Let’s make February a month of kindness.
February 17 is Random Acts of Kindness Day. Who couldn’t use a little kindness right now? We’ve been navigating some particularly turbulent times and even those of us wearing rose colored glasses frequently find them fogged from our masks. With social distancing, our human interactions are less frequent, masked, or virtual—none of which are ideal. Smiles, laughter, and kindness appear to be in short supply at a time when we need more of this medicine.
Lots of you have told us that your time in nature has been a key coping mechanism for these stressful times. We’re glad that so many of you have enjoyed our sanctuaries, or have been inspired by our programs and communications to soak up the healing powers of nature.
My wife and I have really enjoyed exploring the seemingly infinite nooks and crannies of stunning Maine, as we linger for a few minutes to feel the radiant warmth of the sun on our faces, appreciating the beauty of a quiet cove, meadow or patch of woods. Our emphasis on steeping in the wonders of Maine’s incredible habitat has greatly increased our observation of Maine’s flora and fauna.
Our educators are always emphasizing the importance of observation, the close, careful study of something in order to gain information or better understand it. Try these observation exercises from our youth programs manager, Catherine Griset, or watch some Nature Moments videos to get inspired by some of Nat Wheelwright’s close observations. One of my favorites is about how leaves droop or curl in the cold.
It’s true, the more you practice observing, the better you get. Despite the negative effects of the pandemic, my camera is filled with amazing images and video clips from our year of intense local observing and exploring: a White-tailed Deer emerging from chilly springtime ocean after swimming from a nearby island; two Bald Eagles in a Norway Spruce just over the stone wall from my yard (pictured above); a Common Loon exploding from the depths of an otherwise tranquil pond in full tremolo and wing beating more than 100 yards across a pond after an interspecies territorial dominance battle with a tag team of resident beavers; a pair of spotted fawns playing by the shore as their two parenting does kept watch over them; a harbor seal porpoising repeatedly out of a mirror-smooth bay in an expression of pure joy and athleticism as I watched motionless from my kayak. Those experiences, at least momentarily, took me out of the conflict-ridden human world and assured me that there was much to be enjoyed on this amazing planet.
Not everyone has the same ready access to the outdoors. If you do, find a way to extend that access to someone who doesn’t. Share knowledge of a local walking trail. Donate binoculars or boots. Support a local gear exchange hub. Bring a fragrant pine needle to a housebound friend. Teach someone the song of your favorite bird. A cup of human kindness combined with a cup of nature is a powerful antidote for difficult times.
Being kind has been scientifically proven to provide positive health benefits to both the recipient and the giver of kindness, as well as those witnessing the act of kindness. So I encourage you to enjoy the restorative benefits of nature, to the degree that you can, and supplement that with random acts of kindness—to yourself, to another person, to the planet.
Let’s not only embrace February 17 as Random Acts of Kindness Day, let’s take on the challenge of making it our goal for the full month of February. Kindness is contagious. Let’s spread that, not COVID-19.