cure: outside. Breathe in fresh air and exhale spring beginnings. Swirl the bouquet of scent–a hint of blossom? Open your ears to the trilling of juncos, the cheery-upping of robins, the chickadee–dee–dees, the undulations of flickers, and the whumph of raven wings overhead, or whatever your birds may be. Feed the native squirrels at the feeder. Why not? They deserve to be chubby, too.

Step outdoors. Try this. Take the naturalist way of wide and close focus on one tree or bush or plant or piece of the sky. Yesterday, I wandered in our yard with camera in hand. The morning sun spotlighted our loftiest ponderosa that gleamed a burnished coppery red gold.

Wide focus. I leaned back and followed the rising of the trunk and the feather dusting of needle-clustered branches on a bluebell sky. ponderosa rising

Close focus. The finest silk of a spider web forms a hammock between ponderosa bark plates–like a climber’s night roost on a vertical cliff, in this case the great tree. pp bark with spider web

How often do we breeze in and out our doors without stopping to notice first buds, first leaves, first flowers, first butterfly, or first bluebird? As we all come to accept this new and terrifying reality of the coronavirus, we at least have Spring, or a version. This morning, we woke to snow on blooming manzanitas.

As I write, my elderly mother is on my mind. She joins so many who are the most vulnerable to the coronavirus, the people we must protect by being our most altruistic selves. She lives in a Maryland retirement community with COVID-19 detected dangerously close by. Visitors can no longer come in, unless there’s a medical reason.

Social activities are shut down–everything that brightens my mother’s day like shared meals, white wine with friends at the Ivy Room bar, her balance class, the library, the little store–and the list goes on. Safety is paramount, yet how to contend with isolation, loneliness, and the loss of a day’s ritual?

mom watches geese
Visiting my mother in early February, we lingered at the pond outside her retirement home and basked in the wonder of mallard ducks paddling by. Nature. Home. Outside.

I stop writing. Call my mother. We talk as I step through the fresh snow. I ask her if she will open up her sliding door to her screened balcony. She does. She tells me she’s cold. I urge her to stay for a couple minutes. She thanks me, and we share the wonder across thousands of miles. Come home to the Canada geese honking. Come home to tree shimmer, robin hop, cloud dance, butterfly float.

As we chat, my mother sings snippets from old songs and I can feel her spirits lift in the fresh air with her lungs exhaling the music of memory. This I can do, too.  While taking in the nature of the nearby, I can call my mother and together we will find community in an unsettled world.

Nature gives us comfort. As schools close, offices close, and people curtail travel,  we are slowing down our pace of life. Does it mean we shut out nature? No.  Please. Do this.  Open a door. Open a window. Go outside. Open your senses to everything  and then focus on one thing. You might crouch down to watch the passage of an ant or a raindrop balanced on the tip of grass. Or listen to the sifting of wind through leaves.

Find nature’s beauty. Find connection. Reach out to someone who is lonely, scared, or needs help. Show love to our wondrous, miraculous Earth that sustains us all.

A few photos from close up explorations of our home ground in the past couple days:

lichen on log

IMG_6910woodpecker holesnag towers up--backwoodsmanzanita leaves closeupIMG_6954snow on manzanita