Today marks a bit of a milestone for me; I’ve officially survived my first quarter as Irvine’s new Director of Education. Who would’ve dreamed that so much would happen during Rob Mardiney’s first three months of retirement?!? Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a whole new world, with all of us more or less house-bound, stuck in front of our tv’s and computers, and starving for some positive news. In other words, we need nature and we need it now!
To say that our daily existence has been altered dramatically is an understatement. Our awareness of time is off, as we’ve lost the regular rhythms of a daily routine; our need for connection isn’t being met, for we’re socially distanced from so many whom we love; and our sense of place has been disrupted, for we’re sheltered at home and unable to visit those special havens that we all need from time to time in order to decompress, process, and refuel. For many of us in the Irvine family, that special place is somewhere in the forests and meadows of the Caves Valley.
Ironically, or, rather, appropriately, our absence from those beloved 211 acres has allowed nature to thrive over the past few weeks. It may still look wintry, but there has been much activity. The few ‘essential staff’ members who have been on site have witnessed foxes playing on the hillside below the gazebo, coyotes howling in the daytime, and as many as four pairs of wood ducks dabbling in the wetland ponds. The lack of a human presence has enabled our local wildlife to flourish, unaware of all of the turmoil with which we people are grappling. Our lives have been uprooted; theirs have not.
That’s where this blog comes in. Ordinarily, April and May are the best times to be out exploring nature; flowers are blooming, frogs are singing, birds are migrating. The ‘outdoorsy’ amongst us have an incredible urge to take in the scenes and scents of spring time, and that desire will likely be stronger this year than ever, for it will be unusually challenging to attain our ‘nature fix.’ Unfortunately, the times call for a new way to ‘explore, respect, & protect’ the natural world. It certainly will not be the same. As those of us with school-aged children at home now appreciate, virtual events rarely live up to real experiences. Still, given our current circumstances, I suspect that having more of an online relationship with nature can only help us, as we strive for calmness, perspective, and grounding in this difficult time.
Thus, over the coming weeks (months?) I plan to contribute regularly to the Irvine blog on issues of natural history, ecology, and conservation. As a lifelong educator, I will attempt to keep you learning—and questioning—along the way. However, my primary goal will be to help our community remain connected—with the environment, with each other, and with that ‘inner peace’ that comes from a genuine appreciation and respect for the plants and animals around us and a responsible approach toward our impact on their world. Perhaps now more than ever, we need to be making that natural connection.
More soon. –BR