|A Redbud blooming on the edge of the woods|
Maybe there is a real silver lining in the panic created by this virus. First off, it is forcing people to slow down from their usual frenetic pace. They have to be introspective because they cannot be lost in a crowd. Here people are actually getting a chance to slow down and look at the wonder of spring marching forward all around them. Children who might otherwise have spent the day in a classroom receiving instruction completely separated from the world around them are getting a chance to see and experience what they have been disconnected from while in school. Previously they have been missing the fiddle heads of the ferns emerging from their dormancy, trout lilies and understory trees blooming, small creatures going about their day and birds flitting through the trees.
Many of the families carried sheets of paper as parents were trying to make this a teaching experience. I had to chuckle as a group passed me and the Mom told her kids to sing out when they saw a flower. I told them to look up; they were passing under a Cherokee Crab in full bloom. No one had noticed. It takes time and exposure to see the treasures in a forest. They are much more subtle than those in a garden. I hope this family decides that they like this experience and comes back into the woods many times in the future. It is only with exposure that these kids will really come to appreciate the world within the forest, and it is only through that appreciation that they will understand the importance of protecting the world they live in.
I made a couple of other observations as well though. Children mirror what their parents do and how they respond to their environment. The majority of the visitors today were fairly respectful of the place. There were a couple of families that were decidedly not. These families seem to have parents who felt that it was perfectly alright to wander way past the established trail. Thus many young, tender and newly emerging plants were being trampled by a handful of inconsiderate and destructive people. Flowers others were looking to see were destroyed by people who did not even bother to look at them. One family group had a woman who was even going so far as to pick up and move logs leaving them far from their original location and disrupting the organisms that had developed a community under them. Signs throughout the preserve asking people to stay on the trails apparently did not apply to these people. Their children are learning to disrespect the world around them.
One final observation needs to be mentioned. It is spring in NC. Pollen is a very real presence in our lives this time of year. Coughing, sneezing and watery eyes abound. That stuff that looks like a layer of yellow snow can really wreak havoc. Please understand that. Don't feel a need to panic and run when you encounter someone in the throes of allergy woes.
Go out! Social distance and enjoy the world around you.