In these unsettling times, we turn to nature for comfort

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve never been more conscious of nature’s potent and practical magic. Over the past few weeks of mounting stress and uncertainty, I — like so many others — have leaned on the outdoors for a source of calm.

The healing ritual of getting outside into nature in a difficult time made me recall my experience months ago, when my father fell ill, at Maine Medical Center in Portland. Sitting vigil for days on end in a stale waiting room or by his bedside, I would escape regularly to Portland’s Western Promenade Park — just outside the hospital’s doors. I’d stroll the frozen turf lawns, through the swaying pine trees whose limbs I had scaled as a teenager. On clear days, I could see all the way to the snow-capped White Mountains of New Hampshire. I’d summon the soothing sound of a familiar mountain brook and moss between my toes while sorting through anticipatory grief. These experiences reminded me that we all need parks and public land.