A frightful microbe has closed schools and shuttered offices. But open space is still open.

Which is why people and their dogs, can take a break from home schooling and home office work in these overturned days and explore the world.

It’s free. Even if there are other people around, you can easily maintain a social distance. And it’s renewing, even healing.

And it’s a good time of the year. The spring equinox came at 11:49 p.m. on March 19 — the earliest equinox in 124 years.

“The violets are ready to blossom,” said Diane Swanson, executive director of the Pratt Nature Center in New Milford, said.

“People should go out hiking,” said Paul Elconin, land conservation director for Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust, which has preserved more than 10,000 acres of open space in Litchfield County. “It’s good for you physically and it’s good for you mentally. Get away from the screens for a while.”

Like other organizations, the offices at the Pratt Center are closed. So are Weantinoge’s offices in Kent.

But their trails are open. So are hundreds of miles of trails throughout the region.

And when you pause, things open up to you.

Skunk cabbage is already showing up in swamps, Swanson said.

“The hellebore is starting to come up,” Ann Taylor, director of New Pond Farm in Redding, said of another wetland plant.

Unlike other nature centers, New Pond Farm is entirely closed to the public — and the threat of Covid-19 — because it has staff who live there and cannot work apart from the farm.

But Taylor said there are things people can see and hear anywhere.

“The red maples are just about to bud,” she said. “The peepers are out. The wood frogs are out.”

And although there’s been no snow to melt, there’s been enough rain to fill the vernal pools, where amphibians come to breed, leaving egg masses behind.

And birds are singing, rather than just chipping. The usual suspects at the backyard feeders — chickadees, titmice, cardinals — are all vocalizing, hoping to find a mate.

“I have bluebirds nesting in my bluebird boxes,” said Margaret Robbins, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store in Brookfield. “The first hummingbirds should be back by April.”

Woodpeckers rather than singing are rapping, hammering away to establish territories as well as to find insects to eat.

Which is one of the other things people can do, even in their backyards. Listen.

“It’s great to learn 10 bird calls,” Taylor said.

Along the state’s shoreline, there’s new life as well.

“Killdeer are on the move,” said Patrick Comins, executive director of the Connecticut Audubon Society. “Piping plovers are back. Oystercatchers are back. The swallows are coming back.”

Comins said Connecticut Audubon offices are closed at its different centers in the state. But its properties and their trails are open.

Another thing you can do is sit still in the darkness. On Saturday, March 28, it’s Earth Hour. People can take part by turning their lights off for an hour, starting at 8:30 p.m. For more information, go to www.earthhour.org

And if you don’t feel like sitting in the dark, go out and look at the night sky.

At that time Venus will be shining in the west — the brightest thing shining in the night sky.

“It’s high up in the sky,” said Monty Robson, director of the McCarthy Observatory in New Milford. “Venus is just spectacular.”

The winter constellations — Orion, Taurus, and Gemini — are still around. And Leo the Lion — one of the best spring constellations, with its sickle and triangle — is high overhead.

Cliff Watley, who helps organize astronomy nights at New Pond Farm, also said if you want to be an early riser, get up about an hour before dawn and look to the southeast. Three planets — Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars — will be grouped together.

“Jupiter is pretty bright and Mars is getting brighter,” Watley said.

Nearby to the right is the constellation Sagittarius. In mythology, Sagittarius was bold — a centaur, an archer. His constellation, traced out, looks more like a teapot. But galactically speaking, he’s in the middle of things.

“When you’re looking at Sagittarius, you’re looking at the center of the Milky Way,” Watley said.

Day or night, you can find your own center in these hard times. Go outdoors, even in your own backyard.

“It’s good,” said Swanson of the Pratt Nature Center. “Emotionally, physically, socially, environmentally, and spiritually.”

Connecticut Media Group