Nature has told me a secret. She noticed me, lonely and unwell, and took pity on me. She has whispered to me just look, and she has become my friend.
She’s not a gentle friend. She rolls her eyes when I’m sad and tells me she has seen people smaller than I survive true apocalypses. She makes fun of me if I ever think the world is ending. “How very self-centered,” she says. So I try not to think that.
First she told me to remember myself. I laid down in the mud and tried to go outside my mind, to cast off my eyes, shackles to blue light, and my thoughts, revving their engines but going nowhere. It was not easy work. Nature spread sun on my skin and massaged my scalp. And for a moment I could feel nothing but the breeze, her water-tinged kiss, and the mud, and the many things beneath the mud, all unaware that you have to wait in line to go into Trader Joe’s, that essential workers are making starvation wages, that gas is cheap. For a moment I remembered what it might’ve been like before I was born, or maybe how it felt to be five and sure about things. Then someone honked their horn on the highway behind the trees and it was over.
Next she took me out to show me what I had not seen in years. We sat in the driveway after it rained and counted worms— seventeen, disgusting and sweet, scrambling slowly for the earth they thought was here. We climbed a tree. There were three empty nests in it, all well kept. “Two for birds and one for a squirrel,” she told me. I asked where they were, if they knew that there was a shelter-in-place order. She didn’t think that was very funny. We leaned over a fence to look at a brown duck, asleep on a little rise of dirt in the middle of a pond. I hoped she was pregnant. Nature promised me ducklings. We got up early and listened to all the birds in my backyard— chickadees, robins, sparrows, crows. I couldn’t find them in the trees. I tried calling back to them, and they answered. I hoped they could find me. She pointed out my window once— a rabbit. He twitched his whiskers at us. He was eating the plants my mother had just put outside. Another time, it was I who spotted the newcomer,— a turkey, all on her own, wandering through the yard and looking for her friends. She almost gave my dog a heart attack. Sometimes deer pass through, sometimes a stray cat. And so I slowly stopped feeling alone.
She tried emptying out my lungs, scooping up all the car exhaust and homework assignments that had accumulated in them, but I filled them back up with pollen and Zoom meetings. She told me she was giving up on me.
But she wasn’t. She was only teasing.
A few nights ago, Nature and I sat up late and watched the supermoon. It looked close enough to swallow, like a big yellow gumball that would illuminate me from the inside out. But this, too, wasn’t true. In fact, it was still 357,034 kilometers away. That’s more than a million feet, for those who have been thinking in sixes. “But it’s still right there,” Nature whispered, “for all of us to see. Think of everyone who can see the moon right now. More people than you could ever meet.”
I have, once again, become a part of an ecosystem, instead of simply mastering one. I want a lot to change right now, but I am happy, at least, for this.