Nature soothes in COVID-19 pandemic How our rural landscape gives me hope

Laurel, my wife, and I live on ten non-easy-care acres in rural south Salem, Oregon along with our dog Mooka, a Husky mix. Yesterday (April 17) I mowed the grass in our large yard. Walking slowly behind my double-bladed DR Field Mower with lawnmower attachment, I had plenty of time to ponder the natural beauty that surrounds us.

After I finished mowing, I grabbed my iPhone, wanting to take some photos of what soothed me. And WOW, I sure do need soothing during the coronavirus crisis that we're all going through. After looking at the photos, I thought, "Hey, maybe other people also will enjoy looking at our spring-blooming yard, along with some observations I have about what the photos mean to me."

So, hopefully, enjoy...

Laurel tells me that this is the first time those red tulips by our front walkway have been able to bloom, since deer have munched on them in previous years. Thank you, deer! Maybe they have an intuition that we humans need some extra beauty in these tough times.

The dogwood at the end of the walkway is looking good, as it always does -- especially when we remember to have it sprayed prior to its spring blooming. See, "vaccines" work. May one for the coronavirus enter our lives fairly soon.

Five years or so ago, I can't remember exactly, this area was covered with decades worth of fallen branches, brush, decaying leaves, and other debris. One day I decided it needed a makeover. A few days later, I wondered if that was the right decision. It took a heck of a lot of cutting, raking, and hauling to a burn pile to get the slope ready for planting.

At first the native Oregon Grape needed occasional watering. And they were so small, the plantings were barely noticeable. Year by year, though, they grew. Now they fill my heart with gardening joy when I walk by them, noticing the light green new growth. Some things take time to bear fruit. Like, social distancing and wearing masks. But the effort is worth it.

This is my favorite view of our yard. About 25 years ago, five years or so after we moved here, we had our yard landscaped by Keith Ecklund, the Garden Poet. He didn't have a formal plan. We simply trusted him, and talked with him regularly as the work progressed. I'd see him sitting on his tractor, paused, looking around at the contours of the unfinished yard.

Then he'd burst into action, directing his workers to do this and that. Keith knew a lot about gardens. But he also knew a lot about poetry, creativity, trusting one's intuition. Likewise, we'll get through this coronavirus crisis by leaning on the twin pillars of solid science and caring compassion. The White Oak tree in the middle of the photo is some 250 years old, we've been told by an arborist. It has endured and prospered. So will we.

Redbud in front, Dogwood in back. My wife told me this, since I'm pretty much clueless about the names of plants and trees. The plus side to my ignorance is that if I've made a naming mistake in this commentary, it's Laurel's fault! (which reminds me of Trump's daily coronavirus briefings, where nothing that's gone wrong is his fault.) Yards need bursts of color. Too much sameness goes against the diversity of nature.

It's good that each state is dealing with its coronavirus outbreak in somewhat different ways -- the caveat being that science has to be the foundation of those efforts. I feel fortunate to live in a state where our Governor, Kate Brown, is doing a generally excellent job in that regard. However, we do need more testing.

Laurel transplanted these ferns from elsewhere on our property, where now they have become a fern forest of sorts next to our water feature. Several years ago we decided to cut them down completely in late winter. Then they quickly grow back with fresh fronds in the spring -- which is happening now.

This is much like what our country is having to do to cope with the coronavirus pandemic: cut back severely, so regrowth can happen in the future. Such is the wise thing to do. Those clamoring to open things up prematurely should realize what a bad idea this is. Our response to the pandemic has to be based on reality, not on fantasy. It takes time for something that had to be cut back to sprout again.

Our water feature is graced by a metal Heron, not a real one. We used to have an actual small pond with goldfish. But then we'd be visited by an actual Heron. Which either led to fewer goldfish, or to traumatized goldfish who hid under rocks as much as they could. So we went with the flow, so to speak.

That's what our mini-waterfall reminds me of: accept the reality of what is happening and adjust to it. Otherwise we drive ourselves crazy by thinking of what we'd like to have happen and feeling bad that it isn't happening. Sure, we need to work to change things for the better, such as defeating the coronavirus. But until that change happens, accepting what is will keep us grounded.

When the Garden Poet landscaped our yard, one day we came home and found that he had moved this remnant of a large tree to a spot in front of what was going to become a water feature. I remember him telling us, "We try to use everything possible." Wise decision. Since, these fungi (don't know their name) have inhabited the stump. And it looks like squirrels like to sit on top of it and open acorns there. Nature knows what to do with old things. Even rotting stumps have a purpose.

Much more so, of course, when it comes to old people, of which my wife and I are two 70-something examples. Not surprisingly, it bugs me hugely when I hear cavalier talk of relaxing Oregon's Stay Home, Save Lives governor's order to get the economy moving again, even if some vulnerable people die as a result. That attitude reveals an astounding lack of compassion for those who are older or sicker. Life is way more important than money. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to think again.

After asking my wife, I believe these are Japanese Maples of the Shindeshojo variety. Their reddish foliage makes a nice contrast with the greens that dominate our yard. Uniformity is less appealing than diversity. I try to remember this, with decidedly mixed results, when I get upset with people who look upon the world much differently than I do.

For example, the orange-hued occupant of the Oval Office who has made the White House coronavirus briefings into a spotlight focused on him. In my better moments I visualize Trump as doing what he thinks best, as do we all. However, I readily admit that those moments are not very frequent.

The tree in the foreground is, we believe, another Japanese Maple. I love the shadowy twisted shape of its limbs against the brightness of the setting sun. The large stone steps are another pleasing feature of our yard. I recall that in the days of the Garden Poet's landscaping work, it was Fernando who did almost all of the rock work. He wasn't large, but he sure was strong.

And Fernando had an eye for placing stones, whether this be in a rock wall, scattered around a planting area, or as steps. Fernando is long gone from our life, but what he wrought is ever with us. Hopefully we all will similarly remember the health care personnel, grocery workers, and other everyday heroes who are getting us through the coronavirus crisis. If we're alive and well, that will be a testament to their steadfast dedication.

This is another favorite tree, a Maple of some variety. In the fall it's delicate leaves turn a beautiful yellowish color. It's another example of judicious pruning. The tree looks like it leans to the left (just like political me) because it used to have almost as many branches on its right side.

But they were growing into the large tree next to it, which I think is a Cedar. So reluctantly, we had those limbs cut off. At first I didn't like how the Maple looked with such severe pruning. Now, though, it appears completely natural to me. Such may happen as well with how we're having to cut back on our social contacts, travel, shopping, and such. It seems unnatural at the moment. With time, it could become a new normal.

These twin Douglas Firs were here when we bought our house in 1990. Thirty years later, they're much taller, much more impressive, much grander. They sit above our house, dwarfing it. I like that. Nature should make us humans feel small and insignificant, because that's our proper relationship to the natural world: secondary.

Nature is our foundation. We rest upon it, not it upon us. The coronavirus is a reminder of how shaky our place upon this this planet is. An invisible entity has killed over 30,000 Americans, with many thousands more deaths to come. Other pandemics will follow, almost certainly. Some may be more serious than this one.

Humility behooves us. We humans need to stop feeling like we are in control. Actually, nature is. If we aren't able to live in sustainable harmony with the natural world, and with each other, the future of humanity is bleak. Global climate change is one wake-up call. The coronavirus is another. Hopefully we will give up the fiction that every nation is an entity unto itself. In truth, we are all bound together by our common roots in nature.

No comment. This truth speaks for itself.

Created By
Brian Hines