Corona springtime; nature gives and takes

Right now, especially in these turbulent times. We’ve all heard the cliché a thousand times over the past few weeks of lockdown, quarantaine and social distancing. And yet I will use it once again: particularly during this difficult time, nature can offer us comfort, hope and inspiration.

White flowering cherry trees near Lijnbaan in downtown Rotterdam
Van Oldenbarneveltplaats


To be honest, I don’t have that much to complain about my own situation. I have always worked at home and I don’t suddenly have to deal with children who I have to teach or who drive me crazy in other ways. There are undoubtedly better, but also much worse, places to spend the corona crisis than my spacious apartment with its sunny balcony. And, although I’m not really young anymore, I’m still far enough outside of the risk groups. And I do not know any covid victims among my friends and family.

Flowering magnolia trees at Westerkade in Rotterdam in springtime


But the more or less identical days have developed into a very boring sequence by now. I miss the social contacts, other than the drinks via Zoom, Skype, Whatapp and Messenger. And I miss the long hikes with friends, in places like the Betuwe, the Green Heart or Zeeland, concluded with a craft beer on a terrace.

Pink flowering prunus tree at Queen Emma Crescent in Rotterdam in springtime
Queen Emma Crescent

Locked up

Fortunately, in the Netherlands we are not completely locked up in our houses for weeks, like in some other countries. And we don’t have to adhere to complicated rules like our southern neighbors: walking allowed, but only within a certain radius, and no sitting on a benches, unless.

Pink flowering prunus trees at Maasboulevard in Rotterdam in springtime

Fresh air

Our prime minister allows us to go outside to “get a breath of fresh air”. Once this all is over I hope we’ll see how this has contributed to our immune systems. People who can exercise, escape stress, enjoy nature as well as the beautiful weather and who also make some vitamin D in the process, are probably better equipped to get a virus out of their bodies. Allthough of course I am not a virologist.

Pink blossoms of a prunus tree at Droogleever Fortuynplein in Rotterdam with in the background De Rotterdam building by Rem Koolhaas
Droogleever Fortuynplein

Blue skies

Strangely enough, the entire quarantine period has coincided so far with an almost surreal chain of sunny days that have rarely been witnessed in the Netherlands. I have never seen as many clear blue skies as in the past few weeks. Perhaps the dramatic reduction of air traffic also played a role in this, but still: it’s been remarkable.

Blossoming trees in the green slope along Statensingel canal in Blijdorp neighbourhood in Rotterdam in springtime
Blijdorp neighbourhood

Give and take

You would almost think it is nature’s way to say sorry. First it releases a terrible virus on us. And then it rewards us with extra hours of sunshine and abundantly blossoming trees and other budding life. But frankly, I do not belong to the group of people who think that nature wants to tell us something with this cononavirus. Nature is indifferent, viruses have always been popping up from time to time and there is blossom every year. Nature gives and takes. Okay, now that we know where this disease came from, we can of course take measures to prevent a recurrence, fair enough.

Flowering prunus tree near the Cube Houses in downtown Rotterdam in springtime
Near the Cube Houses

The quiet city

But the natural beauty can give us just that little boost that we need amidst all the worrying about covid-19 and the imminent economic breakdown. Every day I walked around the city armed with my camera to capture this beauty. Of course taking into account the one and a half meter distance. But with some slaloming that was easy to accomplish; after all, the center of Rotterdam, where I live, is a lot more quiet than usual.

Museumpark in Rotterdam with flowering apple trees, closed due to corona measures in april 2020
Sperrgebiet Museumpark


The Museum Park is unfortunately closed to prevent young people from gathering there. The Rose Garden and the alley with the apple trees were suddenly separated from their admirers by a brutal fence. You may wonder what the net profit for public health is, of declaring the already limited amount of greenery a forbidden area for city dwellers who have few other options. Remember, not everyone can leave the city by car to look for a quiet nature reserve. And the use of public transport is strongly discouraged.

flowering prunus tree in The Park near the Euromast in Rotterdam in springtime
The park, still accessible


No one can predict whether there will be a vaccine this time next year, or a medicin, or even a decently working app. Or any other way to keep covid-19 under control. But I can already promise you one thing: the trees will blossom again.

Flowering prunus tree at Johan de Mesterstraat in Rotterdam, The Netherlands in springtime
Johan de Meesterstraat

UPDATE: during the first weeks of the pandemic I strictly followed the advice to only use public transport for necessary trips. But over time, I have stretched the criterion necessary somewhat. If only because a regular hike with travel companion A. appeared to be indispensable for my immune system. This led to a new phenomenon: the corona hikes.

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