I’ve been walking through the same small stretch of Glover Archbold Park for twenty years, since I first moved to DC. Twenty years! I have always appreciated the little winding path and its companion stream that run through the small wooded ravine between Massachusetts Avenue and Wisconsin Avenue. However, now that we are walking through this patch of land every day at a very slow speed, it is like I am seeing the park for the first time and in great detail. This is the start of my nature journal, to document the biodiversity of this special place. I will be adding illustrations and notes from my paper version in the near future.
(An aside: We get great joy out of randomly opening the bird book and the wildflower book and calling each other names of flowers and birds. “You’re a cutleaf toothwort.” “Oh yeah? Well you’re a yellow-bellied sapsucker.” It’s a great way to blow of steam and get some giggles in.)
Birds (Late February through April 3)
Carolina Wrens (my new favorite bird, sing their hearts out)
Winter Wrens (first time sighting!)
Pileated Woodpecker (look like cartoons)
Red Bellied Woodpecker
Cooper’s Hawks (adult and juvenile)
Eastern Towhee (first time sighting!)
Golden Crowned Kinglet (first time sighting!)
Nuthatches (sound like they are always laughing at their own jokes)
Birds sing happily Oblivious to crisis Can I be a bird?
-a social distancing haiku by Joseph Kraus
When life feels stressful, I like to time-travel in my mind as a form of meditation. I pick a reasonable time, based on an educated guess, when I believe that the source of the stress will be behind me/us, and I imagine what that more normal day will feel like. It is usually one that ends with an exclamation right before bed: “Where did the freakin’ day go.” And then I park the discomfort in one corner of my head and focus on the path forward. I learned this trick from years of distance running outdoors: there is no hiding from the discomfort, there is interest and curiosity in being present with your surroundings, and there is strength gained from making it through.
Whether you are a little under the weather or have put yourself under a self-quarantine because you think you may have been exposed to the coronavirus, here is a guide to bring the outdoors inside and find a little peace.
Be Artsy Crafty
Make paper masks of animals, either from templates or from scratch.
Use old magazines, crayons and markers, construction paper, and paint to create nature scenes to hang around the apartment.
Use objects from the recycle bin, old games, toy chest, and medicine cabinet to create a nature-themed board game. If you need inspiration, think about the rules and structure of the games you like to play the most.
Observe Backyard Nature
Become a citizen naturalist by documenting the wildlife you see from your window. What birds do you see? What do they look like? What do they sound like? Are they alone or in a group? What are they doing? What time of day do you see them and what is the weather like? If you have a pair of binoculars, even better (but please don’t creep on the human neighbors). When the world gets back to its regular programming, explore more ways to become a citizen naturalist in order to assist local scientists, using guidance from EarthShare.org.
Become a nature journalist. Draw natural settings that you see outside of your window, or if you live in more urban areas, try illustrating while watching nature videos online or browsing bird and plant guides. Learn more about nature journaling and field sketching with this online course from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Bird Academy.
Watch, Listen, Learn
Netflix has lots of options to visit the outdoors, while sitting on your couch. Some of my favorites: Mission Blue is about Sylvia Earl’s inspiring work to save the world’s oceans. Our Planet takes you through jungles, deserts, and icy landscapes. Learn about how diverse species survive in some of the harshest conditions in Wild Alaska.
Learn bird calls by listening to samples on the Cornell Lab’s All About Birds website. Research birds for your region, listen to their calls, and then have a roommate test your skills. Keep the neighbors wondering.
Share more ways you are bringing the outdoors in in the comments! Please stay healthy and safe.