As spring turns to summer in central Maine, I think of my father who relished a fresh, clean breeze coming down from Canada.

As simple as it may seem, I have grown to appreciate clean air, particularly during this coronavirus pandemic when the sky is mostly clear of aircraft and the roads less traveled by trucks and cars spewing exhaust.

As I sit in my backyard in Waterville on a sunny morning, enjoying the air and looking at the lilacs’ blooms on bushes I grew from seedlings collected from my parents’ yard before they died, I think of my father.

I have a vision of him, sitting on a lawn chair in the shade of our giant oak tree when I was growing up in Skowhegan, soaking in the summer and inhaling the clean air.

“It’s a great day,” he would declare.

In this pandemic, the same thought goes through my mind, sitting there in the quiet, a bird chirping here and there, maple leaves fluttering, our cats sprawled out in the shade of the lilacs, tipping their noses to the wind. If I didn’t know better, I’d say they were smiling.

That’s the other gift this pandemic has brought us — the space and time to see what is right before our eyes — things we tend to rush past and not notice in our daily race to get somewhere else.

I’m reminded, as I breathe that clean air, of my childhood, when I was not just an observer of nature, but part of it. I’d spend my summers lying in fields of tall grass, exploring the woods and swimming in ponds and lakes. We chewed the gum of spruce trees, snacked on checkerberry leaves and sipped cool, clear water from running brooks.

Which leads me to the notion that we are not separate from the earth as many perceive; we are an integral part of it. And now, especially, we should acknowledge that.

People say that during this pandemic, we are all in it together, we are all one and must take care of and be kind to one other.

The fact is, we have always been in “this” together, we are all connected and ought to care for each other the way we tend to our flowers, gardens and animals. When one suffers, we all do.

When we pollute the earth, we hurt ourselves and others. When we go to the supermarket without wearing face coverings against the warning of health experts, we endanger lives, including our own. When we crowd together on beaches, we might as well sound a death knell.

We can’t see the virus, but it is there and we can give it to others without knowing it. Do we want to carry that burden?

It’s all scary, yes, but being in denial won’t prevent further illness and death. Sadly, some may have to see friends and family get sick and die before that reality sinks in.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 32 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.


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