As summer slips into fall and the sound of the cicadas provide us with a nightly symphony, I am reminded of the simplicity of nature and how it has a way of gently reminding us that despite what we think, humankind is not the sole inhabiter of Earth. As I prepared to go to work, I went through my checklist, mask, check, hand sanitizer check. As I walked out of my house, I caught a glimpse of something hovering over my head out of the corner of my eye. As I turned to look, I was almost hit by a yellowjacket doing a flyover of my head; it was then that I noticed that the tiny warrior was seeking to land in the apparent yellow jacket nest in my flower bed. I thought that the insect was trying to sting me, but I quickly realized that it was only going home and that I was simply in the way.
Later that evening, as I sat in my backyard. I listened to the sound of the songbirds. I know of few things in nature that can provide as much simple comfort as the Robin’s sound, the hollow, distant sound of the owl, or the mimicry and improvisation of the Mockingbird. At that moment, the resident chipmunk scurried from around the corner. As I attempted to move from its path, it quickly and abruptly changed directions and went around me. It had no intention of interfering with my evening listening pleasure. It was merely trying to get from one place to another. I was simply in its way.
We cannot move forward too often because we simply cannot get out of our own way. If we can pause, self-reflect, and recognize our own biases, misconceptions, and fears, then perhaps we could take the time to address the societal issues that have plagued humankind for centuries. Suppose we are all of the belief that we are more similar than we are different, that we all want happiness, health, safety, and peace. In that case, we must get out of our own way and muster the courage to sit down and dialogue with each other regarding our time’s critical issues.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us probably felt that we were on the right path, that life was good, despite the political differences, the racial unrest, and the economic and health disparities. For most people, the world we lived in was okay. Yet, somehow it took a global pandemic to make us realize that we were never really okay. That we actually haven’t been okay for a long time. So how do we fix this? We can start by taking a look in the mirror, then getting out of our own way. A simple lesson taught to me by the yellow jacket and the chipmunk. Only two of nature’s great teachers.