• Kevin O'Keefe

Earth Day 2020

Updated: Oct 22, 2020

“…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 have exposed how little we actually knew about our neighbors, our place in the Green Mountains, even ourselves.

One of my first attempts at COVID-19 humor was to ask a neighbor who stopped to chat about her cabin fever, “Oh, is this your first pandemic?” I asked. I was attempting to give her the space to laugh at our new shared reality. 

Putting aside the pandemic and a financial free-fall for a few moments, here are just a few of the silver linings I celebrated this particular spring. 

Every day in the past one hundred and twenty I’ve had moments of beauty sent to me, unbidden, but welcomed. They are quotidian: noticing the open red buds of maple trees, fallen trees that make impromptu balancing acts in the forest, mushrooms and vines grounding weak or older trees, the woodpecker’s latest grotto sculptures, birdsong before dawn, my neighbor walking her horse in circles in the meadow between us, the barred owls calling to each other, mushrooms on an old logging trail, nesting starlings in the cavity of a sugar maple.

Our neighborhood streets have been returned to the people: walkers, runners, bikers, and baby strollers. This has led to neighbors and regulars who’ve become new friends. In the beginning of COVID-19 there seemed to be a shared sense of survivorship, as if we were on the Titanic, but not entirely sure if we were in the water or on the life boat.

Time accordions. Days can feel like a week, weeks like a day. All the sense experiences of nature seemed more intense last spring. The dark of night is darker, the blue of sky bluer, the rain, rain-ier.

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 many months. Salamanders crossing streets in the rain 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. I’ve been bitching about all the Zoom calls while discovering the possibility of connection through the app.

Asking people, even strangers, how they are and really meaning it. Not since 9/11, when we lived in New York, have we felt that kind of care. There are thousands of ways to bow to the greater glory of nature, even as she shakes off her fevered human tormentors.



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