Like much of the world, we’ve been under (very wishy-washy) shelter-in-place orders here in Virginia. I haven’t socialized with anyone outside my household, gone to a grocery store, restaurant, or to my office, in over a month. It’s the one time in my life where I being an introvert has served me well, because it turns out, I’m perfectly OK not leaving the house (except for daily walks or bike rides). Our lives have shrunk to our home and to whatever we can reach on foot or bike, since even the local parks closed their parking lots. It feels a little like we’ve gone back on time: Kids are out on their bikes or hanging by the creek all the time, families are out walking together, people are actually hanging out on their porches and sunrooms…after decades of lifelessness, it’s like the cicadas finally came out. It all feels a little Mayberry, except for, you know, the ever-present threat of doom and death.
We are quarantining in the relative luxury of my parents’ townhouse, and although I stare longingly at the large yards and impressive square footage of the single family homes in my neighborhood, we do have a small deck that backs out to some greenery, and plenty of local trails to explore. I do have to say that this whole experience has unexpectedly helped me embrace the suburbs, because when you can’t go to a restaurant, coffee shop or hang out with people, the highlight of your day becomes your daily (socially distant) exercise routine, and it’s nice to be able to dip into the woods or find yourself standing on the edge of a small marsh so quickly. Most of my walks are just two or three mile jaunts around my neighborhood, but a few times a week, my husband and I have been exploring the further out trails on our bikes. Another surreal thing about this whole experience is that my husband is a frontline healthcare worker in a hospital treating lots of coronavirus patients, so he’s moved into the basement for the time being…we’re kind of in a long distance marriage where we only hang out on socially distant bike rides and mostly communicate through text and facetime. It feels like a strange kind of deployment.
Anyway, we’ve explored two major trail systems: One is heavily trafficked with numerous outlets to dozens of subdivisions, and is mostly open meadow, with a wide creek and seven or eight miles of mostly trailed paths. Another on the outer edges of our town is more isolated and less trafficked; it’s wooded, and feels more wild. We only ran into a handful of other walkers and bikers, and the creek was mostly devoid of crowds, except for a few teenage girls who I think were making TikTok videos. I actually didn’t know this particular trail system even existed until a few days ago…I’ve always enjoyed the fanciful notion of encountering a hidden micro-world parallel to our ordinary world, and this felt a little bit like that.