Corinne Whiting reports in The Seattle Times how nature can help soothe us through these uncertain times. Although her emphasis is local, much of what she has to say can probably be extrapolated for people in other areas.
“We as Americans have a tendency to think outside of our cities when it comes to nature and health,” Wolf said. The research, however, points to nearby, everyday nature — from our backyards to neighborhood streetscapes — being equally important, if not more so. [Kathleen Wolf is a research social scientist at the University of Washington’s College of the Environment.]
For those who can’t get outside or who don’t have access to appropriate natural areas:
Wolf suggests taking advantage of “vicarious or virtual nature,” whether via wildlife documentaries or daily livestreams offered by zoos, aquariums and nature reserves around the globe.
Even in good times, the humanistic academy is mocked as a wheel turning nothing; in an emergency, when doctors, delivery personnel, and other essential workers are scrambling to keep society intact, no one has patience with the wheel’s demand to keep turning. What is the role of Aristotle, or the person who studies him, in a crisis?
For those of us whose daily existence centers around mental rather than physical activity, Agnes Callard laments that the current crisis has made it impossible to capitalize on the time now available for mental processes that we value so highly.
“Perhaps the special danger of a crisis that leaves a lot of time for thinking is that one will try to learn too many lessons while inside it. Crises are, at least while they are happening, not educational opportunities. They are events that befall us, that harm us. They target everything about us, including our faculty for learning.”
When I first visited my doctor for a routine annual physical after turning 65, the nurse said, “Since you’re now on Medicare, I have to ask some questions to assess your cognitive acuity. What day is it?”
And I just laughed. “Retirement means never having to know what day it is,” I told her as my mind scrambled for the answer. And it’s true. When you don’t have to get out and about for work or other daily obligations, one day becomes pretty much like the next. I think I was finally able to tell her that today was Tuesday, but only because I knew that Tuesday was the only day on my weekly calendar with an appointment on it.
The situation is similar now that most of us are all shuttered inside. Even people who are working from home and/or home-schooling their kids are apparently, like Kurt Vonnegut’s Billy Pilgrim, becoming unstuck in time.
Among the stranger consequences of the coronavirus pandemic is how, by unmooring the daily lives of tens of millions of people, it has made time itself feel distorted. Psychologists say the sensation is a result of losing social anchors, chronic stress and anxiety, and drastic changes to normal routines.
“People over 60 are more vulnerable to COVID-19 than anyone else. They are also vulnerable to loneliness, especially when they live alone. By forcing us all into social isolation, one public health crisis—the coronavirus—is shining a bright light on another, loneliness. It will be some time before we have a vaccine for the coronavirus. But the antidote to loneliness is accessible to all of us: friendship.”
Lydia Denworth, a contributing editor for Scientific American, discusses how social isolation can be especially hard on older adults, the very people most vulnerable to the physical effects of COVID-19.
Patrick McNamara, associate professor of neurology and psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine, discusses how dreams tend to change focus across the human life span and, further, across historical epochs.
“Older adults tend to dream more about creative works, legacies and enduring concerns, while the dreams of dying people are filled with numbers of supernatural agents, other-worldly settings and images of reunions with a loved one who has died.”
Pacific NW Magazine, a weekend feature of The Seattle Times, takes “a fresh look at Earth Day through the eyes of current and former Seattle Times artists” on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.
© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown