Hi hi hello from two hermit crabs. On week 4 of quarantine we ventured outside for the first time, to a place far away from anything or anyone to breathe the air, wade in the cold clear river and stand silent in the sun.

As an intensely-inward person I have not struggled with staying in our home during the quarantine. I like being in our hermit crab home with all of our things around me. However, I have really missed being in nature. The weather is turning nicer each day, and I wish to be outside.

We left the car at a divet off the road, marked with a pile of bleached elk bones. A clamber through bush and saplings delivered us to the river. We followed no real trail, just a walk through the cottonwoods and grass, always on the lookout for animal track and sign.

We saw –

  • teeny tiny red fox tracks
  • wandering coyote tracks
  • ruffed grouse tracks
  • a crow, dancing in the dirt and then wing brush where it took off
  • possum tracks with their alien-like dropped thumb
  • a snake (!) track, my first time seeing one
  • an adult eagle and juvenile eagle, and their nest

It is hard to describe how heady and intense the air smelled to me, after so many days indoors. The cottonwoods are budding out, and the entire place was thick with the fragrant, resiny smell of the trees and the marshy mud smell of the river bank. The wind was whipping over the river but the sun warmed me through-and-through.

We explored the banks of the river and the shoals, wading through the cold waters over slippery river rocks. I left my shoes on and let them fill with the water, squishing it between my toes. I think in today’s world, where there is a feeling of being far removed from nature, there are few times where you feel truly alive in all of your senses. Standing in the river with the sun beating down and the wind running by, it was easy to feel connected to all things. To see myself in everything, and everything in me.

As the sun began to set, the swallows came out to swoop and dip over the river as they fed. I picked cottonwood buds until my fingers were sticky with resin, packing them away carefully to make cottonwood salve for the future. And then, magic — dozens of swallows filled the air, coming together and then apart en masse, in a feeding swarm, in a ever-deepening blue sky. I stood and watched, bearing witness, without the need to try to record it or capture it, instead just holding it in my heart. A few minutes later, they were done.

I hope you know that in this strange crumbling time the world is still blooming.

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