Being a gardener and working outside has been my saving grace through Covid. Sure, it’s much colder in the Northeast now and my time outdoors is more limited but there are still ways to savor nature’s joys. And with so many restrictions, exclusions, and precautions this holiday season, it’s even more important to invite nature in.
Nature Lives in the Moment
The heavy snowfall muzzles the noisy outside world, and birds, chipmunks and squirrels are not fretting over Covid or politics. Am I worrying about the future? Distracted with current events? Trying to make sense of the past? Like guiding a dog on a leash, I must continually pull back my thoughts to this exact moment of now. And nature is an expert teacher.
Some of my favorite winter in-the-moment experiences are watching birds take turns at the feeder, or fawns frolicking near the pond. Attentively brushing the cat or tuning in to my dog’s enthusiasm while playing tug reciprocates their unbridled joys.
Any focused attention to the exact moment is mindfulness. It can be as easy as counting breaths, saying a prayer, practicing a few minutes of Qigong. Try walking through the snow and tuning in to each sound — crunching boot steps, whooshing snow from overladen branches, the rhythmic drip-drip-drip of icicles, or cheer-cheer-cheer of a cardinal’s trill.
Presence is the Best Present
Breathing in the heavenly smell of pine boughs I’ve cut to grace my entrance way keeps me in the moment. So does being present with others, and being present with my self. Identifying and understanding my feelings, reactions, physical sensations, thoughts and behaviors through self awareness is healthy.
Covid restrictions don’t have to nix the circular benefit from connecting with others and the outside world. Lift everyone’s spirits by donating to the local food pantry, shoveling snow for an elderly neighbor, volunteering via a phone bank. These relatively simple but mindful activities offer enormous benefits for the giver and receiver — from reducing stress and depression to experiencing gratitude and joy.
Nature’s Simplest Gifts
Invigorating night time walks for sightseeing Christmas decorations and lights is a new twist on entertainment and exercise. I visit a dog friendly neighborhood so chance meetings with the two little Westies, the Aussie/Border Collie mix, blind Jack Russell, or white muzzled Labrador warm my heart. So does seeing the Goldendoodle waiting to greet visitors at the front door.
My walking partner welcomes deer, squirrels, chipmunks, a ground hog, racoon and any other critter to feed on the grain she places outside her dining room doors. Her big heart just rescued a sweet male Rottweiler for a forever home with her Bull Mastiff (also a rescue).
Hiking through the pristine snow is refreshing (and great exercise). The soothing quiet clears my head, and if I’ve reached panoramic views I’m rewarded with fresh perspectives. Vitamin D is an added bonus when the sunshine warms my face.
Miniature white Poinsettia, Campanula and white-tinged greens compose the natural theme for my indoor holiday decor this year. Eliminating a day of dismantling and packing away decorations frees my time for more pleasurable activities.
Watching chickadees, nut hatches, cardinals, woodpeckers and finches taking turns at the feeder is a lock down reprieve. These fragile birds offer a gentle calm to the day (and I’m awed how they survive the cold).
We loved seeing my brother’s Shire horse come running for the extra candy canes my mom passed along. Who knew equines like a peppermint now and then too?
Helping Nature Thrive Helps Everyone Thrive
With small businesses dying under Covid siege, I’ve actively not supported Amazon or Big Box stores profiting from Covid (or any business donating money to groups undermining America). Instead I bought gift certificates at local pet supply and feed stores, and donated to animal shelters. After the owner of a wild bird shop told me how much my purchase meant to him during these troubling times, I returned twice more.
Help birds survive the winter by providing high energy foods like suet, peanuts and black oil sunflower seeds. Clean water is essential so a heated bird bath is extra beneficial. Roosting boxes and cavities in dead trees provide shelter while fruit-bearing trees and shrubs, and evergreens are helpful too!
The Biggest Gifts are Already Here
Knowing gifts are often concealed — whether exquisitely wrapped or not readily apparent, I’ve contemplated the positive aspects of Covid-19 for the world. Returning to basics like personal hygiene, creative activities, and recognizing what’s really important come to mind. Kindness and caring are always free and available to anyone, at any time.
I’m hoping 2020’s deafening standstill will help humanity choose the true and fulfilling meaning of Christmas over shallow materialism. Realize that having the latest, greatest, most expensive, flashy, superficial whatever, is a fleeting distraction. That what matters most are the simple things often taken for granted like nature and the loved ones in our lives. It’s hugs and smiles and puppy dog tails. It’s the love and caring in sweet videos such as these that warm the heart and make me forget about Covid, politics, and all that’s going on in the world.
Original image credits in order of appearance:
Feature photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
#2: by Preethi Viswanathan on Unsplash
#3: by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash
#4: by Dan Burton on Unsplash
#5: by Marco Secchi on Unsplash
#6: by Mary Pahlke from Pixabay
#7: by Pro Church Media on Unsplash