Finding Gratitude for What is Still Right with the World
“I just want things to go back to normal” is the yearning I hear from folks near and far. They are anxious, irritated, and sometimes even bored. The disruption to their accustomed routines is uncomfortable—a trait we share with all mammals, who would much rather have the consistency of the known than the risks of the unknown.
Perhaps, however, we’re putting too much attention to what we can’t have rather than what beautifully persists despite social and physical distancing. Most of the “normal” that has changed has been of human construct. Nature, on the other hand, hasn’t missed a beat. She is the constant—the grass is still greening, the birds returning, the buds popping, the rhubarb up and growing.
Nature is the authentic normalcy. She is the innate goodness that carries on, despite human foibles and the ups and downs of civilizations. We can trust in her, anchor in her at this time of stressful changes. If you’re struggling with the feeling that you have no idea what tomorrow will bring, you can trust that it will bring a sunrise, birds singing, deer grazing, and most likely the squirrel once again trying to rob from your bird feeder. There will be breezes, passing or hovering clouds, and a beautiful sunset. The work of nature goes on.
Those engaged in sustainable farming with their hands and hearts close to the land know that Mother Nature is the heartbeat of it all. Stock markets can rise and fall, fashions can come and go, but winter will always be followed by spring, with its delightful baby animals and the return of green and growing life. It’s hard to be in a sour mood when tending fuzzy little baby chicks or lambs. Despite the pandemic, the work of farming goes on, with very few changes. Yes, I might have to order a new part online instead of run to the store, but the work itself on the farm carries on, as it has each spring as nature awakens.
We can take comfort in the normalcy of spring. We can work in our gardens, smell the richness of the soil, watch the robins bobbing in the yard, hunting for tasty worms. When we look at the current situation from the perspective of Nature, there is more right with what’s happening than wrong. Yes, the perils and changes are real, but they are most felt in cities, where nature has been relegated to parks. Here in the Northwoods and in rural areas across the country, nature isn’t closed. Spring hasn’t been canceled.
And immersing in the grounding and healing powers of nature is free! Step outside and soak it up! Step away from the television and all the terrible news and your phone with its incessant call for your attention and head out to the garden. Or start a garden, even a small one. Or pick up fallen branches or walk the dog—anything that will get you outside into the fresh air and away from the cooped-up anxieties that gnaw away at our sanity.
Nature isn’t closed. Spring isn’t canceled. These are the real normalcy of being alive. Lean into them. Listen for the different kinds of frogs singing at night, go fishing, learn the calls of the birds in the trees. We can be so busy in our humanness that we miss noticing them altogether. We rush here and there from one obligation to the next. Instead, stop and soak it in. It’s amazing how, through it all, nature remains calm and collected, going about her age-old processes.
The baby chicks in their snuggly warm coop live blissfully unaware of pandemic. I rise early to care for them—filling waterers and feeders, as I have now for 22 springtimes—then join the family for breakfast. Taking breakfast together after chores is normalcy, eating foods grown right here on our farm, prepared with love and attention. This, too, has not changed. The work of farming carries on.
What else carries on that you can list with gratitude this week? Reading this article? Laughing? Making a cup of coffee or tea? Calling a friend or loved one? Working on an immersive project that brings you joy and satisfaction? When we only focus on the negative, not only is it depressing but also impacts our health (including our immune system response). Focusing on the innate goodness that remains not only gives us a boost of vitality but also offers us resilience in the face of adversity.
This week, choose resilience. Spend time on what’s still right with the world and the rhythms of nature. Spring is still on schedule. See you down on the farm sometime.
Laura writes our weekly “Down on the Farm” column (launched in 2012), which is featured in several regional newspapers. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, her articles have offered encouragement, actionables, and perspective gained from the homestead lifestyle.