When I lived in Michigan, April was when the tulips would start to bloom despite the still gloomy weather. They were the dependable promise of spring no matter how hard winter had been. Today, though I live in Florida where flowers bloom year-round, I find myself looking to Nature for reassurance in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the future so unpredictable and the potential for real healing a distant unknown, I am reminded of what I was once told by a ranger when visiting a national park out West. Historically, firefighters would attack forest fires with all the means at their professional disposal. However, what would be left in the fires’ aftermath were wastelands. Only later, in the 1960s, were guidelines for wildfire suppression changed when studies showed that allowing a fire to burn out on its own could lead to new forest growth born out of the compost and devastation of the old.
Now that the novel coronavirus has made its way around the planet, many of our old strategies seem small and inadequate in comparison to the enormity of this new emergency. As Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization's Director-General, said earlier this month, "We cannot let this fire burn." Now we are asked to make contributions—to practice social distancing and stay at home in order to slow the pandemic and keep as much pressure off our overburdened healthcare system as possible.
I never fail to be awed by the amount of fortitude and resilience so many of our sisters and brothers have shown throughout history in the face of every kind of individual, societal, and planetary tragedy and disaster. In this current crisis, there are so many instances where we bear witness to Nature’s awesome power and humankind at its cooperative and compassionate best. It is our resilience and ingenuity—when in partnership with each other and with nature—that inspires me now and gives me hope.