Stay home, except to get medical care or essentials, and stay six feet away from other people. That was the advice, gentle at first, then more forceful, and finally, backed with a threat of fine or maybe arrest— it wasn’t clear. The change in the city was dramatic. The freeways flowed free. The commercial streets were quiet. Businesses had signs posted in their windows. First it was concerts cancelled, then gym classes, then bars and salons and big malls and little boutiques and everything else you didn’t realize you really wanted to do. The world was shrinking. There was work, and worry, and staring straight ahead worrying about work.
These exhortations to stay home reminded us, though, that it was OK to be outside by ourselves. I went to one of the less trafficked trailheads at one of the less trafficked trails in our city. There were a few other folks out there— I passed someone (with a wide berth) every 15 minutes or so. Most of the time, it was just me and the trees. And the moss. And the birds. And the bugs. And a snake. And more trees. The trees looked the same today as then did a month ago. Greener, maybe. The forest smelled the same. My feet made the same sounds as they pushed off the dirt. My sweat felt the same on my forehead. The forest was. . . normal.
Sure, there’s science about how virus particles disperse more in open air than in enclosed spaces, and how solar radiation speeds their decay, and how time in nature lowers our blood pressure, and so on and so forth. I’m a scientist and all this is great. But right now, it doesn’t matter. What matters is feeling at peace looking up at giant trees. Seeing Mount Hood in the distance and remembering, oh yeah, mountains are still there. Look beyond uncertainty to find the stable core that your soul can recognize.