Covid and Appreciation
Since March we’ve been spending four or five days every other week at our place in Rancho Navarro, just beyond the Anderson Valley, off Route 128. Jonah and I bought the land 20 years ago as a mother-son investment in family togetherness; and over the years “The Biscuit,” as Jonah dubbed it (the property is located on Seabiscuit Drive) has fulfilled its function. Jonah and Anya were married there. We celebrated Steve’s father’s 80th birthday there. Every July Fourth—with the exception of this year–Jonah invites his friends to join us there for his birthday celebration. And we’ve prepared many Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners on our propane-fueled stove in Navarro.
Rancho Navarro finds itself just past the Anderson Valley, at the beginning of the redwood forest that wends its way to the coast. Our land, perched at the top of a hill, at one of the high points of the ranch, is surrounded by redwoods, with the occasional tan oak, ceanothus and madrone. It is a beautiful spot, with views of the valley below and the vault of sky overhead, where the stars pop out and twinkle on nights when the fog doesn’t creep in.
I’ve always enjoyed our time there for its contrast to the busier life in Berkeley, the quiet, the expanse and sense of expansiveness being there offers, the trees, the quail and deer, the shusssshing of the wind in the trees, the billows of fog that often creep over the hills in the evening and retreat sometime the next morning.
In the past months, however, my appreciation has deepened. Nearly surrounded by redwoods, I’d begun taking them for granted. I’d come to expect the quiet and peace we encounter there. I hardly noticed the lightness I felt at leaving the cares and responsibilities of my daily life in Berkeley. But now, all the beauty and good our spot in Navarro offers us has intensified for me. I marvel at the redwoods, their long, straight trunks my eyes follow up to the deep green needles of their branches, the rusty-brown of their trunks and the green of their needles deeper than I ever perceived before. And now, not only are the redwoods beautiful, they are my friends. They surround me—surround us—with grace and strength at a time when the world is a very troubled place.
And the quiet and peace, I now not only appreciate, it is a refuge from the chaos of the world. Some time ago, long before Covid 19, I coined a motto: “Whatever we create, Nature has already thought of.” In Navarro, in the arms of Nature, I feel safer than in Berkeley, where I am constantly reminded of the troubles “out there.” In Navarro, the grasses grow, the redwood trees shed their needles, the swallows streak through the air at dusk to feed their babies in the summer, and the bats swoop through the night sky all year long.
At home in Berkeley, while I am pleased to see most people wearing masks, and I appreciate the choreography that has evolved around walking, in the five months of the pandemic, I have come to react to anybody in my vicinity as a threat. Joggers without masks now spark anger. In Navarro, I am usually alone whenever I walk from our house to what we have named the Point, and although I bring a mask, I don’t wear it. On those rare occasions I see someone walking toward me, I react with pleasure instead of fear. Will I know this person? Will I meet somebody new I may get to know?
And those stars in the night sky? While they’ve always wowed me, now they remind me of the vastness of the universe and the small spot I hold within this vastness. Yes people are suffering—and for that I feel very sad—but the universe is so much larger than the life of any one or any group of us, and it continues on its way.
As I’ve aged, I have moved toward deeper appreciation and a larger perspective than I held when I was young. Covid gave that evolution a boost, and for that, I am grateful.