By Riley Meese | Photo by Patil Khakhamian

When the original news came that we would spend these two blocks distance learning, I could not help but think, “sweet, this means I get to go snowboarding and climbing all the time with friends who live near me!” However, as the days went by and stay-at-home orders were issued, then extended, the reality set in. I would not be exploring Yosemite National Park or the Tahoe Wilderness. Instead, I would be exploring the 200-foot perimeter around my house which has so much to offer, now that I am willing to look.

The backyard experience can definitely go underappreciated with such an intense outdoor culture at Colorado College. It can be hard to pass up an epic adventure for a ‘laid-back lounging in the sun day,’ for fear that one may miss out by not experiencing the outdoors in the craziest possible way. But now, with no other option, I have been forced to take a step back and explore the backyard wilderness that has always been right at my fingertips. That said — as I am living with two toddlers, my ‘outings’ to the backyard vary in all shapes and sizes.

On the sunny days, when I’m exploring with my two little cousins, our favorite activity is finding ‘snacks’ among the wildflowers. Common Yellow Oxalis, or as we call it, ‘sour grass,’ is a crowd favorite, with the tangy lemony flavor one tastes while eating the stem. Sour grass is a bright yellow flower that blooms all over Oakland, Calif., making it an easy find for the eager kiddos.

Purple honeysuckle, which I am still attempting to find the scientific name for, gives the picker a tiny drop of honey to enjoy after peeling off the stem and sucking on the bottom of the flower. Unlike sour grass, honeysuckle is a little more coveted by our friends the birds, so we make sure to pick it on a smaller scale. Responsible foraging is an important skill to teach to these up-and-coming nature lovers.

Even on the days when the clouds are out, there are lapses in the rain showers, giving us enough time to stretch our legs and jump in some puddles. The power of puddles cannot be understated when it comes to rambunctious two-year-olds — or even college students who have been pent up inside, but hey, who’s judging. Laughter comes with even the simplest of activities, such as moving all of the slimy earthworms out of the driveway, so they don’t get run over.

Whether I’m learning about the edible or invasive plants that surround my home, lying in a meadow of wildflowers or splashing in puddles, I’m developing a love for the nature I’m surrounded by. It may not be a mountain with spectacular views or a famous climb, but it is special in its simplicity. We are all probably experiencing varying degrees of stay-at-home orders, but if it’s possible, I urge you to explore the spaces around you. It’s a comforting feeling, knowing the secrets of these spaces, and it just takes a willingness to pause and look.

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