Photos from Sentinal Pass in Banff National Park
We’re seeing the white of our walls. Noticing the patterns in our area rugs and studying our partner’s quirks. Pursuing hobbies we’ve had on our to-do list for at least 3 years. Cooking feasts for no one else. Going for long runs through the park. Calling up old friends. Coming up with ideas (most of them bad). We’re finally able to do the things we struggle so much to do normally. We’re being present. The simple fact that we aren’t actually able to go anywhere else gives us a rare opportunity really see our day-to-day for its brilliant simplicity. We’re staying home.
There’s already too much information (and misinformation!) circulating about COVID-19, yet it feels like talking about anything else is ignoring the most tremendous-and-unsightly elephant that has ever been in our room. How do you write about travel when we’re supposed to be sheltering in place? When we’re at home “until further notice”? When we’re not supposed to get on airplanes or go to gatherings or interact with other human beings or do any of the things we so easily took for granted before?
All of this, and I can acknowledge how good those of us “trapped at home” have it, really. Because there are also those stocking shelves and delivering groceries. Those afraid to stay home and lose their wages. Hospital workers who are on the real front lines of this.
In a time that we are otherwise losing our minds – choosing between bean varietals for dinner and wasting our hours on the most boring Instagram stories – there is at least one thing that is doing better than usual. While bars and storefronts shutter, nature is doing great.
According to a study by Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (based on data from WIND) carbon emissions from China were down by 25% compared to February 2019. History suggests emissions will swing upwards again once the world has cleared disaster, but it does feel like one small victory.
I’ll also clarify this by saying that State Parks have closed in more than seven states and at least twelve National Parks have closed roads, campgrounds, or restricted visitation entirely. In some places, hikers are being urged to cancel hikes or camping plans. It’s not entirely true that being outdoors is the only safe place to be, because the reality of it is that much of our outdoor areas are still crowded with people. We depend on gas stations off the highway to fill our cars and small town grocery stores to stock up and rangers to help us in case of emergencies. Many states are still permitting hiking amidst the rapid changes, and if you can do it safely while maintaining social distance, you should GO FOR IT. Get your ass outside. It will be good for you.
But it’s possible there will be a time where stay at home literally means “stay at home”. Even a summer road trip could pose a risk. And those are times when we need to recognize that we shouldn’t only be appreciating grandeur in nature. It can also be houseplants we bought as seedlings now outgrowing their pots. The spider we used to carefully evict who now is allowed to stay (true story). Our vegetable gardens almost ready to be planted with a handful of seeds that will become a full garden by summer’s end. The mountain we can see from our window. The grass growing green on our afternoon walk. Landscape photos from backpacking trips and summer vacations that we’ve never missed more.
Nature has always had a way of putting things in perspective for me. It serves as a gentle reminder that we are just a speck in the universe and human civilization is but a blip in the entirety of time.
This is an overwhelming moment because we are forced to recognize just how vulnerable we are. But in a way, I think we are no more vulnerable than we always have been. The only difference now is that we’re forced to be aware of it.