My husband and I have always liked the outdoors. We enjoy hiking and have even spent a week long summer vacation visiting Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Once or twice a year we actually manage to take the kids out with us hiking in our local National Park. We take the dog, Rosie, with us too, and feel proud of ourselves that we “aired our family out,” by getting them away from their screens. However, in this time of Covid 19, we have taken hiking to a whole new level. Instead of participating in family hikes once or twice a year, we are now hiking two or three times a week.
Normally we are a very busy family. My oldest daughter lives away at college and when we are lucky enough to have her grace us with her presence, she either wants to shop, sleep, study or make arrangements to see her friends. We are kind of a “pit stop” on the way to better plans. My younger daughter is equally busy. She is the queen of “hanging out” and at any moment has three or four friends lounged out across her bed passing around a bag of chips. Getting her to join us on a hike usually takes quite a bit of creativity and persuasion. Our son is the youngest by many years so we still have a captive participant for our hikes; however, he has tennis, baseball and Sunday school making up his weekends. Additionally, he tells us that hiking is boring for him unless his sisters are dragged along for the experience. I’d like to blame our busy schedules on our kids’ schedules, but that is just not the case. In a typical weekend my husband is scheduled for two tennis matches or practice sessions. Add in my own weekly tennis clinic and spin class, and now that I think about it, it is a miracle that we even have a moment to speak to each other, let alone go for a weekend hike.
But now we are in a time of quarantine….All of our schedules are cleared. My daughter left her sorority house and campus life behind. My younger daughter’s busy senior year in high school came to a screeching halt. Even baseball season for our son was canceled in 2020. There are no tennis matches, or gyms to go to. I actually miss the parade of teenage girls who are always camped out at my kitchen table. Now I just stare at my four immediate family members and hear my hyperactive husband ask, “Who wants to go for a hike?” In a time when there are limited options we all pile in the family car and drive to our local hiking location, Valley Green. Although the kids may be grumbling, they agree to go. Our dog, Rosie is the most willing participant. Come to think of it, she has never gotten so much attention in her whole life!
Once we get out of the car, we can exhale. Our family is surrounded by beauty. Spring is beginning to blossom and the leaves are starting to appear on the trees. Some branches are still bare, but the creek flows in such a soothing way. For a moment, I forget about the quarantine and all of the losses that we are experiencing. I forget about the fact that my mother’s childhood best friend died today. I let go of the worry about my patients that I am carrying like a deep dark cloud in my heart. Each of the traumas they suffered this week impacted my soul. I don’t think about my own daughter missing her senior class trip, prom and graduation. I release the sadness of seeing my older daughter’s wonderful college semester be interrupted. I let go of my worry about what next year will look like and whether either of my girls will be able to go away to college. I choose to not think about what the academic and social losses will mean to my young son. For just a moment my husband lets go of his uncertainty about the future of his business.
Instead I choose to watch my son run off and jump on the rocks next to the stream. His sister chases after him while my oldest walks Rosie. I look up at the sky and feel the sun warming up the brisk cool day. Being out in nature reminds me that there are bigger things than the Cornona virus. Bigger than news reports, and fear are spirituality and hope. When I am in nature with people I love, I can connect with something larger than myself. Instead of focusing on losses I choose to listen to the sound of the stream and I continue to exhale. I watch a blackbird fly overhead and remind myself that this is just one part of our story and that this period of time will pass.