When the pandemic first hit last March, it was a shock to our family, as I’m sure it was for most. From a crazy hectic life of work, school, after-school activities, weekend classes, playdates, birthday parties and more, we hit a hard stop on March 13. At the time, I remember thinking, thank goodness it’s almost spring. If we can be outside, this might not be so bad, and by fall, it should be over.

When the pandemic hit, I looked to nature as my safe space. I have always loved being outdoors, but now there was quite literally nowhere else to safely be outside our homes. Our backyard became our oasis. Our neighbors became our social group. Our neighborhood became our support system. And nature became our lifeline.

March 13. The world shut down.

One week in and spring arrived! The excitement of the day was taking our daily family walk to see life outside our home. We used our driveway as a canvas to make sidewalk chalk art for all to see, we collected leaves and acorns to turn into crafts and built houses for the birds.

We hunted for worms on the sidewalk and saved them for our fishing adventures, rollerbladed, taught our son to ride a bike and searched for four-leaf clovers hoping our luck would endure.

Our socially distant playdates turned into frog-catching expeditions, rock painting and dancing in the rain with delight.

At night, we went to the lake to watch the sunset, feel our toes in the sand and skip rocks over the stillness of the water.

Soon, summer arrived, bringing a new set of fun and adventures. We visited the ocean, searching for starfish, snails and oysters with pearls. We discovered new parks we didn’t even know existed and made crowns out of flowers while picnicking in the grass.

We beat the heat of the summer wading in rivers looking for crayfish, hiking to waterfalls and swimming in any watering hole we could find. 

We added quartz, mica and granite to our growing rock collection, which soon replaced the Shopkins on our bedroom shelves, made sure to leave room for any seashells we might soon unearth and blew dandelion seeds into the air.

Fall crept in and with it, a gorgeous crisp air and more to discover. We climbed to the top of mountains to see the colors of the leaves, conquered every rock we saw and became expert tree climbers.

We used cattails for sword fights, stuck maple seeds on our noses and jumped into leaf piles freshly fallen from the trees.

We took hayrides to pick pumpkins, spent half-day Wednesdays riding bikes and picked (and tasted) every variety of apple the orchard had to offer. 

As night drew in, we made bonfires in the yard, laughed with friends from afar and gazed up at the stars.

The days got colder and the dreaded New England winter soon arrived. It was later than usual, but with it, another new set of challenges and adventures to be had. We bundled up, put on a brave face and learned to make the best of the situation, embracing winter and all it had to offer. 

We counted down the days until the first snow and immediately ran outside to play in the fresh powder. We dusted off our sleds and snow tubes and sledded for hours until our cheeks were numb.

As it grew colder, we watched the temperature drop with excitement. The lake had frozen! We ventured out to walk on water as we watched the sun go down. We dug out our ice skates and twirled around a frozen pond. We even took our dog ice skating!

New snow meant new material for snowmen and snowball fights. We jumped off our deck into the snow as we watched our dog gallop toward her ball with glee.

We went on adventures to castles made of ice, slid down ice slides, hiked amidst snow-covered trees and took a sleigh ride to a bonfire in the woods.

We made a date out of skiing under the crystal blue sky and eating hot waffles covered in chocolate at the bottom of the ski slope.

At night, we dined in heated igloos, lit with twinkling lights.

And soon, the cycle will return.

As I sit, waiting for March, for spring to arrive once again, I can’t help but feel the excitement to experience the seasons all over again and feel gratitude to live in a place with so much to offer. 

COVID may have put a damper on indoor activities this year, but it also allowed our family to reconnect with the natural beauty that surrounds us that we took for granted. This year, our family found a lifeline in nature. We realized how incredibly lucky we are to experience the gift of an ever-changing four seasons and have the world at our fingertips right outside our front doors.

While it hasn’t been easy, I can only hope when my children look back at 2020, they remember catching frogs in the yard, dancing in the rain and ice skating on the frozen pond. It was a year to remember, one that I know caused many a lot of pain, one that caused us many sacrifices, but a reminder that no matter what life throws at you, look for the joy that surrounds you and carry on.

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