In the distance, live oaks
“Any kids or dogs?” the ranger asked.
“Playground’s closed. I can’t touch money.”
Driving toward the trailhead: mother, father, son; near a picnic spot, not eating, not playing, just standing bewildered by sun and silence.
The same sun beats brutal on the steep, dry trail. I snap photos of empty ridges, brief green in the wake of rain, soon to be desiccated, dangerous, latent flames.
This desert climb offers poor comfort for a transplanted daughter of streams and trees. But on the path down, grasses aglow with wildflowers, poppies flashing hope, and in the distance, live oaks still stand.
— Virginia Shank (Orange County, California)
* * *
Last week, my students asked a hundred questions to which I gave only tentative answers: Am I going to get sick? (Maybe.) Am I going to die? (No. I couldn’t bear it.) What about sports? What about prom? What about graduation? Am I going to graduate? (YES.) Am I going to college in the fall? (I feel much less certain about the answer I gave a week ago. Did I mislead them? I cannot imagine being seventeen, eighteen, right now.) Is this the Rapture? (This—leaving me the most shaken.) The peas we planted in September refuse to stop growing.
— Alyssa Hull (Wilmington, Delaware)
* * *
Today I couldn’t breathe. Not because I am infected with the virus, but because worry, anxiety, and uncertainty have settled in my chest and hold tight. So, I took a walk in a snow-covered forest, grateful to live in Alaska with easy access to trails safe for social distancing. There I spied a porcupine high in a spruce tree. I thought, “I didn’t know porcupines could climb.” Then, “oh, to be like a porcupine, able to climb out of the chaos and carry my armor with me, so trouble does not wish to come near me.”
— Brooke Wood (Anchorage, Alaska)
* * *
Out in the Woods
Went to the woods yesterday. Being amongst the trees and seeing the beginnings of spring green pop up on the forest floor made me cry with gratitude and relief. I’ve been so worried about the natural world for so long and for a moment I could just relax and let it take care of me. And I wasn’t the only one. So many others, of all ages and backgrounds, were out there, at a six foot distance. Walking in the woods, sitting by the creek, taking the time to let nature heal them and give them comfort too.
— Rebecca Schultz (Melrose Park, Pennsylvania)
This series is edited by Thomas Peterson. One of the editors of Artists & Climate Change, he is also a theatre director and researcher whose work focuses on the climate crisis.