Traditionally, as a student in August attending Michigan State University, I would be getting ready for my fall semester classes and preparing to move into a dorm room on campus. College is supposed to be an exciting time for young people to grow and learn about all that life has to offer, but that would be during a normal year. 2020 is far from normal, and while I am looking forward to my courses beginning, plus spending time with my new MSU friends, all of this is going to be conducted virtually at home. Like many other students, my classwork will be completely online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so I will be staying in my hometown of Midland, MI during the coming months. One may think this means that opportunities to learn and grow will be very limited since the virus continues to impede society. Even though change is occurring to everyone’s day to day living, students like myself and their families can still enjoy their lives during this era of social distancing. Nature is the best medicine for society’s struggles, because it has the unique ability to restore one’s sense of normalcy during this pandemic and the ongoing uncertainty it brings.
This year, 2020, is when the importance of community sustainability is coming to the forefront. Family and friends are riding their bikes more, neighborhood parks and gardens are being visited at greater rates, and more people are working virtually from their homes.
COVID-19 has brought tremendous loss and suffering. This is especially true for families like my own who have lost someone to the novel coronavirus. However, it has also allowed people to realize how important social connections are, as well as appreciating the natural world which surrounds and soothes them. Families are now spending more time together and seeing the beauty of their hometowns. Personally, every time I walk or bike ride in my local neighborhood this summer, I give thanks to Mother Nature for being a steady, grounding force of normalcy during this truly abnormal time.
Appreciating and caring for those closest to you is perhaps more important now than ever before, so what better way to spend quality time with family and friends than going outside (with masks on) and enjoying nature. I’ve seen families, friends, and neighbors make it a point to walk together on an almost daily basis. Others travel to metro parks in their region or take a mini family vacation to areas up north and kayak with their loved ones while properly social distancing. Personally, my family and I love viewing the beautiful monarch butterflies and hummingbirds outside our breakfast room windows.
Seeing them flying effortlessly to feed on nectar provides us with peace and joy when those are especially difficult emotions to feel right now. My family makes it a point to plant and nurture beautiful wildflowers and trees on our property. These simple acts of stewardship bring the natural world into our everyday lives, giving us comfort.
Like I said before, I am staying home since my classes are completely virtual this coming semester which allows for greater protection from COVID-19. As an incoming senior this fall, I have had my fair share of college experiences and know that this new academic year will be unlike anything seen before. I love exploring campus and all of its natural marvels. Let it be going to the university’s botanical gardens, the woodland trails, Red Cedar River walkways, or various other sustainable green spaces on campus, I am always eager to see and appreciate the seasonal changes which make the campus beautiful.