Greetings to all of my quarantined friends! I can imagine that most of us- if not all of us- are hunkered down at the moment, staying in one place and doing our best to keep physically distanced from others. For the last two weeks I’ve thought about writing a blog post every day, and then inevitably, don’t write a thing. I’m about two weeks into a quarantine (16 days, to be exact), and one of the biggest things I’ve noticed is that it’s been hard to focus. Hard to sit down and get the coronavirus and all of its implications out of my head and focus on something that takes any sort of mental power. In other words, it’s been hard to write.
But here I am, I’m feeling just a bit more settled today (or at least, at the moment!), and I’m going to seize that energy and post an update.
First, a little glimpse into my part of the world. I live outside of Philadelphia, and we had identified coronavirus cases somewhat early on (in terms of identified cases in the US). It’s hard to remember dates, but the county where I live and the county that borders the school I work for had a few cases in early March, and from there things moved quickly. By March 13th my school closed for the day so that teachers could get some online learning training; the intention was that we’d be back in school on Monday, March 16th, but I think we all knew that wouldn’t happen. That next week there seemed to be a new restriction or new cancellation nearly every hour: school were closed for two weeks, parks and libraries and businesses closed, then my county (and surrounding counties) were issued “stay at home” orders.
The stay at home order isn’t quite a lockdown (though maybe that’s a synonymous term? I’m not sure). We’re allowed out for groceries and medicine, and to go to work if it’s deemed an essential service. We’re also allowed outside to exercise, take the dog on a walk, get fresh air. The “rules” here get a little hazy. I know that in other places, there are more restrictions on outside time. I could certainly be misinformed, but I read that in France, people can go outside but need to stay within 1 kilometer of where they live. And in the UK, I believe the rules state that you only get one allotted walk or exercise session a day.
Here, it’s generally understood that you shouldn’t stray too far from where you live, but there don’t seem to be restrictions on what, exactly, that means. Initially, the nearby state park where I always hike had closed, then the trails reopened. But other parks that had remained opened are now closed, because too many people flocked there. It’s being left largely up to us, as individuals, to sort of ‘self-police’, and use good judgment. So, don’t walk or hike in an area where there are too many people. If you go to a trailhead and the parking lot is full, go somewhere else.
I’ve been mostly staying at home, and walking around the neighborhood where I live. I’ve made a few exceptions and have driven out to my park, and for the most part the trails are actually more quiet than walking around my neighborhood is! I’m grateful that I can still get in my car and go somewhere, but I also want to be careful about this. I worry that if everyone gets in their car to go somewhere, areas will become overrun. So for now (and as long as it’s allowed), I’m going to limit the park visits, and if I go, get there early in the morning when it’s guaranteed to be quiet. Otherwise, it’s walks around home for the time being.
And walking, as ever, has kept my spirits up. These have certainly been a difficult few weeks, and for me, one of the most challenging aspects is not knowing how long this will last. Plans are cancelled, travel is completely upended, none of us know how long we will be sitting inside of our homes. There are the larger questions, too: if and when we’ll get a handle on this virus? What the cost will be in the meantime: who will get sick, how many lives will be lost, what will the economic landscape be when we’re gotten to the other side?
It’s easy to get overwhelmed, and when I find my thoughts moving in this direction, I get up and I move. I lace up my shoes and go outside and sometimes it’s just 15 minutes around the block. Sometimes I walk for an hour. Sometimes- if it’s raining- I just walk inside my apartment. Back and forth and back and forth. I put earbuds in and listen to music and move. It helps. It’s the best thing I know to do in times like these.
Many have commented that at least the weather is getting nicer, that spring is arriving and trees and flowers are beginning to bloom. It’s true, and the walking will become more beautiful, but I can’t help but be heartbroken, too. I walk in all seasons- winter doesn’t really slow me down too much- and while I’ll certainly enjoy nicer weather, it’s also a reminder of what I’ve lost. Nice weather had always been an indication that my adventures would soon be starting- and indeed, in less than a week, I was supposed to be on a flight to Japan, walking through the mountains of the Kii Peninsula, hopefully catching the last of the cherry blossoms. Needless to say, I’m no longer going to Japan. I hope it’s a trip that I can one day reschedule, maybe for next year’s spring break, but it feels too far away for me to even be hopeful. Right now, I’m just sad and disappointed. I’m also keeping perspective, knowing that there are much harder losses for so many to bear, but allowing myself to mourn the loss of this particular adventure.
In fact, I’m not sure that I’ll be able to go on any long walks this year, and I’m having a difficult time sitting with that. I’d just bought a new pair of hiking shoes earlier this month, and after a couple weeks of hiking and walking, they felt good and broken in. But a few days ago, I went back to wearing last year’s pair, reasoning that maybe I should save these new shoes for a time when I know I’ll be going on a really long walk.
It feels like I’m putting those new shoes up on a shelf forever, and I have to remind myself that it’s not the case. They won’t be put away forever. This ordeal might feel as though it has no end, and indeed, it’s hard to see a light when we don’t even know how long the tunnel is. But it will end, we’ll all emerge, we’ll dust off those new shoes and dance down a trail in the summer sunshine again.
In the meantime, be well, send news, stay safe and dream of brighter days ahead.