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For many, the natural world has been a source of strength during this time of great change. Whether out on the trails or in your own backyard, nature helps us recharge and find the strength needed to face difficult truths and keep fighting for change. For others, the outdoors has never been a safe or accessible space. These stories show how members of the OLCV community have been connecting with nature, and contemplating their place within it, during the Black Lives Matter movement, the Coronavirus pandemic, and the ongoing climate crisis.

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The Great Blue Heron

The other day, I was walking in Forest Park, and I glanced over my shoulder just in time to see a Great Blue Heron land in the middle of the trail. He was enormous. I’d seen Great Blue Herons before, but never that close. He walked down to the creek--his head bobbing, dinosaur-like--and I followed him, inching closer and closer, until I could see into his yellow eye. He gazed back, as docile as the water beneath him. After a while he snapped his beak, shook his head, and began to wade upstream. I watched until I couldn’t see him anymore--until he disappeared from view, down amongst the nettle and the touch-me-nots that lined the stream. 
 

I felt lucky to have been visited by this magnificent bird. But I also remembered that not everyone could have moments like this. I thought of Christian Cooper, the Black man who was out bird watching in Central Park, and had the police called on him by a white woman. She lied and said he was threatening her when he had only asked her to keep her dog on its leash. This is not an uncommon experience for Black people. Racism against Black people is woven into every part of our society, and outdoor recreation is no exception. 

And other communities of color can also feel like they don’t fit into the world of outdoor recreation. In my own half-El Salvadorian family, my relatives aren’t particularly comfortable in the outdoors. My abuela has said she will never go camping, even if you paid her a million dollars, and my tíos don’t really see the appeal of hiking. They didn’t grow up with it. In El Salvador, nature was a place where you lived and worked, not a place where you hiked or camped for fun. And, here in the U.S., second generation Latinos like me don’t see many people from their own culture out on the trail. That’s starting to change, but there’s still a long way to go. 

- Francesca Varela, Communications Coordinator at OLCV

Hanging out with BigFoot

I grew up for the most part in the woods of Southern Oregon. I have now lived (since moving back 27 years ago) smack in the middle of the woods in Southern Douglas County, Oregon. I don't have to do too much to get out and enjoy nature where I live. I have a lovely front yard with a dry creekbed and lots of my rocks and crystals out there. I also have lots of blooming things to bring in the bees, butterflies, and hummers. We take hikes behind our house and have found what we believe to be evidence of "BigFoot!" We have seen bears, Elk, deer, bunnies, squirrels, hawks, vultures, lots of different kinds of birds (lots of finches and robins), skunk, raccoons, possum, fox, bobcats, so many I cannot name them all. We have heard cougar and heard and seen coyotes. We have a big dog to keep the larger wild animals away from the house. We also have lots of Canadian geese and crows and quail. Turkeys, lots of turkeys in the fall and winter. It is a wonderland where I live and we call it Azalea. (that's the name of our tiny town - if you want to call a country store, a post office and a volunteer fire station a "town").

- Belinda C. from Azalea, OR

Raccoon Adventure

I live beside Crystal Springs Creek in a wee duplex. I am a photographer by love of nature so this is a perfect spot for me. Today I had a raccoon adventure with crows and squirrels. Each day brings some aspect of natural wonders my way. My garden is blooming and flourishing, my spirits have remained high all due to my love of the natural world.

- Jewel S. from Portland, OR

Nature Feeds My Mind, Body, and Soul

Anyone who knows me, or looks at my social media pages, knows I love nature. If I'm not at work, I try to be outside as much as possible.

I have to say that this time of social distancing and staying home has been a true gift to me. Not working as much has given me the luxury of extra time to spend outside, whether that be in my garden, on my SUP, or just gazing out my window at the rain.

I have spent the extra time out with my camera, capturing the changes in my garden as it moves from winter, to spring, to summer. Usually I can only indulge in a passing glance as I rush from home to work and on my many errands. With this slow down, I've been able to spend time, listening, seeing, and smelling, yes smelling the changes that happen with each season.

Being out in nature feeds my mind, body, and soul in a way I cannot adequately articulate. I try to show that joy in the pictures I take, and this wonderful pause in life has let me express myself to the fullest.

- Pat K. from Troutdale, OR

Nature Is Pivotal In My Mental Health Journey

Since I was a child, playing outside--in whatever form of nature I can get--has always been my preference. Camping with my father was some of the best memories of my youth I have. Maintaining mental health has long been a challenge in my life and undoubtedly being able to access nature areas has been pivotal in my mental health journey. I feel the most content and happy while on hiking trails. I have a special affinity for the deep and lush forest. There has often been times that I do not know what else to do with myself to feel better than to go hiking for hours. I honestly am not sure I would be able to cope without nature to find sanctuary in. It may sound dramatic, but it is true, these natural areas may be the line between total collapse and possibly even death for some people and finding beauty and solace in life. It has been for me.

- Miriam E. from Portland, OR

The Magic Tree

My friend Louise and I watch birds together, and during the pandemic we've been walking every Saturday for hours in Prospect Park, the jewel of our home borough of Brooklyn NY. One day we decided to walk in gorgeous Greenwood Cemetery instead, and Louise had heard about a so-called Magic Tree that was always full of birds. It was migration season, so we found the tree. We were astounded to see many species of wrens, Baltimore orioles, veerys, male downys, female redstarts, oven birds and scarlet tanagers flitting from branch to branch and from the Magic Tree to a majestic cone-loaded evergreen across the road and back. We watched for over an hour, mesmerized, exclaiming, "Oh my God, wow, holy cow" over and over. Our necks were killing us from leaning our heads back for so long, and we almost missed the 7 pm closing time and got locked in the cemetery--but we will never forget that experience.

- Carolyn S. from Brooklyn, NY

Nature Outside My Door

Most of us do not live near wilderness areas or in beautiful states like Montana, Colorado, and New Mexico. We are really an urban country in search of nature. So to articulate that you are hiking among the Maroon Bells with the aspen blowing and the tinge of fall in the air while the elk are bugling, rings unconnected to most of us. I've been on both sides of the nature/urban divide and so now I am on the urban side. What do I do? In Oregon, I enjoy the clouds, the amazing changing clouds that morph into dark gloomy shapes and iridescent layers. I also enjoy seeing the garden grow. Believe it or not, strawberries can ripen overnight and rhubarb leaves grow an inch every two days. Mostly, I make a place my own. I recently adopted Takena Landing Park in Albany, Oregon. Adopting something is like adopting a child. You now look after every ailment, every weed, spray painted garbage can, and every new wildflower that appears. So, no I did not take a nature writing class at a university or go on an expensive retreat to to the coast to find myself...I simply walked out my back door.

- John K. from Albany, OR

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Photo from Pat K.
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Photo from Miriam E.
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Photo from Carolyn S.
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Photo from Jane B.
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Photo from Shari T.

Silver Falls

I belong to the Sierra Club Marys Peak group, and sometimes hike with them. I was ready for a hike with the group at Silver Falls state park last March, when it was cancelled because of Covid-19. It was only one day's notice, and I wouldn't have known of the cancellation if I hadn't looked at my junk email. All outings are cancelled into August. So a few weeks ago, the park reopened. I was there, the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. A lot of people were there; the parking lot was nearly full. The waterfalls were fully charged from all the rain. The trails were wet and muddy. That park is a great place to hike. The Middle North Falls is my favorite. A large cavern has been hollowed out behind the falls. The trail passes through the cavern and the waterfall is deafening. The sheer volume of the water is amazing, as it crashes onto the rocks. Splintered wood on the rocks attest to the trees swept over the falls. Lingering in the cavern, the effect becomes mesmerizing as one watches the water energy and hears the overwhelming, frantic, waterfall noise.

- Philip R. from Salem, OR

A Weekend at the Oregon Garden Resort

Last weekend, my wife and I traveled from Portland to Silverton, OR to spend the weekend at the Oregon Garden Resort. While the resort itself was good enough, this was the first time I had been to the Oregon Gardens in over 15 years. Because we had the gardens essentially to ourselves it was magical to walk through the beautiful plants, trees, colors, scents, and hardscapes of this magical space. I was mesmerized.

Nearby was the Gordon House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, which demonstrated the genius of an architect designing in complete harmony with this place on earth. I realize at that time that this overnight trip allowed me to experience the beauty of both nature and the human spirit.

- Thor H. from Portland, OR

Thankful for the Outdoors

Of course I am very thankful for our creator whom provided the beauty of the outdoors and all that it has to offer. Walking and enjoying the parks and forest is very refreshing for me. Hoping that we will continue to enjoy the nature until it's gone.

- Lawrence C. from Oxon Hill, MD

Checking on the Tide from Home

I live in a funny little squat house on Astoria's South Slope. It was built in 1949 and has large windows facing south. Out my window, I can see Young's Bay and the little farms across the way. I can know, even from this distance what the tide is up to. Low tide invites herons to feast on the muck. High tide and windy weather creates white caps that can see even from my little house half way up the hill. I can look up to the sky and see the sun shining through the wings of gulls and eagles that fly so high above me that I am irrelevant.

Closer at hand is a dogwood tree and a Japanese maple that fills with birds, scrub jays and Steller’s jays, visiting flickers and an assortment of tiny chirping winged things.

Deer families roam through my yard and look down below at my neighbors. They hear the sound of a basketball below and watch with interest. When the light fades from the sky, nocturnal sounds erupt. Owls from some nearby tree. Skunks and racoons pass through on their way to somewhere.

Tiny chipmunks scurry up and down the trees.

I work from home. I do my best to focus on the task at hand but the world outside my window beckons.

- Jennifer N. from Astoria, OR

Venturing into the Creek

I live on a wonderful nearly year-round creek that is, as one can imagine, teaming with life. Everything from water skippers, to birds, and flowers abounding. This year I've taken the initiative and begun daily walks along the creek. Not only is the water calming but there is a buzz of excitement this spring. Everything seems to be coming back either from the south as with the birds or back from sleep as with many of the local plants and insects.

Until this year the creek has been largely left to its own devices aside from the odd observational walk a couple times a year. We really wanted things to recover from previous owners and their habits and land use decisions before we stepped in to guide nature along a path of coexistence. The main thing we've done is removed blackberries (by hand) and cut down small black walnuts (non-native and very invasive).

This year I started to see the creek not just as a repast from life but also as a source of abundance and life itself. On my last walk when I came to a small clearing I stood for many minutes watching the water flow past me. I finally decided to do it. I took off my boots and socks and carefully climbed down into the numbingly cold waters.

My feet were instantly chilled and then numbed by the recent ice melt which was a blessing as there were an abundance of rocks with a varying degree of sharpness to them. I walked out to the deepest part of that stretch of creek (about mid-shin height) and stood there letting the cold but refreshing water wash over my feet and part of my legs. I felt the life teaming all around me. At once I felt overwhelming happiness and joy.

It is great to be alive. It is great to notice the wonders of our own back yard. I invite all who read this to spend a second, a minute, an hour, a day in their own back yard and while doing whatever it is that they are called to do take a moment to pause, listen and feel all that life that is around you. We live in a big world full of life.

- Jesse V. from Talent, OR

Nature in the Suburbs

I feel very fortunate to live in the suburbs so I have nature in my back yard. I have really enjoyed working in my backyard and I don't even feel terribly upset that a fat raccoon ate some of our cherries from our cherry tree. I took this picture of a dragonfly on June 15 (Nature Photography Day).

- Jane B. from Hillsboro, OR

 

The Apple Tree

My earliest memories are playing in the apple tree in my backyard. When my family moved at age 6, I begged my parents to bring my apple tree along. Of course, they couldn't, but promised I could visit it when we came back to visit our old neighbors. Imagine my shock when we came back and found the tree had been cut down! I've been trying to save that tree ever since; successfully leading the effort to establish the Waldo Lake Wilderness and now as the President of Friends of Douglas-Fir National Monument.

- David S. from Eugene, OR

Nature Has Been My Elixir During These Tough Times

Nature has been my elixir during this pandemic. It has been challenging to self-quarantine and be away from family and friends. I recently took a couple day drives to Mount Hood and the coast, it was a calming experience that gave me hope we would get through these rough times.

- Karla K. from Portland, OR

Fortunate To Have Nature In My Own Backyard

I am fortunate to have nature in my own yard. This year I have a garden planted with vegetables. There are cottontail rabbits living in the yard along with quail and other birds. There are apple trees, walnut trees, and others. For those in urban areas I encourage them to look closely at their surroundings. There are interesting bits of nature nearby. Pets are part of the natural world and by observing them we are experiencing a different way of living.

- Stacey G. from Ontario, OR

A New Morning Routine

Pre-Covid as a sleep lover I wouldn’t give myself any extra time for anything but eating, dressing and commuting to work. Now that work is at home there is a little more space in my mornings.

One of my favorite small new rituals from quarantine is starting my mornings with a “nature” journal. What this actually means is gazing outside our front window (when it’s been raining or freezing) or sitting on the front stoop and writing what I see in our front yard. The visiting birds (or their songs that I can’t identify). The arc of different plants blooming an dying back. The position of the sun (Or lack) in the yard.

It’s simple but lovely.

- Taran N. from Portland, OR

The Whole Family Connecting with Nature

We have two little kids, and connecting with nature has kept us all calmer in this time of stay-at-home. We are lucky to have nature in our own backyard and in our neighborhood. My husband takes daily walks, often with one goal in mind: to find public access to area urban creeks. Our girls brought every worm they found for weeks to power our now active compost bin and live for bunny and squirrel sightings. Me? Sunset runs have given me alone time and an awareness of the neighborhood's best pollinator habitat yards.

- Christy S. from Portland, OR (and former Development Director at OLCV!)

Hummingbird Visitors

I have a very small front yard and backyard, yet I am able to connect with nature on a daily basis. The trees in my front yard (Desert Willow and Russian Olive provide nesting site and homes for  woodpeckers, finches, humming birds, doves, and even pigeons. The bushes in this yard (Spanish Broom and evergreen varieties) provide both nesting and food for the birds. Additionally, I keep feeders in the front yard for both hummingbirds and seed eaters. It's so much fun to watch them feed. The hummers especially are enjoyable during their evening feeding time when five of them will gather peacefully, more or less, to drink straight sugar water nectar.

My backyard is too small for trees but I do have Russian sage growing. I also have a hummingbird feeder there. The sage bushes provide flowers for both honeybees and bumblebees and seeds in the fall and early winter for yellow finches. When it's not too hot to be outside, I enjoy sitting on my patio watching the hummers. They are used to me so they swoop in and feed when I'm outside. Some are even curious enough to hover lees than 3 feet from my face. They do the same with my cats. We are all curious about each other and it's fun to watch the hummers drop down close enough to my cats until they nearly touch beak to nose just to check each other out.

Whether I sit outside or not, I'm filling bird feeder almost every day, and I can watch them from both my front windows and my kitchen window.

- Shari T. from Albuquerque, NM

 

A Grownup Treehouse

I am fortunate to live in what I call my grownup tree house In Oregon. My backyard as well as most of my neighborhood has old growth Douglas Firs, Cedars, Pines and Maples. My front yard is wonderful, with massive Rhododendrons in a variety of pinks, purples, reds, and whites which attract bees in great numbers. Two flowering dogwoods flank the yard on each side. There are roses, irises, azalea, hydrangea, calla lilies and peonies. I can watch  hummingbirds, chickadees, robins from my deck, and can often see and hear the mated hawk pair as they soar on the afternoon thermals. We are situated next to a municipal nature reserve, and get visited often by does and their fawns and occasionally a male with antlers. So grateful to be living here, especially now.

- Diane S. from Lake Oswego, OR

In Baja During Quarantine

We were in La Ventana, Baja when we went into lock down. We had already taken on 6 foster puppies picked up at the dump a few weeks before so playing with them, holding and just watching them tumble around really warmed our hearts. Plus I have always loved birds, though am terrible at remembering names of anything including people. I discovered by using an app I could learn to identify them by sound and features. I spent all day just hanging out in our yard discovering so many wonderful birds. I had nothing else to do besides listen to and watch birds and hug puppies. Now back in Hood River I discovered eagles that love to visit a tall pine tree a house away. I now recognize the eagle call in the early morning and jump out of bed to look off our porch to see it. One morning there were two. They both just looked over at me before flying off. I can’t wait to get back to Baja where I will join the local bird watching group and foster more puppies.

- Linda D. from Hood River, OR

Accidentally Training for Isolation

I guess I have been accidentally training for COVID 19's social isolation since last summer. A retired widower, I have been alone since 2007, but worsening of my emphysema forced me to admit I could no longer volunteer at the food pantry, or do much else. I have a big picture window that looks out on the lake, my dock, (with ducks, egrets) and the bird feeders on my deck with a myriad of songbirds at my feeders.  What would be loneliness for some is blessed solitude for me. I'm lovin' it.

- Michael H. from Dune City, OR

Fortunate Out of the City

Mostly, I've been feeling both fortunate and guilty. Fortunate to live on a farm filled with wildlife and woods and streams and guilty because not everyone has such privilege. I just hope city dwellers can find comfort in what natural world they can get to...or what birds and plants they can see from their homes or apartments. One way that I have been connecting in a less busy way than usual (it's haying and gardening time on our farm) is by sitting for ten minutes a day, at least once a week, in front of the barn and looking, listening, and writing down what birds I see and hear in that ten minutes. This is for a project from a grad student at the Univ. of Wash. who asked people to do this once a week during the coronavirus shutdown March through June...and again next year when she presumed the shutdown would be over. Her project is to see if birds were more plentiful in urban and suburban areas when people were staying home. Whether for a study or not, sitting and watching/listening to the natural world around us is very relaxing and centering. I then go about my goat milking and barn cleaning and other farm chores with renewed calmness and relaxation.

- Linda F. from Grand Ronde, OR

A Family of Red-Tailed Hawks

We have been watching a family of Red-Tailed hawks raise their young across the park from us. The hatch lings have reached the passage stage of development and are refining their flying ability. Their nest is well hidden in some Pine trees on a hillside which creates some good updrafts and they are taking advantage of the lift. They do aerobatics and swoop around each other and close to the treetops. They sometimes fly away with their parents and are probably being taught to hunt. The family will return later in the afternoon and nest down for the night. Occasionally other birds such as Crows, Jays and Kestrels will dive bomb the hawks and harass them to chase them away from their nests.

- Howard S. from Portland, OR

No Pesticides at Papillon Pollinator Park

My husband and I, both visual artists and professors emeritus, live in a community that has 28+ acres of landscape with homes and condos. We all own our property and through committees run the entire community along with a management company. Several years ago I established an arboretum on our grounds helped develop a Grounds and Natural Areas Committee, and work with my husband on a "Remembrance Tree" Program under the Community Arts Committee. This year we planted a beautiful Linden Tree. Under the GNA Committee we have created a "Pocket Park Pollinator" Program and within the last month we established our first "Papillon Pollinator Park" with a no pesticide mandate. Wer are about to put in boulders, a walking path, a bench and signage. We want to plant pollinators throughout the community creating a pollinator corridor. Every person, no matter how in how small an area, can do something to heal and protect our earth. Bird feeders, bee stations, pollinator plants and NO Pesticides will heal the sacred ground on which each of us stands. Each person is a messenger of hope by doing small, but potent, acts of goodness. To that end, my husband and I created a book on Blurb.com entitled "Spirit of the Woods, Spirit of the World" with the focus on trees.

- Rochelle N. from Ashland, OR

 

A View of the Willamette

I live in a CCRC in Milwaukie OR.  I have a wonderful  view of the Willamette River with the birds to watch. Our large campus has wonderful gardens, trees, and lawns. We host huge numbers of crows and other birds. Eagles, Ospreys, Herons, etc.

- Frieda N. from Milawukie, OR

The Speed of Nature Has its Own Timetable

Our home is near the Willamette river with access to parks on either side of our residence within walking range. We had the good fortune to discover it when I was on a sabbatical twenty-four years ago, as it was distressed and within our price range as we moved from the Midwest to set up a studio practice centered around a garden model. As often found in the life of creative people, we gradually restored the site to a place of abundance and increasing wildlife, with daily sightings of deer, many types of birds, rabbits, raccoons, and an occasional possum. Douglas Squirrels remain a source of continual enjoyment. We are so thankful we can connect and engage with Nature at this time of uncertainty and feel so sustained by its dynamism. Overall I feel there is a critical message that Nature carries: "The speed of Nature has its own timetable and cannot be sped up as humans engage more and more with the world of AI. Nature teaches us we need to learn more patience and understand delayed gratification, which are skills that Nature freely gives. While Covid is a trial, it is something that is a global phenomenon and has appeared at this time in Earth's history as a teacher and shaper, calling us to look internally at the origin of our values."

- Marlana H. from West Linn, OR

Digging Dandelions: A Poem

Digging dandelions summer by summer— a work in mediation, futility, hundreds by now, thousands discarded in cloud and sun, but it doesn’t do any good, the yard the same as when I started, steely roots forming claws clutching earth. In the Desert Sayings, a monk wove baskets day after day, and every year gathered his work into a pile he consigned to flames, the weaving more about his fingers forming mantras than any usable work. It’s what I say, every year, shovel in hand, intent on accomplishing nothing again.

- Jerry H. from Portland, OR

I Enjoy Watching the Outdoors Through My Windows

I have marveled at Nature this Spring as the seemingly dead garden of winter burst into life. The old wooden fence is not completely covered by the Virginia creeper. I have had orioles coming to my feeders since April. They and the hummers are keeping me busy making sugar syrup. Gaura is spreading over two areas and the bees are happy with it and the Russian sage and the abbelia. I am not an outdoor person but I enjoy watching the outdoors through my windows.

- Edith M. from Ashland, OR

My Garden Has Never Looked Better

I am fortunate to have a yard! I cannot imagine what it must be like for people who live in apartments. My garden has never looked better and I have become aware of mistakes I've made in the past and worked to correct them. It's a more work than I'd like, but I do like working outside and, thankfully, our spring has not been as grey and soggy as it sometimes is. The crows laugh at me and the slugs abound, yet I persist. In addition to my veggies, I have flowers that delight.  I love going out and "grazing" - a few strawberries, a few peas, and salad greens, so far. Blueberries and raspberries soon. Daffodils and tulips followed by irises and foxglove, now lavender, daisies, camas, Cranesbill, Rozanne, and crocosmia, soon dahlias and rudbeckia. Ahhh…

- Marfa L. from Corvallis, OR

A Lifetime of Loving Nature

I've long been interested in connecting with nature. When I was about six or seven I remember going on a camping trip with my dad at Yosemite National Park. One of the things I remember was how cold and pure the water tasted when we got water out of a creek. People don't drink out of creeks in national parks any more because of the threat of disease but in those days (maybe 1957 or 1958) people didn't know about those diseases and the water was clearer. I also remember other nature experiences all over the United States, from kayaking in Hawaii to waters off Key West, Florida and on to kayaking in waters off Sitka, Alaska. I also love hiking and have hiked to the top of Yosemite Falls, Crater Lake National Park, the Three Sisters Wilderness and in the Appalachian Mountains. I haven't done much rafting but I have great memories of the New River in West Virginia, the Umpqua in Oregon and the McKenzie River right here in Lane County.

- C. Peter S. from Eugene, OR

 

Gardening, Walking, and Stargazing

I have been out working on my yard and garden almost every day, tending vegetables, pulling weeds, and watering flowers. I had a mason bee house set up to pollinate in the orchard, and watched those busy little bees. I walk in my neighborhood, the park, and on the local greenway. I ride my bike in places that are full of trees. And I go to the beach every few weeks. When I am driving, I focus on the landscape going past my window. At night, I walk out side and watch the moon and stars.

- Michelle B. from Monroe, OR

Being in Nature, I Feel the Most Myself

Born in Chicago, I never really was able to experience the true outdoors until I was 19. I move to Oregon to go to school and as soon as I got off the plane, I could breathe in the clean air. Experiencing nature for the first time, the incredible hikes, waterfalls, lakes, and forests were breath taking. I did my first solo backpacking trip and it truly changed my life. Being in nature, I feel the most myself and most grounded. Without my phone, social media, laptop, etc. I was able to think clearly and do some much needed introspection on myself and what I’m meant to do during this crazy time. I realized that the earth is being harmed and I made the decision to drop out and go live on an organic farm. I realized that the food industry and factory farming are two extremely devastating realities of our society. I wanted to learn the skills of regenerative farming because I know the world is going to need this knowledge now more than ever and I want to share it with those who are interested in knowing about locally sourced food. Connecting with nature is what sent me on this path and I couldn’t be more grateful. It’s a place to clear my head and just truly be present instead of living in the mind.

- Nicole N. from Clark Fork, ID

Daily Dog Walks

I take walks with my dog everyday and take hikes into areas along the rivers or waterfalls every chance that I get. I was a biology student and I spent every moment that I could birdwatching, photographing nature and hiking. Now that I can no longer drive, I am still in awe of the animal and plant that is abundant near my house. Today, I saw a mouse move right up to me, a garter snake when I was raking leaves, and many birds. It is relaxing to observe nature.

- Diane M.

Learning from "Braiding Sweetgrass"

I am reading “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer, an achingly beautiful writing about Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. Only two chapters in, the effect has been profound as her eloquence on the gifts of plants made clear to me my urbanized distance from nature and awakened in me a longing for such an intimacy and love for the earth as she portrays. The second chapter was on the gifts and wonders of wild strawberries. I have a raspberry bush, quite sizable now, and not long after reading about the strawberries, I picked a large bowl of raspberries with a deep delight in these small marvels. I came inside and put some of them in a container and took it to my next door neighbor, a good friend of many years. He gladly received them and we talked of how good fresh picked fruit is. Then he invited me to come in, that is, if I felt safe. Huh? Why wouldn’t I feel safe? Then it struck me that he was referring to corona virus safety. I was held for a moment in the amazement of having been so immersed in the joy of picking and sharing raspberries that for the experience’s short time it was my whole world.    

- Donna M. from Beaverton, OR

We Live Pretty Much As We Do Without the Pandemic

I haven't been spending more time outdoors during the pandemic. I live with one other at the edge of the woods and try to stay home as much as possible. My dogs would like to get out more often but since I am 84 there is a limit to how much I can do outside. But I can throw their balls inside because the house is 110’ long and the whole south side is windows. Trees I planted in the 70s are almost too large for the mills to take. But I can watch them grow. In the main woods NW of the house there are a few dead standing trees ready to be felled for firewood. This may be the last year I can deal with that. Mainly I need a tractor to pull them up to the splitter. One I have down is almost too large for the splitter ( 3’ in diameter). We live pretty much as we do without the pandemic, shopping every two weeks and having things shipped and mailed in. It is quiet and very green here.

- Ralph T. from Sheridan, OR

Flickers, Starlings, and Woodepeckers

Staying connected to nature has been really important this year with the stress of the pandemic in addition to that of everyday life. I'm fortunate to have bird feeders for songbirds, Woodpeckers, and Hummingbirds in my yard, and those bring a lot of joy all day long.

Additionally I'm lucky enough to live next to a large cemetery with a road winding through it. There are a good handful of snags and this time of year the Flickers, Starlings, and various Woodpeckers are vying for nesting space. On my evening walk, I see the parents' heads poking out of the nest holes for some respite from the day's heat. This all keeps me a little more grounded, and I'm full of gratitude for this vital connection.

- Hannah M. from Eugene, OR

 

Living on a Creek for the Past 40 Years

I live on a rural road in Eastern Oregon. I am also a  runner, and have been for about 50 years (I am 75). Hitting the road is an absolute necessity for me, mentally and physically. I am an RN--retired, now, and have seen the consequences of not moving in my patients. I have always been into health, especially mine, and especially now, being in an at risk age group.

My road follows a creek, through a canyon, with few people living along it. But there are birds and animals who are around especially in the early morning when I am, and I keep track of them. There are deer families, mergansers, kingfishers, geese, and all the birds who regularly come to my 9 feeders.

The creek itself provides a murmuring background that changes with the seasons/water levels. Living on this creek for the past 40 years has educated us in its changing moods, and I feel a bond with the stream and its wildlife.

With the pandemic there are fewer motorized vehicles on the road, which is fine with me. Normally we just see berry pickers or campers, but even they are fewer now. One of the few perks of Covid19-less traffic.

- Judith E. from Richland, OR

Robins and Geese

We are self employed in construction, giving us great opportunities to connect with nature.  A lot of what we do includes building, taking us out doors often. Just being outside, no matter what the weather, it takes our minds off of annoyances and distractions. We have the chance to see the world around us any time! We are both outdoor people with country histories, growing up where "the world" really is. Just look around, see what's flying from plant to plant, or notice that little robins are very, very busy in the early morning, and our favorites this time of year, geese!  They're almost ready to fly and we will miss them, but we know they'll be back next spring. Never ends! That's the joy!

- Anna and Dimiter P. from Beaverton, OR

Planting Trees in the Backyard

On the second week of March I lost my job. Since then I have been in charge of my sons educations which we decided to alternate with hikings on the parks that remained open and biking around the Metzger neighborhood they lived. We also started a huge project in the house backyard, that is a quarter of an acre. We planted 7 trees and have been covering the ground in card boxes, then wheelbarrowing from the front of the property compost and then chip mulch. It's been a joy to spend so much time outdoors. Among our favorite hikes had been going to Pittock Mansion from the Audubon Society, many loops at the Hoyt Arboretum and Gabriel's Park. At the arboretum my older son had memorized and able to identify many of the tree families and sometimes the name of some tree species. My younger sons has found a lot of joy shoveling compost and chip mulch into the wheelbarrow and driving it as well. I wonder how life will be in September but I'm happy for this unique opportunity in our lives!

- Jorge P. from Tigard, OR

Nature is a Beautiful and Relaxing Place to Be

I do spend a lot of time outside, in and around my yard. It's a little haven with such a diversity of wildlife, on a small perspective there are the hummingbirds, the sparrows, the doves, my beloved chickens, even the squirrels. Together we all enjoy the simple things in life here, the green grass, the dahlias, the roses, the butterfly bushes, so many different varieties of flowers and that in my garden. It is a beautiful and relaxing place to be. It makes one forget the constant sound of traffic zipping by just 50 yards away.

- Michelle W. from Springfield, OR

Beautiful and Difficult Nature

I have always been a lover of nature. We moved to Oregon over forty years ago.  With our hiking and mountain climbing, kayaking and soaking in hot springs, camping and wildlife, my paradise had been found.

COVID-19 and home sheltering, made me wonder how I might nurture my love of the outdoors. I am privileged to own a home with the possibility of endless gardening. With my raised beds instead of lawn, my dwarf fruit trees and my surroundings of huge maples, spruce and blossoming cherry, the pandemic has given me the gift of time to closely observe my own habitat.

I have witnessed crows mating on the top peak of my small greenhouse roof. With plenty of planted red flowers, I watch the flittering dance of my early morning or twilight hummingbirds. I have never stared so hard at their miniature wings before and wondered at how amazing their tiny lives are. I have also stared at the sheer wings of a fly and enjoyed the close watching of bees sipping the nectar of my flowers.

Usually I wait until mid-morning to have my cup of coffee. Then I sit on my cedar front deck and simply sip and observe how the wind tussles and sways my raspberry bushes and fig tree leaves or gives momentum to the winged glide of an eagle.  The Oregon white clouded, swirled blue skies are the most beautiful in the world. The sunsets bring oohs and ahhs. Full moons rise above and between the trees and bathe the whole neighborhood in light.

As I noted this week, however, my nature kingdom can also be harsh. On my front deck as usual, I hear loud, traumatic, shrieking. I look across the street and see several crows attacking a juvenile flicker. The mother flicker is crying and trying to save her young. I run across the road and try to chase the crows away. The baby is alive and makes its way over to the corner of  my neighbor's house. The crows return, however, and the young flicker is killed.

I realize later in talking with my naturalist neighbor, that the crows are defending their territory and a nest. Still I am stunned and heart broken. Life can be both terribly difficult and stunningly beautiful. COVID-19 has been devastating with its losses both in deaths of persons and livelihoods. But it has given us gifts of time for contemplation and appreciation of nature's always simple presence.

- Victoria K. from Eugene, OR