Roots cross my path. Small birds cheep and hop in the crackling undergrowth and I wonder if they think about what they are doing or if their movements are simple moment-to-moment survival.

Once again I have turned to these woods for solace and counsel. Red needled paths quiet my foot falls where I tread under the pines. Wind roars overhead, catching my thoughts and blowing them out my ears. Maybe it will make room for some wisdom to flow in. These days I need it more than ever.

Keeping her thoughts to herself, the myrtle glows blue purple on the shadowed ground. She is as mysterious as the new normal we all somehow need to find. It is crucial for me to be with plants, as necessary as breathing. Getting out of my house is to get out of my head. It gets pretty stuffy in there.

When I am with the natural world, aware of her beauty and offerings, I realize what is really real. Everything changes. Nothing is fixed or permanent. Seasons heat up and open, then cool down again and contract. Throughout it all, the forest stands with dignity, in every weather, from sideways rain to beating sun.

Quarantine days were often lonely, but less so in the woods. Sometimes I would spot another person approaching from the opposite direction. Masks would come up from under chins and back over noses. One of us might hop off to the side, turning a face away, offering a muffled “good morning.”

Dogs don’t know about social distancing. Their furry hellos accept any touch with warm enthusiasm. If the virus had somehow lingered on their coats, the hand cleaner in my pocket took care of that.

Memories often accompany me and sometimes I want to visit with them, quietly. Other times I look to add new ones by walking now with a friend. Cozy cups of tea together are replaced by brisk walks.

As leaves prepare their entrance and flowers dream of unfurling, people start to re-emerge. Theatres, shops and restaurants tentatively reopen, children return to school.

We humans have a lot of choices to make in how and what we do. What is the new normal of our culture? It must be a work in progress. Something each of us does both on our own, and with each other. After this enforced pause, how busy do we get again? Now that I’ve dived in, to what extent do I want to come back out?

One thing I know is to take my cues from the natural world. Mother Nature doesn’t need a new normal. Her old one keeps ticking along just fine. Too often I get tangled in flailing attempts to figure things out, forgetting the guidance right outside my door. My better choice is to turn to the woods, exhale my thoughts and tune in to wisdom. Wishing to be blocked from doing anything that is not for the greater good, I listen. Answers come from all around and inside me. Sometimes they are in the form of more questions.

It always comes down to one: How may I love the world with my life today?

Fae Kontje-Gibbs lives in Vineyard Haven.