“Allow nature’s peace to flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.” – John Muir
A Message from Executive Director Kristin DeBoer
During these difficult and uncertain times, it is harder than ever to find a sense of peace and calm. Yet, I am so inspired by the hopeful ways people all around the Valley are making the best of this incredible challenge that we are all coping with, every day.
One upside is more time—more time to slow down and connect with nature. I am seeing so many more people outdoors. Walking on a woodland trail, through a field or along the quieter roads offers a moment to connect with the pulse of life. It also offers a moment to wave to a neighbor—maybe someone you have never greeted before. A hello across the path, a shared glimpse of the sun setting on the horizon, a pause to listen together to the birds returning—these are all a chance to maintain social distance, but build a sense of community with the natural world and with our neighborhoods.
Our human world has changed. Kids are homeschooling indoors with their families. Some of us have lost jobs while others figure out how to work from home. The financial downturn is worrisome, to say the least. Elders are housebound. Local farms and businesses are grappling with shutdowns. The arts have been shuttered. The health of loved ones may be at risk. We don’t know exactly how long all of this will go on. The stress is intense.
So I find comfort in knowing that nature goes on. Now is the time to remember that land and water are the foundation of our human health and well-being.
Just 5 minutes outside in the fresh air decreases stress. Being active is fundamental to stave off ongoing public health crises like heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Mental and physical health, both are critical to keep our immune systems strong.
Conservation areas, parks, greenways, trails, and farms are a critical service that everyone can access, close to home, to make the best of each and every day.
Because of the hard work of towns, the state and land trusts over the years, there are plenty of places to explore right here in the Valley. Check out our Trails for Everyone Maps for some ideas of places you might want to go. Or check out myhikes.org for local loops on the Mount Holyoke and Mount Tom Ranges, Robert Frost Trail, and more.
However, we must work together to contain the COVID-19 virus, and heed the imperative to keep our distance to protect our collective health—even outside. When visiting a trailhead, please observe whether the parking area is full. If there is no place to park safely, have a backup location in mind and go there instead. And when on the trail, please keep a safe 6-feet part, including dogs and kids.
I hope you will join us in encouraging everyone to enjoy our Valley’s open spaces, to help everyone to feel at home in nature. Share photos of places you love in your social media feed to bring smiles to others. And if you can, take someone in your household out for a walk or just sit outside in the sun together. This time will hopefully bring you some peace and a sense of connection—knowing that you share a love of the Valley, its communities, and the natural lands all around us, sustaining us every day.
It may be one of the best ways to cope with this stressful experience that we are all going through together.