Noticing nature: connecting with the outside world during shelter-in-place

by Carolyn Zhao | May 19, 2020

Photo by Nikita Senthil (’23)

As the end of the school year draws near, the silence in our beloved hallways seems deafening. Just a few months ago, it would have been laughable to think that this year could end in any other way than with the normal hustle and bustle on campus as sports seasons draw to a close and students frantically cram for finals, all with the tantalizing promise of summer just out of reach. Instead, our campus is deserted, and we find ourselves closing this chapter of our lives via Zoom calls and emails. Yet in this forced solitude, students increasingly find ways to connect with themselves on a deeper level. Whether this self-awareness arrives in the form of cooking, experimenting with new hobbies, or reading, the Lancer community is on the lookout for ways to turn self-isolation into a time of self-exploration. One such activity revolves around nature.

Exploring the outdoors appears to be an effective coping mechanism to adapt to new lifestyles during shelter-in-place. Andrea Muliawan (’22) regularly goes “on walks and [visits her] backyard so [she] can be outdoors.” Similarly, Clarissa Chen (’22) finds a way to appreciate both nature and the mechanical world by going on “occasional walks” as well as by “sit[ting] in [her] dad’s car sometimes” to “appreciate the breeze and birds singing.”

However, for sophomore Adrianna Brown, the outdoors had always been one of her greatest loves, and she liked to experience its wonder whenever possible: during track season, while eating lunch, and on the weekends. The shelter-in-place allows her to further explore the natural world by walking regularly and simply “hang[ing] out outside” with her family every day. In these trying times, the serene beauty of nature can serve as a necessary escape from the thoughts constantly whirling through our minds.

Another Lancer, Sahana Chandramohan (’22) reflects on the post-lockdown environment: “I lov[e] how peaceful it [i]s. There is no stress, no expectations, no college, no judgement. Just you, facing the world on your own terms to survive and do what makes you happy. . . It literally strips you down to the core and lets you acknowledge yourself without societal fluff.” In the current situation, Chandramohan’s relationship with nature has only been fortified. To wind down, she has “a blanket and pillow designated for me-time picnics in the garden. It’s the only thing keeping me sane. I normally set up beneath our magnolia tree and just relax or eat or read.”

As a general consensus, Lancers agree that diving headfirst into nature, whether it be giving in to an adventurous urge, bonding with family in the backyard, or simply relaxing under a tree, has proven indispensable for their well-being. However, a restless desire to escape into the outdoors goes hand-in-hand with the inability to move through society freely. With busy schedules completely revolving around a screen, it can be even harder to make time for relaxing trips outside as we find ourselves without any scheduled transitions to classes, lunch in the quad, or changes of scenery from that surrounding our homes. Muliawan confesses, “I didn’t realize what fresh air could really do for you until now.” She is among countless others who have “grown to appreciate it more now that [they] can’t really be outside.” Chandramohan agrees, “I definitely think that we undervalue really simple things. I don’t think the relationship has changed, but I value it much more.”

As the old proverb goes, we never miss something until it’s gone. Thankfully, in this case, nature’s not completely gone—yet. It surrounds us every day, so it’s up to us to take the time for ourselves to experience everything it has to offer. In the end, the simplest things are what make the biggest impressions on us. As with our school community, we never realize how valuable something is until we no longer have it. Knowing this, it’s important to move forward in life harboring gratitude for what we already have and protecting things that have great meaning for us. Climate change is no exception. Though it appears to loom threateningly in the distance, its effects have been changing the world for decades. More than ever, we need to come together in order to fight the biggest challenge humanity has ever encountered. After all, we never miss something until it’s gone.

Categories: Features

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