Connection and Routine

Wednesday, March 11, was the evening I got a text from the School District of Beloit, saying all single-day field trips would be cancelled, due to the growing threat from COVID-19. I was driving home from soccer practice and the dusk was beautiful, overcast, but the air glowed pink as the late winter sun sank in the sky. It hit me that the novel coronavirus working its way across the globe, was finally starting to leave its mark on life in Wisconsin.

COVID-19 Response | Welty Environmental Center

An energy of community and cooperation

And in that moment, I had a deja vu to walking home from the DC Metro on September 11, 2001, which was a similarly-beautiful evening, albeit late summer. I remember feeling stunned and unbelieving, that so many things I had taken for granted had just vanished. I was living in Alexandria, VA at the time, just across the river from Washington DC, and for the next three weeks, all night long, you could hear the drone of fighter jets in the night sky, circling the important government buildings on watch against further terrorist attacks.

We are now in our fourth week of Gov. Ever’s Safer at Home order and, again, we have to be vigilant against an invisible threat circling our gathering places. This time our protection takes the form of cloth masks, soap, and social distancing, which also feels not quite sufficient against a silent enemy. However, as it was in 2001, there is a surge of “how can I help” feelings, an energy of community and cooperation, that we must harness and engage to get us through this first round of infection. (I hate the term “for the foreseeable future”, because it sounds so long, although–these days–foreseeable is really just next 12 hours).

We can try to reestablish routines

Instead of flags, this time there are paper cut-out hearts and chalk drawings in driveways, a visual manifestation of people’s desire to reach out and show support. A huge difference, almost 20 years later, is that many of us have the internet as a way to check in and chat, post lush landscape pictures, and share recipes (and face-mask-making instructions). As we move our gathering places online, we can try to reestablish routines (SDB starts online instruction in a week) and connect. But we need to remember our neighbors who don’t have that kind of access, and that screens are a poor replacement for eye contact and being “seen.”

At Welty, we’ve been trying to recreate our programming online for about 3 weeks and are getting the hang of video how-tos. Our staff meetings continue via Hangouts, and we meet regularly to brainstorm what else we can do to reach out, encourage an investigation outside, and keep connecting with you. We took our annual meeting to fb live, and are experimenting with other “real time” events on facebook and Zoom. But we struggle a bit with ideas that don’t involve a computer, since we don’t want to pass out materials or accidentally make people congregate in the same place.

What would you like to see/do?

We are so grateful to all the non-profits who provide essential services and tend to those who are hit hardest by this pandemic; we hope our contributions will bring some comfort in the routine of changing seasons and the marvel of nature waking up from winter. What would you like to see/do? How can we help you engage with spring (time to learn all the different bird calls…the air is full of song!) and enjoy what access we do have to the natural world?

Connect with us and let us know how we can be a part of your day. We are looking forward to a time (in the unforeseeable future) when we can all get back together again!

Brenda Plakans | Welty Executive DirectorBrenda Plakans
Executive Director, WEC