Carrie “Mudfoot” Stambaugh
Nature is not closed. It can, if we let it, fill the spaces of our minds and hearts left empty and wanting by our current human condition and help sustain and heal our souls.
Even as I sit writing this column, I am aware of its presence. Of its constant rhythms that can’t and won’t be stymied by disease riddling the human world. It is in the velvety darkness that envelopes the world outside my window. In the steady spring rain falling on the roof above me, and the warm sighing wind that gusts through the open glass. When the elements pause to catch their breath, preparing for their next tête-à-tête, the early spring frogs fill the forest night with their songs, accompanied by the melody of falling water that rushes from the mountain top to the river below.
The rooster has begun to crow now too. Pronouncing that the dawn is indeed still coming – even if we can’t see it quite yet. He knows, with certainty, what we all do: That the sun will indeed once again, no matter shadowed by the clouds, rise and bathe the Earth in glorious light.
No, just because our modern lives have been tipped sideways as the movements of society come to a screeching halt, the natural world around us continues moving unaffected, unafflicted and uncaring of our situation.
We should take comfort in this. That this change in our collective circumstance has come at the very beginning of spring. During a time that the physical world is active renewing the flora and fauna that surrounds us – even when we don’t notice or care about it - is a powerful reminder that life, no matter how disrupted it gets, still marches on. There is no stopping that. Life has not stopped.
Now that we have been forced to slow down, to remove ourselves from gathering in most of our artificial environments, we must again take notice of what surrounds us outside the walls. While we are forced to keep others a distance we must turn to the natural world for company.
It has the power to both soothe and inspire us in this time of great turmoil and uncertainty. It is a powerful tonic of healing and preservation. The human soul and mind have always relied upon it just as the body has, and does, for physical sustenance. We often just forget. Now is the time to remember. Even if it is only observed from a window it is there pure and wholesome – its only contagion curiosity and wonder.
BREATHE IN THE OUTSIDE
During this time of mandatory closures, social distancing and quarantine here are a few ways to get a dose of nature. There is lots of science that proves it is good for you – just 15 minutes can reduce blood pressure and drop the level of stress hormone in the blood! Repeated doses have been proven to boost long-term mood, helping to relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression while working to calm your body’s chronic stress and inflammation responses too.
Take a walk. Even if it is only around the block. During your stroll concentrate on your five senses. Observe the reddening buds on the tree branches. What can you smell and taste on the breeze? Stop to touch the grass or feel the soft petals of a spring tulip. Listen for the spring bird songs, or the buzzing of a bumble bee.
If you can safely get to a park, forest, lake or river feel free to explore! Although visitor centers are closed or unstaffed, Kentucky State Parks and the Daniel Boone National Forest have remained open to visitors. Many boat ramps have remained open as well. Make sure to research your destination, as well as downloading and printing a map before you leave home. (The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has closed some ramps.)
It is imperative to follow all the rules! Remember to continue practicing social distancing and take all proper backcountry precautions. First responders may not be available to rescue lost or hurt hikers, paddlers or climbers. Stay on the trails and don’t take unnecessary risks.
Injuries that are non-life threatening are not going to receive the same levels of care that we are typically accustomed to – for example a torn knee ligament isn’t likely to be surgically fixed right away, and it could even be weeks before in-person physical therapy is available again. Take it easy out there.
Can’t get outside? Just sit on a porch or by a window and just quietly observe. Or, take a virtual field trip into nature. Check out the National Park Services’ virtual field trips to Yellowstone, Hawaii Volcanoes, The Grand Canyon, and many others. Or take a virtual hike using Google Earth technology.