• Kevin O'Keefe

Earth Day 20202

“…the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” T. S. Eliot We bought our home In Vermont after half a lifetime of passing through Brattleboro on our way to other destinations. We’ve lived here for almost seventeen years. We thought we knew this place - our neighborhood, the people, the town, but the last two months has exposed to us how little we actually knew about our neighbors, our place in the Green Mountains, even ourselves. One of my first attempts at Co-Vid-19 humor was to ask a neighbor who stopped in our driveway to chat about how she was dealing with cabin fever, “Oh, is this your first pandemic?” I was attempting to give her the space to laugh at this new reality. Putting aside the pandemic and a financial free-fall for a few moments here are just a few of the things I celebrate this particular spring. Every day in the past sixty I’ve had a moment of beauty sent to me unbidden, but welcomed. They are quotidian: noticing the open red buds of maples trees, fallen trees that make impromptu balancing acts in the forest, mushrooms and vines grounding weak or older trees, pileated woodpecker’s latest grotto sculptures, birdsong before dawn, my neighbor walking her horse in circles in the meadow between us. Cars have become an afterthought as our neighborhood has been returned to the people - walkers, runners, strollers, and neighbors who’ve become new friends. Far less cars means less pollution, less stress, more connection. Or is that too silver lining? All the sense experiences of nature seem more intense this spring. The dark of night is darker, the blue of sky is bluer, the rain, rainy-er. My wife—Erin Maile walked and biked the entire neighborhood over the course of three afternoons, knocking on doors of strangers to ask if anyone needed anything and delivering the good news of the newly-hatched Brattleboro Area Mutual Aid (BAMA). The smell just after a rain storm when the ground seemed to unlock itself from its winter freeze and exhale earthy breath for the first time in five months. Salamanders crossing streets in the rain protected or over seen by a gaggle of interested kids and adults. Little reliance on money (none made and little spent), more meditation, more anxiety and uncertainty, more phone calls to truly check in. Asking people, even strangers, how they are and really meaning it. Not since 9/11, when we lived in NY have we felt that kind of care. There are a thousand ways to bow to the greater glory of nature. Even as she shakes off her fevered human tormentors.

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