Nature, it is all around us, and yet we are not intentionally conscious of or aware that we are part of and inseparable from nature.
Simply put, we are, because nature is.
Nature abounds everywhere - on windowsills, garden beds, bird baths and feeders, on trails, on beaches - it is present, a hopeful peek of a germinating seed on a side of a pavement. Think, when was the last time you pondered or stopped in wonder at the constant reminder of nature around you? When did you last watch an unfurling fern, the buds waiting to burst signal growth, and spring? Think of the rising sun, its light playing on water and setting the energy cycle through plants, the arrival of the moon and stars that remind us we need to rest, recuperate and be energized for tomorrow.
The Covid-19 pandemic unshackled us from life as we had known, the business as usual. In a rush to secure our life from the virus, we found ourselves suddenly being ‘remote’ from everything that sustained us - human companionship, community and to some connection to the outside, to nature.
As we grappled to make sense of the contactless Covid -19 lifestyle, we saw a tumultuous reflection on our inner pandemic in George Floyd’s cry for breath, and smoke filled skies of the worst fire season in the United States pacific northwest.
In the days masked with smoke, with questions about contactless Covid-19 life, I wondered how my children and students saw meaning, a purpose to their lives.
What might the thoughts of these young people getting their diplomas, their degrees and setting out to the world. What might they feel as their purpose in life. I listened to people processing their own evolving purpose, as a parent, a teacher, an offspring, a sibling and as community members, as I processed mine. I sensed us grappling with the collective pain inflicted by the virus on health care, economies and dis-connected education; the challenge it threw on social threads that connect us; and an awareness of the power and vulnerability of nature.
I turned more to nature to find relief from grief, rejuvenate hope and find meaning, a purpose revealed in the fragility of life, particularly in the times we are in. Observing nature tells me, nature is the ultimate expression of hope. Being with nature as winter arrived after a fiery fall and the seeds emerged after winter, watching the dance has helped me realize that being present in the present is the foundation to find the purpose of our life.
Dr. Neeraja Havaligi grew up studying agriculture while learning about plants and food from elders around her in Bangalore, India.
Early-on she understood the connection between India’s food diversity and the biodiversity in nature around her. As a faculty member of the Environmental Sciences, Oregon State University in the US, and in her role as a Biodiversity and Climate Change specialist with UN agencies, Dr. Havaligi enjoys sharing the interconnection between nature and people across the globe.
As a mother of two kids, one in college and another college bound, Dr. Havaligi has experienced how nature helps heal pandemic related challenges and uncertainty.
Shankar Viswanathan’s curiosity and exploration of nature was often a reprieve from the rat race while growing up in Mumbai, India. He began using the camera in his early twenties to document his curiosity, adventures and observation of life around him.
Few decades and experiences later, working in software development in the US, he still remains curious. With Neeraja's experience and knowledge rubbing in on him, he is also curious about behavioral ecology of species on Planet Earth.
He draws inspiration from our connected planet and uses his time behind the camera to capture moments of intrigue, resilience and hope in nature.