In a Mad World, I Turn Toward Nature’s Grace

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by Katie Napiwocki |

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My cellphone vibrated atop my kneecap. I glanced down at the screen. An alert emerged from a local news app: A case of COVID-19 had been identified in my small city.

I was sitting in our living room with a grateful heart, looking out the windows as the downy glow of dusk fell behind the silhouettes of towering pines. To my left was my partner, Andy, and our beagle, snuggled on the sofa. To my right, a cozy fireplace. With my wheelchair in tilted position and a pillow cradling my lower legs, our other dog rested on a gentle nest of blanket over my lap.

My attention was only partially tethered to the animated film “Frozen II” playing before me. The parts of my mind that occupied theater seats found it to be fantastic, but attendance was rather sparse — the absent portions were riding a train of reflection, sightseeing all of the historical and modern attractions of thankfulness throughout my life.

Like many others, I’d been sequestered in the midst of a whirlwind viral crisis, endured from sea to shining sea and far beyond. 

That night, my mind raced with worry as I tried to fall asleep. I felt scared for myself, my loved ones, and others — for people I didn’t know and would never meet, whose sunrise had met the sky a world over, on a tomorrow that had not yet greeted me. I breathed deeply and conjured rational thoughts, pulling back on the cord of balance I desperately needed.

Dreams filled my midnight. I remember a Hoyer lift farce in which the attachments of my sling were hooked up at the wrong lengths, suspending me tail-over-teakettle in the terrifying positions of an amateur trapeze artist. This little poison apple tends to recurrently show up in the recipes of my dreams. I must have some deeply disturbing fear of my Hoyer lift transfers (an unresolved matter of the psyche for another day).

As if the channel changed, I saw the earth spinning within the vast darkness of the universe. Only, the earth was assembled of tiny puzzle pieces. In random areas throughout the globe, clusters of pieces were entirely missing.

Gradually, the pieces flipped one by one, turning into butterflies until the entire planet resembled a blooming crop of open wings, without a shred of vacant space to be found. In a swift uprising, one butterfly took flight and the others followed suit as a peaceful kaleidoscope of departure swirled about. 

I awoke in the middle of the night thinking to myself, “That was really beautiful.” I knew then that this is a momentous era of transformation for our world as we know it. Within the carnage lies brilliant remnants of the human spirit, glinting gemstones beneath the parting clouds of a tempestuous sky.

The next day during coffee with the morning sun, I bonded with wildlife around my home as I always do. Our bird feeders were abuzz with feathered energy. The dark-eyed junco had returned for the year, foraging the spring earth for fallen seed scraps in delight. Beside it, a pair of mourning doves perused the buffet, professing lullaby coos of affection as they ate together and adored one another.

Downy woodpeckers feverishly drummed at the brittle bark of elderly pine trees. Cheeky red squirrels, brazen gray squirrels, and coy black squirrels competed in playful rivalry to claim the most forest real estate with the greatest hidden treasures. And our two dogs explored the new day, basking in the merriment of it all.

Throughout my life, I’ve turned toward nature. I seek joy in the best of times and solace during the worst of times. I turn to nature for wisdom, and she grants me lessons in patience, humility, perseverance, gratitude, grief, and rejuvenation. There is a season for all things — even for pandemics. 

Thinking about the root of my worry, I realize I’m not most afraid of the virus itself. I’m fearful of people who continue to act carelessly and socialize closely. I’m afraid of the vile acts of discrimination now occurring. I’m concerned about selfish hoarding that is keeping supplies and goods away from those in need. 

When we don’t act and live from our hearts, the rhythm turns faint, veiled beneath the growing moss of ignorance. When the pulse of kindness becomes weak, human hands are capable of senseless destruction. 

I wonder what will come of this colossal lesson that has gripped us. Will we reflect upon our ways and love each other more? Will we nurture the lands on which we live and the air that we breathe? As our rushing lives have slowed to a crawl, will we contemplate our path, turning inward to channel the radiant benevolence that can be poured outward?

It’s up to us to come together in harmony.


Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, Bionews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.


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