The Dark Months
This morning, after I refilled the bird bath (a daily requirement—the birds are many, and they are messy bathers), I sat at my desk and watched as an entire flock of little juncos flew in and splashed all the water back out again.
The Dark-Eyed Junco is a winter bird in Northern Illinois. They spend their summers in cooler climes (though they do appear year-round in Appalachia and the Northeast). But by mid-fall, my little flock has appeared, and I can count on getting a chance to see them in my yard just about every day. (With so much working from home, that's even more true this year than usual.) They are seed-eaters, so they'll visit feeders, but they also seem to enjoy many of the leftovers I leave standing in the yard—the wild clematis in particular.
They are dark in color, though you'll see the flash of their white outer tail feathers as they flit away. And their arrival always seems to coincide with that moment that you really notice how dark it's getting. Already we are getting up in darkness, and the sun is down by dinnertime.
I know plenty of folks who dread the dark months. There's less fun to be had out of doors. And the prospect of endless cold days where the sun barely makes an appearance can be a real downer.
This year's winter dreads seem particularly poignant. All summer long, while there were limits on what we could do for fun, at least we had plenty of opportunities to get outside and do… something. Festivals and gatherings might have been canceled, but we could still enjoy a socially distant visit on the patio. There might have been far fewer opportunities for in-person group fitness and sports activities, but with the ability to take our exercise and sports outdoors, we could still get moving.
In a way, this winter will truly be a test. Can we continue to keep people safe and protect ourselves and others while engaging in activities indoors? As with the past six months, the next six months will be yet another learning opportunity, as we discover what works and what doesn't.
Luckily, much more is known now than when initial shutdowns happened in March 2020. We know that there are things we can do that make it less likely that we, and others, will get sick. So while we must proceed with caution, we can be hopeful that we won't have to take such drastic, whole-scale measures again. But we also know that it's likely to be a bit of a rough ride.
This month, we've got stories that aim to help as you move forward. We take a look at event planning and youth sports programming, and the impact the pandemic has had on those kinds of activities. We offer advice on maintaining good water and air quality—crucial for indoor pools, even in more normal times. And on page 31, we've got a quick rundown of some products that can help you control crowds and protect the public.
When the days begin to lengthen again, things could be very different. Much more will be known about COVID-19, and it's even possible that an effective vaccine will be in place. And, most importantly, we all will have learned a great deal about how to keep people healthier—knowledge that we can carry forward beyond these dark months to help boost public health for the long term.
Good luck out there!
And be well,