Some say the pandemic is winding down. That the time of obligatory masks and travel restrictions is close to an end, and we can go back to “normal”. Honestly, I believe that’s a bunch of hog-wash, myself.
What exactly do people understand by “normal”? Which “normal” are we hoping to get back to? The one before everyone actually washed their hands after using the bathrooms in the pub? Or the one after that?
The “normal” before saying “no” to being overly crammed in a restaurant, sardine-style, just so that the place could make the most bang for their buck, or the one after, where people get a little bit of elbow room due to mandatory capacity restrictions?
The “normal” before we shot each other for no particular reason at all, before every other person carried a semi-automatic gun (it seems) and hated everyone enough to start shooting? Or the “normal” after that?
The “normal” before Trump was in the White House, or the “normal” after it?!
I am really not sure if I ever want the “before” times, in most of the cases. One thing I do know for sure: the world of tomorrow won’t get us “back” to anything we know. Normal, or otherwise. Whatever happened in the past year and a half, or four and a half years, or … fill in the blanks … can never take us “back” to anything we ever knew before. It can just move us forward, if we’re lucky …
As for me, I am grateful and happy to be here now, to have survived so far and to be looking forward, in health (fingers crossed), to what’s ahead …
This year, just like the last, we have been just tackling every day as it comes, working, cooking, “socializing” mostly remotely, and heading out for day trips (still no overnight stays yet, although we’ve been vaccinated), sometimes for something as close as a stroll in a new park in a neighboring town. This is when we’re not working, which is most every day from early morning till mid-evening.
We have not left North Carolina this year, but we seem to find new places to visit, or old ones that we check out with new eyes. It’s always refreshing and recharging when it’s possible to get a change of scenery.
We drove to the beach late last year (North Myrtle Beach, SC), and earlier this year (Kure Beach, NC) for a day of shooting (think Canons, not guns) water birds and eating fresh seafood sandwiches on the beach. It’s amazing to me how much I can love the ocean and the beach in the winter, when there are hardly any people and much peace there, almost no crowds, and how much I want to hide away from it in the summer …
Mating water birds in Kure Beach, NC
We discovered a beautiful city park around UNC Charlotte one Saturday where we watched a track competition live – the first time either of us saw athletes compete in the pole vault competition. We went shopping in Charlotte, but to “relax” we grabbed a Mediterranean sandwich at Le Kebab Grill and headed for the park. We stopped at Childress Vineyards on the way back for a relaxing afternoon.
Sipping some sweet sangria wine at Childress Vineyards, outside Greensboro, NC
I lived close to 12 years in Greensboro (which is now about an hour away from us), but I never walked in the Bur-Mill Park. So, we headed that way on a chilly April day to see the first signs of an early spring and to literally get lost (not as a plan, but as a matter of fact) on the trails around the lake. The trails were great, groomed, smooth and easy, even for me; the park deserted and quiet, but this was the worst marked park we have ever experienced – we were never quite sure where we were and where we were headed. The city sounds make you feel safe though and give you the distinct idea what you are never “too-too” lost, and that all the trails will lead to civilization. Eventually.
Remains of last fall (the fragile skeleton of a leaf) on new life - the fresh moss of this spring, bright green in Bur-Mill Park, Greensboro, NC
Also in April, we drove to Wilmington, NC. We oh-ed and ahh-ed over the amazing 400-year-old live oak trees and the camellia gardens, as we welcomed spring, alongside active bees in one of the first truly “hot” weekends of the spring. We then headed to Wilmington’s waterfront for a seafood sandwich and some ice-cream.
This past weekend, we headed over to Stone Mountain, in Dobson, NC where we found one of the entrances to the park closed due to Covid restrictions for occupancy. When the whole world is all but doing away with the masks and everyone’s slipping into that “normal” again … Covid is still out there, keeping the world changed, it seemed. One of the entrances was open, but the trails were not overcrowded, despite the holiday weekend. I guess the restrictions helped with something. We hiked the upper falls trail and shot the falls, draping like infinite pools over the edge of the cliffs, and some very active cedar waxwings – such interestingly lively birds!
Cedar waxwing and The Upper Falls in Stone Mountain State Park, NC
On the way back from Stone Mountain, we stopped at Shelton Vineyards where we tasted some wine on their beautiful patio, watched geckos playing peek-a-boo with guests and sunning in the gentle sun while listening to a cover band – the first outdoor concert this year.
The patio at Shelton Vineyards in Dobson, NC
In-between all these one-day road trips, we spent weekends celebrating birthdays, our anniversary, Easter, and getting to know our new cat, Blue – a skittish and fearless (yes, she’s a conundrum!) Siamese mix which has kept us busy since she’s come into our home in early March.
Blue looks pretty much settled in here. We hope it's true ...
In addition to these outings and our regular walks, we also walked trails and parks in towns all around us – Apex, Hillsborough, Sanford, Fuquay-Varina, to name a few. We’re looking forward to do more and even go on some overnight trips this summer. But the time we’ve had so far has been wonderful to get to visit or revisit places we otherwise would have ignored had we been too busy chasing other states and countries …
During all our outings, we take the time to really pay attention to the world, the earth, mostly, time to observe the seasons, their passing, count our days and hours, learn birds, and frogs, and other creatures. We live slower lives and learn more about nature, its permanence. In other words, invest our time and senses in what’s eternal, rather than ephemeral.
Maybe it's all a plan of the infinite to slow us down and protect us from ourselves, from our potential and inevitable wreckage. How can we not welcome it?!
I am welcoming this lull. I am soaking it up, masks, and all. I am seldom in a rush to get into that “normal” again, whatever that might look like … tomorrow.