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Columns

Bluebells in the time of coronavirus

If you look around, maybe in your own home, maybe in your own driveway, you’ll find creativity. Strolling around the block, I delight in children’s rainbow sidewalk chalk drawings of sunny days and happy messages. Simultaneously, a seventy-something Mill Creek friend, after years of balking, begins writing his family history.

University of Connecticut psychology professor James C. Kaufman, an expert in creativity research, in a Psychology Today post (4/9/20), sees people sheltering in place exhibiting “an increase in everyday creativity.” Although he lists a hierarchy of creative achievements, from “the family singing a song from ‘Les Miserables’” to publishing a “book about kiwi cultivation,…it is important not to let such a comparison diminish their value.”

It’s long been acknowledged that boredom breeds creativity; if there’s nothing to do, our brains come up with something. And because sedentary tedium looms at home, we look for an escape—in outdoor exercise.

Which raises the question, Could the opposite of inactivity trigger creativity?

In his book “In Praise of Walking,” excerpted in Outside Magazine (5/13/20), Shane O’Mara contends, “Movement, and most especially lots of regular walking, is good—indeed great—for body and brain,” leading to “openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.”

Better yet, a nature walk, O’Mara continues, accelerates well-being. “Some cultures venerate this experience: the Japanese, for example, have the glorious tradition of forest bathing: the practice of absorptive, enveloping walking in deep forests for the soothing properties of being connected to, and fully immersed in, the sights, sounds, and feel of nature.”

Case in point: with shelter in place, our St. Charles friends Pat and Beth Parks began daily walks or bike rides; afterward, Beth started posting lovely or unusual photos and videos on Facebook, such as Fabyan’s Japanese garden or a thick vine twisting around a tree like a black anaconda.

“It started accidentally,” recounts Beth. “When I realized I’d done it several days in a row, I decided to continue. I appreciate the focus it provides me.”

Recently Tia and I walked a wooded floodplain near Plano. Little has changed since my grandfather purchased the land nearly a century ago. Here, no houses, outbuildings, or stores; nothing but a rain-drenched, fast-flowing creek, trees a hundred or more years old, wildflowers, and birdsong.

A few days afterward, the first draft of “Bluebells in the Time of Coronavirus” practically wrote itself. It was an honor to have the St. Charles Arts Council choose it as a finalist for their Poetry in a Time of Pandemic contest.

We cut a path through bluebells powdering

The woods, and as you bent to put a hand

Down to a white variety, you called to me,

Stopped on the wooden bridge

Whose guardrail had rotted and fallen

Into the runoff creek full with last night’s rain.

You looked as if the flower caught

You by surprise and changed

The way you lived. When finally

Crossing the path that took us back,

Farther up that mowed and trampled earth,

You called again, this time looking up from

A barn red trillium at what you thought

A heron, I an eagle, my vision no less

Or more than yours because it isn’t

Names or who identifies what flies

Beyond our knowing that make one

Any more safe or fortunate. Once wings

Were lost beyond the reach of branches shamrock

Starred, we moseyed on, grounded in banter

About our son and daughter, living now

In the spring of their age, to us

Uniquely hued, like that rare afternoon

Through which we strolled toward home.

Here’s hoping your creative path leads you to solace and joy.

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