It seems that we can do nothing but wait these days. Wait to one day go to a local restaurant. Wait to be with family again. Wait for the vaccine and everyone waiting for some form of life as we once knew it.
At the same time, as we watch the disheartening evening news reports and fight off feelings of helplessness and quiet desperation, right outside our door nature never pauses and is doing its best to endure. Despite many of its own life changing challenges from threats to an uncertain future to its very existence, nature fights to move ahead. Just like us, it has no other real choice and also like us this is what nature has always done since time immemorial.
As I walk alone across the frozen cottonwood and oak leaves, hat pulled tightly over my ears, gloves and boots much heavier than I can appreciate, I find it very strange, the quiet that surrounds me. At times it is welcome but now I’m desperately missing the shuffle of leaves ruffled by people walking behind me, the explanation of the birds we onetime enjoyed together, the small talk I only got fragments of and the discussion and friendly competition about what and where birds have been seen. All of this conversation is now gone.
I always reminded people that birding is as much about people as it is about the birds. But now the birds are the ones to remind me of that every day.
Despite our solitude and our impatient and exasperating wait for things to change for the better nature wonders if we were ever paying attention. Of course nature is not concerned if we hear the Great Horned Owls hooting at night, watch a Downey Woodpecker find enough food to survive till morning or thrill at a Chickadee taking a sunflower seed from your hand. It goes without saying that nature expects us to know and understand that we belong to that same natural world and that our strength is derived from the very same ancient places as theirs.
As I stand on the banks of the river and watch Bald Eagles, once thought to be gone forever, gather along rivers and prepare for nesting season, now more than ever I wish everyone can gather those eagles’ strength and resilience and take it back home for everyone to share, and distribute everywhere for generations to come.
When we return to having our families around us, our kids in back in school and things as wonderfully simple as visiting an old friend, I hope all of us that gained strength and wisdom from nature will work hard to make sure that we don’t forget how much we need the butterflies, birds and flowers. For some of us, it’s what gave us the will to keep going.
Even more importantly, we must make sure future generations will have that same opportunity to experience nature should they ever need it for not only heartbreaks like ours, but just as a simple help to get though life’s uncertainties and perhaps nothing more than just the day .
See you in the Meadowlands