Monday, April 6, 2020

Time for some new ways of thinking

By Beth Sullivan
In less than three weeks the world has turned more upside-down and inside-out than anyone could have imagined. I am quite sure just about everyone feels as I do - overwhelmed, scared, frustrated and somewhat useless. Being considered “elderly” doesn’t just get me a senior discount, but pretty much mandates that I try to really stay home and stay safe. I am.
I am very grateful that I find solace in nature; solitude and quiet are not things I am afraid of. I have always embraced them. But it is not for everyone. It surely is a bigger change for so many other people, than for me. We are so lucky to live in an area with many available open spaces, to spread out, walk, sit and think or sit and not think. We can meet friends and keep our distance, but talk a little louder outdoors and get at least some sort of real un-pixilated face time.
We are lucky to live in an age of easier communication and connection. With the internet we can take classes, read books, see our grandchildren from afar and learn a million different things. It’s hard, though, for me to sit still at the computer so long now, especially since the weather is getting better.
This year my gardens will be cleaned earlier and that’s a good thing since things seem to be springing up earlier. This year more than ever, we should notice and cherish the coming of spring. We have the time. Take notes. Take photos. Write in a journal or do some sketching. I have suggested taking a child out with you, to explore, see things through their eyes and to embrace their sense of hopefulness. My little ones are out of my reach right now. It’s hard to face time with a 6 month old, and a toddler really doesn’t quite have the patience and understanding for conversation, but she does blow great kisses.
However my 5 ½ year old grandson and I have invented a game. When I am out and about in the yard or woods, camera /phone in hand as always, I am finding things to photograph. The most mundane things look so amazing when seen very close up. I challenge him to figure out what they are. Sometimes there is a story behind the photo: a shell from a cicada that emerged last summer, close up of woolly bear ‘fur’ which spent the winter under a pile of leaves. Somethings lead to a bigger conversation or a hunt in their own area to find the same. Sometimes he has to look things up. Sometimes we both do.
We have had a lot of fun and laughs together over this. We also created a Fairy House in the woods when he was here months ago. Now he has me check it to see what the fairy has left and take a photo so we can discuss the contents. That’s fun for both of us. That fairy is busy!
A magical fairy house.

An emerging rhubarb leaf.

Cicada larval shell.

It's a root, not a pile of poop.

Some items to keep in mind

This is all fun stuff, distracting activities, but we know there is underlying seriousness. I have a couple of requests.
While we are all worrying about the crisis at hand, we have needed to shift our priorities a lot. But while we are home worrying, there is still a climate crisis. There are many who believe that these two situations are intricately related. The global climate talks have ceased. Each day I read of new laws that dismantle former protections for our environment and public lands here in our country. This seems to be happening quietly and there is no one objecting. While you have the time to read, please take heed, you can take the time to become involved without being part of a crowd. Let your voice be heard, so that when we emerge from this crisis we will still have large unspoiled places, protected land that we can cherish and visit when we are free again to roam.
It is the small places we call home that we are using now. The Avalonia trails throughout SE CT are welcome havens for families and individuals. The preserves will remain open. There are several programs dedicated to family hiking and exploration: Avalonia’s Hike and Seek, and the local Hike Stonington. I am guessing other areas have similar programs. I have run into so many people out on the trails these last weeks. It is wonderful. Please keep in mind the rules of physical distance between people, avoid groups, and please keep your dogs on leashes. Our pets are therapy now but keep them close and beside you, for their sake, out of concern for others, and for the wildlife we are striving to protect.
A small ask: if you are now, newly enjoying Avalonia’s trails and if you are able, please support our work by becoming a member or offering a small donation. We still have to “keep the lights on” though the office is closed. Our small staff is working from home. We are still using equipment to maintain the trails and are raising funds and writing grants for several acquisitions that will become available to you in the future. Thank you.
I am personally wishing you all well. Be safe, stay home, but you can call the preserves home as you need.
Computers are used for connections on many levels.

There's plenty of space out here. Photograph by MJ Hughes.

You can teach physical distancing with a good stick to allow social fun time. Photograph by Nick Young. 

Photographs by Beth Sullivan, unless otherwise indicated.

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