One thing defined my daily routine in childhood: a walk on the beach. I chased retreating waves, stopped to inspect hermit crabs in tide pools, or just sat down to watch flocks of scurrying shorebirds. The subtle shift of seasons, the conflicts and interconnections in nature, the beauty behind the inevitable challenges slowly became clear to me. As an adult, I am sustained equally by my relationships with people and wild nature.

Social distance is now required to reduce the spread of COVID-19. For a while, like millions of others around the world, my family will work and learn from home. We’ll practice diligent disinfection, limit trips to public spaces, and cancel our spring break trip. We also will go outside.

Being in the outdoors focuses my attention on the moment but also on the promise of change. Walking in a local park this week, I noticed a willow shrub in a wetland beside the trail. Fuzzy gray catkins sprouted from its bare branches. As the days lengthen and warm, each catkin will split open to reveal a cluster of tiny flowers whose pollen is among the first food available to native bees emerging from their winter hideaways. A slender stream winds between dry cattails in the wetland. Ice still covers its surface, but I heard water gurgling below and watched a tiny fish swim through the chilly current.

Later, at home, I watched several American goldfinches on the feeder outside our kitchen window. Their feathers showed the first blazing patches of summer-yellow. On the ground below, a male cardinal collected a fallen seed to feed his mate — a simple act to reaffirm their bond before undertaking the monumental task of parenting.

Life strives to persist. I am grateful for the reminder.


Christine Petersen is an environmental educator and freelance writer.