At this point in the year, anything bad that can be said about the pandemic has probably already been said. All the bases have been covered, all the opinions have been made, all the stats have been reported. That being said, something I had never expected to get out of living through this global event is a fortified relationship with my natural surroundings.
[bf_image id="2c693jx9jf6j4r549fnkcwfg" ]Our typical days are solidified by routine and defined by our levels of productivity. We are always planning for the future and wrapped up in how to maximize the current moment instead of just existing within it. This is the shared reality we experience in today’s hurried capitalistic society, and I know for certain this was the quality of life I had subconsciously adopted my entire life, up until COVID-19 disrupted that flow. The first few months of the stay-at-home order was accompanied by no other option than to slow down and sit within the discomfort of monotony. As a collective, we were forced to re-examine who we were without the typical distractions of a busy lifestyle. This feat was a lot easier said than done. Like many, I wasn’t accustomed to the idea, let alone the execution, of stillness-- both mentally and physically.
At first, the restlessness transformed into a dismal feeling of emptiness. Though most of my days felt that way, that mental barrier was eventually broken through, and a feeling of acceptance and gratitude replaced it instead. I left my house for the first time, three months after the start of quarantine. When you’ve been isolated for that long, seeing the same four walls for a quarter of the year, you appreciate the little things in nature a lot more. I remember taking a walk to the end of my street and just taking in how green the grass by the sidewalk was. Getting to experience the coolness of the air and hear the songs the birds were singing meant more to me than it ever had before. I felt replenished by the outdoors, and for the first time, I experienced mindfulness in the present moment.
[bf_image id="hxj8hs4z4vg9679njx88kqwc" ]Though I miss the euphoria shared through concerts, traveling, festivals and large gatherings of friends--some days more than others-- I also discovered that satisfaction was an equally rewarding feeling. We don’t need much to be happy when we are grateful, and there is so much to be grateful for when you experience everything that the natural world has to offer. In the absence of social recreation, I found joy in the most simplistic moments in life. Driving down PCH and seeing the water glisten by the roadside, finding new trails to hike and explore, reading a good book at the local park, noting how fiercely the ocean waves crash from the pier up above and visiting the river bed to catch the sunset were just some of the ways I got closer to nature during quarantine. It may have taken an entire pandemic for us to start slowing down, but if we take the outlook on life we’ve developed because of it, we will continue to find little pieces of happiness in the day-to-day, no matter what is going on in the world. There is so much comfort in knowing how insignificant our worries are within such a vast and intricate universe.