Quarantined in the North Georgia Mountains

flyingAfter several weeks of shelter in place in South Florida, my husband and I decided to ride out the coronavirus pandemic at our mountain home in Helen,Georgia, as numbers of confirmed cases grew in Broward County.  The mountains are less crowded, with beautiful spring weather  and opportunities to spend time in nature abound. We loaded up our plane and waited for a good flying day. It turns out our timing was perfect, any other day may have left us stranded due to weather, a situation we needed to avoid.

When we arrived at our home, I immediately felt less anxiety and more relaxed. I felt like myself again as the situation in South Florida worried and stressed me out. I listened to birds sing off our back deck instead of helicopters flying overhead.  Squirrels crunching on decomposing leaves  replaced sirens screaming in the distance.  I breathed fresh oxygen rich air, cool and crisp, rather than the thick humidity of the south.

I wanted to cry.  I had been so emotionally on edge for what seemed like forever.  Instead I said.  “I feel better already.  We are so lucky to have options.”

“Yes we are.”  He agreed.

I found my new normal over the next few weeks.  Running in the morning through our desolate little town center, side roads and nature trails.  Yoga in the afternoon on the back deck, surrounded by nature.  I use my iPhone to guide me through my practice, with videos posted by the studio I attend.  Fighter jets from a nearby military training area even flew overhead one day, adding a bit of excitement to my flow.  I spotted a red fox in the distance while in tree pose.

My husband has home improvement projects to keep him busy.  We just built our house last year, leaving several tasks unfinished.  He cut and fertilized the grass, planted more trees, stained wood, built shelves for his tools and a framed our fireplace.  It’s an ongoing list but  now has the time to complete them.

One day he called me out back.  “Come here.”

A large bird attacked a tree off our deck.  “What is that?  A woodpecker?”

“Yeah.  The largest one I’ve seen.”

I found new recipes and dinners to make.  We went to grocery store to stock up, a first for me in a month.  We both had masks and gloves and followed the arrows of which way to go up and down.  It felt good to pick out food, although I think many items were overpriced, especially the produce. I had a list for most things, then a random note to buy drinks and frozen food.

In the evening my husband noticed something through a side window.  “Bears.”

“They’re so quiet.”  I whispered.


They looked in the trash can, picked through it. Then checked out our golf cart, sniffed around and left.  Three of them, a momma and two cubs I imagined.  Although they all looked pretty big.  Our dog didn’t even know they were outside, she usually  hears and smells everything, then barks like crazy.helen15

We are fortunate to have access to hiking trails and golf.  We learned that federal trails are closed but state parks open.  I personally think all outdoor activities should be accessible.  It’s a great way to escape and find tranquility and peace in our current world.  Something we all need.  Please find nature, love, compassion, health and hope during this difficult time, and reach out to those that need the same.




Careless Destruction

Although outspoken, I’ve never really been an environmental activist in the traditional sense of protesting and confronting those doing damage to the earth and nature. I protest silently by boycotting, making a small difference by changing my personal choices to support or reject products and companies matching my beliefs. I’m a vegetarian, I reject killing animals for my consumption. I’ve been known to boycott companies that test on animals. It’s a personal choice and I don’t judge others who consume meat or randomly buy cheaper products at the expense of another creature. I’m married to a carnivore, and I don’t preach to him about eating meat. I’m cool with it and completely understand given my Anthropological background knowing that humans have eaten meat for many millennia. That being said, I despise needless destruction of habitat, so this past weekend I took action in my neighborhood.

On Saturday at 7:30 a.m. as I was showering after my morning run, I heard chain saws across the canal and my husband downstairs calling the police. The shrill of blades quickly cutting wood amplified as I ran down to the dock to check out the situation. Our protected mangroves and nature preserve across from our house was quickly disappearing. Hubby went to meet the officers near the construction site to explain the controversy.  We were fine with the development across the canal, so were others in the community as long as the mangroves and trees remained untouched.

Seconds behind him, I jumped into my car, passed the police and hubby chatting near the road, and parked in a lot where I knew had quick access to the protected trees. I ran barefoot through the field as if saving a drowning child. I knew time was not on my side given the rate of the tree destruction. A rapid thrust through a dense bush brought me to the center of the action.

“Stop.” I screamed through the noise. “Stop Now.”

A look of shock and widened eyes crossed the landscapers’ faces and total silence of machinery ensued for a brief second.

“These trees are protected, and an Osprey lives here.” As if any of them knew what that was or even spoke english, I clarified.  “A Seahawk.”osprey

They looked at each other as if an alien had just landed. Then one of the workers defiantly started his chainsaw. “Stop now,” I shouted again. “Or you’re going to be in big trouble.” I wasn’t prepared to chain myself to a tree, but the thought momentarily crossed my mind.

The single high-pitched buzz stopped as two men not dressed for manual labor cautiously approached me. “Ma’am, I’m the developer.” He took a few steps closer. “I have permits to clear these trees and brush.”

He threw me off guard. I wasn’t sure how he got the permits, or the trustworthiness of the issuing agency. I considered strapping myself to a tree again but decided to take a reasonable approach, especially since I had to leave for the airport and fly our plane to Northern Georgia, racing against weather and cumulus cloud buildup.

osprey 1I expressed my concern about the resident Osprey I watched swoop up fish daily, the manatees feeding on the mangroves in the winter and spring, the numerous water birds wading in the water, and even the omnipresent ducks and iguanas, all of which congregated on this little piece of real estate. He assured me that the mangroves and trees would not be cut and he was just clearing bush. I wanted to believe him, hoping he had an innate compassionate side. I walked away, a bit uneasy, back through the impenetrable bushes separating the construction site from the established apartment complex where I parked.  My feet were as muddy as my mind.  Should I stay to make sure the developer followed his word?  Should I talk to the police to express my concern?  What the hell could they do, I concluded.  He has a permit.  I could still chain myself to that tree…

I decided to trust his promise to preserve the trees, and we flew to the north Georgia mountains. While in Georgia I learned that he lied and cut down most of the trees and mangroves, preserving only a wispy few. It hit my gut and I intuitively knew the Osprey was gone.