Wild WNY / Always open

Tifft and other nature preserves are beautiful in every season and, with prudence, can still be visited. Bonus: get a glimpse of interesting birds, like this Cedar Waxwing, photographed there last summer.

At press time, Western New York, like much of the rest of the US, had become a strange and unsettling place. With museums, theaters, concert halls, bars, and restaurants shuttered, and most events cancelled, there seems only one place to be safe from COVID-19:  home. For the most part, that’s true. But at a recent press conference, even Governor Andrew Cuomo took time out from discussing much more urgent matters to emphasize that New York’s beautiful state parks and preserves remain open. It’s easier to maintain social distancing when there are acres of trails and waterfront to explore. It’s easier to stay calm when you’re surrounded by rustling trees and birdsong. While park programs are canceled and visitors’ centers closed, most, if not all parks and preserves remain accessible. This includes all state parks, county and town parks, Tifft Nature Preserve, Reinstein Woods, and many others.

Time to garden

Many of us are blessed with outdoor spaces to call our own. This is the perfect time to spend time in them, maybe increasing front garden plantings, as Sally Cunningham describes on page 30, or just going about the normal maintenance chores: pulling weeds, dividing perennials, and neatening beds.

Some readers will have heard of interesting research that shows a common substance found in garden soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, can, if inhaled, alleviate depression. The name of the study is "Identification of an Immune-Responsive Mesolimbocortical Serotonergic System: Potential Role in Regulation of Emotional Behavior." We’re going to shorten to "Dirt makes you happy." It’s possible that many longtime gardeners have suspected this fact all along.

Prior to COVID-19, cabin fever ended when winter ended. It looks like we’ll be enduring some version of cabin fever for months to come—which will make nature breaks all the more important.

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