Photo: Andrew Goldstein.

Nature's Solace In These Times

Mar 16, 2020 by Jana Hemphill
Outreach manager Jana Hemphill heads outdoors to find solace during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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I lace up my shoes and head towards the forest. The trail moves past neighborhoods and heads towards the quiet, calm space that I need. No cell phone notifications with the latest COVID-19 updates. No face masks, latex gloves, or hand sanitizer. No toilet paper shortages. I close my eyes and breathe in deeply. Exhale slowly, releasing the stress of the last couple of weeks.

When I open my eyes again, everything is as it usually is. The wax currants are slowly unfurling their buds. The kingfisher lets out a wild rattling call and flies from a branch, looking for its next meal. The wind rustles the pine needles and makes the tree crowns sway. The sun sneaks behind a cloud. I walk along the path, observing the signs of early spring arriving in the forest, even though the clouds and wind announce that a snowstorm is on the way.

For a few brief moments, everything is back to normal. Everything is recognizable. I am myself. It is so different from what has been happening outside of the forest. We are currently living in strange times. I have felt discombobulated, uncertain of what will happen. But goldfields are still one of the first flowers to appear in the Oregon desert and the vivid green of spring larch needles will take my breath away every year. And so I go outside, where nature can provide me solace. Reassurance. Nature has a rhythm that I’ve been missing lately.

I return home, back to the news stories, single-topic conversations, and uncertainty. But I hold on to those few precious, calm moments that nature has given me. And I thank nature--for always being there for me, even in these uncertain times.

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