I have now been back from Patagonia and in Missouri for a month. I completely quarantined for two weeks on my parents’ farm. I have gradually begun to venture out for groceries, post office, little errands. Visits with friends who respect that I’m practicing physical distancing and understand that no risks are worth it for me right now.
Right when I got home, my mom found two huge black snakes in the chicken coop. I watched her with awe as she grabbed each one just under its head with her bare hands (actually maybe she wore gloves). I don’t really like snakes. I don’t mind them, and I’m not into touching them or picking them up. And like spiders, I think they have their place on this planet.
I held the feed sack while she stuffed their writhing bodies into it, and I walked across the farm with her to relocate them. Chile doesn’t have snakes so Pele was quite curious. I was glad to see her give them their space when they emerged.
Since being home, I have attended one Black Lives Matter peaceful protest. Yesterday I tried to attend a BLM march that was to take place in Weston but it was canceled due to threats of gun violence from… shall we call them white supremacists?
I’ve done a lot of reading lately. Biking with my dog and now some long solo rides around farm country. So far if I have to pedal on a highway, I prefer Hwy 45 as it has such a nice shoulder. And the system of trails around Weston Bend Park through the Missouri River bottoms are lovely. Weston’s streets are quiet. I love getting out early when it’s cool and traffic is a minimum.
It’s been almost eight years since I road biked. Like a big flip in a technical rapid, a bad crash can leave us rattled on the other side. It can take time to trust our own abilities when our bells get wrung. Today I pulled all the way over when three semi trucks came up 45 behind me. A hay truck must have driven through yesterday so the shoulder was pretty covered with stray hay and it felt too precarious continuing with something so big passing my body. I’d rather be safe than sorry when it comes to my flesh and my bones and pavement and a driver I don’t know yet.
And biking is so thrilling. I love going fast. I love the way my mind unwinds as the scenery rolls past me. I love the adrenaline I get from pushing through a physical barrier.
Thanks to technology, I’ve been able to keep connected to friends and family far away and still this has been… challenging. This reentry. The highs have felt too high. The lows have felt too low. The attempts at making a clear plan for life right now seem somewhat futile. Everything feels uncertain.
A common theme when I talk to friends about this moment is that life’s normal stresses haven’t gone anywhere and there is this new layer to life. Sort of a constant, low frequency stress that doesn’t go away. That won’t go away for a while.
I may be ingesting too much news and I was so cut off save the podcasts and Democracy Now! while in Futa, that I find myself somewhat addicted to the media input. Incapable of turning off my phone and tuning in. Or tuning out as it were. I find myself checking my email too much.
Typically when I am moving through the expected challenges of transitioning from one reality to another, I find a way to go to the river. Paddling and surfing are my “drug” of choice. I did canoe a short section of the Platte river with Pele and some friends. Being on the water was so peaceful. Floating quietly through snags. Bug and bird songs vibrating through me. The mud banks have their own type of beauty. Erosion. Water’s effect on land makes sense to me. The contours. The empty space. And the way liquid flows through its own historical pathway.
Lots of walks. LOTS of walks. A few training workshops, continuing ed, Zoom calls, Grand Canyon updates and meetings, and some connecting to online teaching resources. Some career planning.
Still, last week I found myself binge watching Netflix. Ok… time for a change.
To the bike.
To the network.
Find answers. Find solutions. Think outside the box I find myself feeling stuck in.
I am lucky. I am blessed. I am thankful for this time to cook with my mom and hang out with my dad. Today my sister called and we had such a needed catch up after she asked why mom and dad weren’t answering their phones (carrying phones is not a priority for them) and why I hadn’t been on social media for four complete days.
I’ve had long chats with both brothers too. Made some plans. Articulated some life goals. It is amazing to me how fiercely I love them. How certain ties are so strong. I pity the fool who crosses someone I love. Call it my white privilege or mid-western naiveté: I have no qualms about fighting to protect the people and places that are mine.
This week I’m doing a little mission to take care of some life stuff. Baggage. Build-up. It is requiring me to plan carefully. To consider what I need. And my number one goal is to stay safe and connected. Safe for my own dreams as the reports of post-COVID side effects continue to trickle in. Safe for my family so we can continue to safely enjoy one another’s company. Safe for my friends so we can resume someday the things we love doing together. Safe for my communities. Safe for this world.
We each have to find the path that is right for us during this time. I feel lucky in a way not to have kids. Not to be worried that someone is counting on me for survival. And I feel so lucky to have my family, my friends, and my dog…
Today I had to call my insurance broker to check on things since getting back stateside a few months later than planned. We had a lovely catch-up on how things are going in WV. We talked about the media and the power they have and also the power each one of us has in our own individual worlds. The power of community.
My broker grew up in Chicago. He said he had taken the diversity in his neighborhood for granted. I told him how heavy my heart is that yesterday’s BLM march through Weston was canceled due to threats of gun violence. I wonder: what is so scary about people peacefully walking through a town to make a statement that we want everyone to be safe in their communities? In my communities? In every community? What is so scary about such a gathering that it would inspire others to take up arms and shoot into a group of peaceful protesters?
It’s a time to come together. A time to look deep inside at the things we think we want. The things we think we need to be happy. An opportunity to re-evaluate our choices. Our goals. Our aspirations. It’s a time to reach out to one another rather than turn away. It’s a time to own and learn from the past, shift who we are in the present, and live up to what we can be in the future.
And this new reality… it requires a certain type of self-care. Patience. Compassion. It requires a level of grace that I’m not sure I’ve ever known when or how to cultivate. I am certain I won’t find it all by myself.
It’s a fluid pathway, written by the past, anchored to momentum, and directed by our individual choices. It’s water’s power of erosion. It’s contours and empty space. There are snags, places where the current detours and stagnates. And still, we are all flowing in the same direction. Going to the same place.
Be safe. Be well.