In the early evening light, a brilliant monarch butterfly alights on the purple milkweed flowers in our yard. It drinks, rises up, flits through the air, and lands to drink again. As the sun drops toward the horizon, the butterfly floats away and the cicadas begin to whine. Their humming starts quietly, crescendoing gradually. As I look upward toward their sound, something flashes across my field of vision. Then something else. The silhouettes of dragonflies zoom past in the air high above, ten, twelve, dozens of them racing to and fro. And then, almost as if they have sent one another a signal, the fireflies begin their luminous dance across our lawn. The cicadas hum, the dragonflies rush, the fireflies blink, and a rabbit crosses the grass, watching me carefully as it sniffs for its dinner.
The crush of daily news can overwhelm me…the relentless rise of COVID-19 cases, the viral uprising in response to racial discrimination in the nation, the president’s utter lack of leadership in both of these crises, his stoking of fear and hate, his flirtation with refusing to recognize the results of the coming elections. And all this while our family of three is, excepting some infrequent outside interactions with family and friends very fervently, mostly blockaded inside our small apartment by the virus. I acknowledge that our family has a lot of privilege. I am not an essential worker. I have kept my job and can work from home. We are all healthy. I am white, middle-class, able-bodied. And even for us, sometimes the stress of it seems too much to bear.
But this evening, these wonders of nature remind me that life courses on and through and over. It reminds me that I am part of that flow, the daily rhythm of watching, waiting, eating, drinking, communicating, mourning, celebrating. Nature is not something out there — outside, somewhere else, in animals and plants. Nature is in here — in my city, in my yard, inside me. Nature, the biosphere, our planetary environment encircles me, embraces me, envelopes me, lives within me. I am part of it and it is part of me.
And for one long moment, that is enough for me. Maybe I can extend that moment, for what is life but a succession of moments? And who am I but a singular manifestation of nature? And what are our lives together but the unique interactions of the natural world over a series of irreplaceable moments? When I think in these terms, I realize that all I can do is treasure it.
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