Two weeks ago, as I settled into meeting for worship via Zoom, I sat in front of my desk with my knitting limp in my lap. Through the open windows, I heard grackles squawk, cardinals call from the big oak, and the chatter of sparrows. A lawnmower grumbled from somewhere up the street. No voices. No barking.

Day before, my husband and I took our morning coffee on the porch of our rented CCC cabin, watching the sun slip over the mountain and into the gulch. Layers and layers of bird song filled the surrounding woods, broken only by the occasional clatter of a squirrel clambering up a tree trunk. Tension we didn’t know we carried fell off of us.

In my circles, “the healing power of nature” is an assumption. I am fortunate to have a garden to tend (or ignore), a patio shaded by a fig tree, a screen porch with a swing. There is a world class botanical garden a bike ride away and a rolling, wooded park with a rippling creek and pond in the other direction. Our house is three hours’ drive from the mountains or the beach. Nature feels close, pleasant and accessible.

Nature can be TOO close and accessible. Those who can’t find housing may live real close to nature. How much bird song compensates for living in your car? Does nature still heal when your only shelter is a tent? Are the long shadows of the morning sun beautiful when you don’t have a privy or access to a water spigot?

We who are smug in our houses are not spared nature’s ugly face — heat waves, drought, extreme storms — and nature is glaring at us more and more often. Her looks can kill.

Is it too late to appease her? too late to reverse climate change? Or will we just stay as comfortable as we can for as long as we can, like frogs in water gradually coming to boil.