In normal times I would be singing the praises of spring about now, but these are not normal times. The pandemic hit us like a tidal wave and utterly destroyed the world we knew. The vernal equinox has come and gone and no one even noticed.


I have written much in these columns about the beauty of nature and the vital bond we have with the earth. It’s not like I didn’t know that nature had a dark side; I just thought it more important to express my joy in the wonders I saw in the world around me..


The darkness has always been there, challenging our species, acting like some diabolic force taking us down. But there has also been another part working to pull us up. Fortunately, the powers of nature that are working for us are stronger than those that working against us, otherwise we wouldn’t be here.


Viruses are bad actors. Scientists knew they were bad, but for the past 100 years they were not sure how to classify them. Viruses were once thought to be poisons, then life forms, then biological chemicals, and now they are viewed as a sort of gray area between living and nonliving.


Living or not, they are parasites that attack all forms of life, from single-celled organisms to complex multi-celled organisms. Since viruses can’t replicate on their own, they depend on the host cell for materials and energy to multiply. They survive by destroying the very cells they invade


The corona viruses are a large family of viruses that infect animals and people. According to the CDC, corona viruses that infect animals can become able to infect people, but this is rare. We don’t know the exact source of the current outbreak.


Viruses are responsible for some of the worst pandemics. The 1918 influenza pandemic infected an estimated 500 million people and caused about 50 million deaths, including 650,000 in the U.S.


The latest models indicate that the death toll of the current pandemic could reach as high as 240,000 in the U.S.


COVID-19 can live for a short time on surfaces but it is transmitted mostly through droplets in the air. You can catch it just by breathing the air exhaled by an infected person. As yet there is no vaccine, no cure, no medicine to treat the virus. Our only defense against it is to wash our hands and keep our social distance.


The prospect is grim. Thousands of people have died and the worst is yet to come. Stuck at home and unable to travel, we fear for our friends and family.


It’s okay to be afraid, but we need to keep fear in its proper place. Sometimes fear can spill over into places where it doesn’t belong. This is not the time to be attacking scientists like Anthony Fauci or the Chinese neighbor down the street. The enemy is not us. It is the virus. In this fight we are all on the same side.


And we have allies in nature too. That bond has not been severed.


The friendly forces of nature are still working for us, giving us strength and lifting us up.


COVID-19 has turned the world upside down, but it hasn’t changed everything. It hasn’t knocked the planet off its axis, and the sun still rises in the east ever morning. And it hasn’t changed us. We carry the treasures of our humanity within us, and we still have that irrepressible spirit, that indomitable will to endure.


Emily Dickinson once said that hope is a thing with wings. I’ve been keeping a close eye on the birds lately. They come like a glimmer of light in the growing darkness.


The first migrating geese showed up in February, flying in V-formation and pointing their compass toward spring. House finches tuned up their cheerful song. The red-breasted robins came, and goldfinches wearing a blaze of bright yellow color.


Meanwhile I put up three more nesting boxes for the bluebirds. They’ve been nesting here ever since I put up the first box years ago. Bluebirds usually set up housekeeping here sometime in April, and when they do, I know that spring has come at last. I am waiting eagerly for their return.


Under the circumstances it may seem like a small thing, this waiting for the bluebirds, but it helps me get through the day.