Nature has become both more remote, and also more present during this pandemic. Photo: Cirrus Wood

Last week we asked you to tell us about nature from where you are — what of the natural world can be seen from your window while you shelter in place. Thank you to all of those who shared your views. We’re excited to publish a selection of your submissions here to mark Earth Day (At Home).Cirrus Wood: A few weeks back — week three of quarantine — I heard, for the first time, a great horned owl calling somewhere on my block. I had never heard one in Berkeley before, or in any city. Had it always been there? Was just the quieting of all other noise that made me finally take notice? Or, because things were quieter, did the owl at last feel comfortable to make itself heard?

Nature has become both more remote, and also more present during this pandemic. The grand places of documentaries and adventure magazines are largely off-limits right now, but so are state and regional parks and the many smaller urban places. And in the absence of so much noise and people, nature is moving back, even into yards, gardens, and newly car-free streets.A slight silver lining to this pandemic is that while the humans are taking a time-out, nature has been given a breather. Cities around the world are vacant, but also cleaner. So much cleaner that when one Nairobi resident photographed nearby Mount Kenya from his balcony — a view from his own window — fellow Kenyans derided the shot as a fake. (It wasn’t.) We don’t all have views as stunning as Mount Kenya. I certainly don’t. But we mostly do still have views to a world outside that continues on without us.  

Mel Hofmann: A “profusion of color”

Photo: Melanie Hoffman

I see a profusion of color in our backyard outside our bedroom window. The yellow rose bush is in full bloom. Birds visit our backyard fountain to enjoy a bath. Anna’s Hummingbirds perch in trees to sing their squeaky bicycle song. Males plunge from the sky in their yearly mating ritual. Females tend to their young in well concealed nests. Rose petals fall to the ground, decorating the concrete patio.

Melanie Curry: “Moving out and moving back”

Photo: Melanie Curry

Spring is swarm season, and it can get a little hectic when the queen is feeling like it’s time to move. You don’t want to lose your bees, but you REALLY don’t want to anger your neighbors if they move into someone’s attic. I followed this swarm across several backyards (keeping a good physical distance from my wary neighbors) and then was completely taken aback when it came back to our hive! Maybe the queen just wasn’t feeling it that day. We got her safely back inside, but it was a very exciting half hour or so.

Patricia and Martin St. John: “Anticipation of nesting birds”

Photo: Patricia St. John

We mounted a bird house outside our breakfast room window. Each year either a chickadee or a titmouse pair choose the house to build their nest, lay their eggs and hatch their young. It gives us such joy to watch the pair bringing food to one another as they await the babies. Last year Martin was able to see the young ones fledge. What a privilege! This picture shows the nest building in progress, with some material not quite making the entrance.

Daniel Oviedo: “A little oasis”

Photo: Daniel Oviedo

I have a charming view of my garden from my bedroom — a little oasis while cooped up at home. Happy to see my wisteria blooming in spite of being in a pot! 

Eva Zimmerman: “Three interlaced circles”

Zahra and her grandma. Photo: Eva Zimmerman

Zahra sees her Nonni Jane, through the black-eyed susan vine that has overtaken our bedroom window. Zahra shares her birthday with her beautiful paternal grandma, Betty. I see glimpses of my incredible mother there through those tangled leaves and I’ve never missed her more. My mom and I share a birthday too, and this year will be one of only a few that we’ve spent apart. I’ll wake up that morning and go leave her gift on her porch, a necklace of three interlaced circles. One circle for her, one for me, one for Zahra. A reminder that we are infinitely together, no matter the distance, no matter what nature is in between.

Jennifer Lombardi: “Last light of day, light from other windows”

Photo: Jennifer Lombardi

This is the view from my kitchen window as I stand at the sink doing dishes — which I’m doing a lot of these days. I like the last traces of the sun, the few clouds, the bit of tree. There’s actually much more nature hidden there in the coming darkness. I like the comforting slivers of light from one neighbor’s kitchen window and the other’s TV. Another day ends. 

Joel Kaufmann: “Other worlds”

Photo: Joel Kaufmann

Look closely:  there are worlds there!

Helene Vilett: “Eating, resting, delight”

Photo: Helene Vilett

We often look out into our unfenced backyard to see deer eating the grass or resting.  About a week ago we were delighted to see this many.  The doe on the lower left has probably given birth to twins since then.

Becca Todd: “Marveling at flowers, shadows, leaves”

Photo: Becca Todd

During this shelter-in-place time, I was blessed to finally notice — after years of having a Japanese red maple in my backyard — that it has delicate flowers! Which led me to notice the baby seed pods!! And then to marvel at the exquisite shadows the flowers and pods cast on the leaves!!! No amount of exclamation points could begin to convey my joy.

Barnali Ghosh: “Hope for the future”

Photo: Barnali Ghosh

I’ve been going on almost daily #COVIDWalks, so the nature from my home includes blocks that are within a half-mile radius of where I live. I have been finding a lot of joy in finding and documenting buds on the verge — so filled with hope for the future. In sharing photos of Berkeley’s trees and flowers on my social media, I’ve been finding that for friends who can’t leave the house, or don’t have access to nature they can easily access, THIS is the natural world they see from their home.

Sandra Ayer: “An old rhythm, now a new one”

Photo: Sandra Ayer

Shelter in place allows me to fall into the familiar rhythm of monastic life that I lived some years ago. Our little backyard has become my morning “cloister walk” where I enjoy taking this stone path around the pergola, through our wild little garden that’s bursting in spring fullness. It’s also a refuge, a place to sit in nature and be reflective, to meditate, and to appreciate the beauty.  While shelter in place is not most people’s cup of tea, I hope that people take away some of the charm of a more silent, simple life that can bring us closer to nature and our own nature.

Deanne Burke: “Beautiful giant”

Photo: Deanne Burke

A Giant Sequoia, the tallest Sequoia in the area, grows in my front yard.  The tree was planted 60 – 75 years ago (an estimate). I have old photographs of the front yard dating back to WWII, and it didn’t exist then. This beautiful giant, as you can see, is in half view from my front bedroom window.  The entire immensity can be appreciated from a sidewalk vantage point. Walkers and joggers often stop to enjoy looking at this gift of nature.

Michele Degenkolb: “Oaks from oaks”

Photo: Michele Degenkolb

Daughter of the “largest oak tree in Northern California” (per the City of Berkeley arborist), she was grand and lived about 100 years then gave way to oak tree disease. However, she left behind a daughter oak with limbs like her own to grow in her place nurtured by love. She is 22 years young now and gives food along with housing for squirrels in the neighborhood. Last spring there were nine nests cradled by her branches. May she live on in years and grace us all with her beauty.

Gina Gold: “A private refuge”

Photo: Gina Gold

In these challenging times, I find my garden is a wonderful comfort. When I step outside, the sounds of birds singing and the fountain bubbling help me relax, and the beauty of the flowers and shrubs delight me. I am so grateful for this refuge.  

Emilie Keas: “Intelligent, regal-minded, territorial”

crow flying above trees with blue sky
Photo: Emilie Keas

This crow flies over a tree by the entrance of Nation’s parking lot at University Avenue and Grant Street here in Berkeley. These large birds are intelligent, regal-minded and territorial. They frequently perch on tree-tops, electric poles and wires to keep watch over their realm and will chase away even larger birds. Such was the fate of a red-tailed hawk that recently tried to invade the crows’ space. The hawk resisted, but two crows confronted and successfully routed him from the area. I love to capture the crows’ feathers’ details as these majestic blackbirds fly by the window.

Ingrid Hester: “Cute little babies”

Photo: Ingrid Hester

100 cute little yellow garden spider babies.

Jeanne Pimentel: “Colorful chaos”

Photo: Jeanne Pimentel

Breaking buds and seedpods, purposeful plantings and weeds, light and shade, past and present, conflicting directions. It seems to represent the intense and bewildering times we are living in. I try to focus on the color and light, the vigor of new growth, the upturned flower faces indicating hope and purpose for the future.

Diana Maria Rossi: “Blooms, even in the dark”

Photo: Diana Rossi

I take one last peek of the day, 3:30 in the morning of a dawning, sequestered Saturday. There are more blooms than ever before! The Cup-o-Gold rose, planted in honor of our daughter’s birth, almost 23 years ago, punctuates the darkness with its soft, crimson flames. Why does our sentry rabbit seem oblivious to their beauty? Does he have all that he needs? Does he know that those orbs of light are enough to illumine even this dark quarantine?

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Cirrus Wood is a freelance writer and photographer living in downtown Berkeley. There are few things he enjoys as much as playing around with the alphabet.