(Social) Life After Quarantine
Gathering in new ways
We are vaccinated and my 13-year-old daughter will be fully vaccinated by the end of the month. I feel blessed to live in a state that did so well with vaccination distribution. It is a liberating sensation to be able to finally walk around without masks feeling relatively safe from disease. Though I was conflicted at first about getting a vaccine that had not been run through years of trials, as time passes and the vaccine proves to be worthwhile, I feel positive that we made the right choice. I also remember my privilege as I watch others around the globe struggle to get access to the same medical care.
I have changed so much over the course of the last year as I nestled with my family in our little off-grid home, waiting for the pandemic to end. One thing I have realized is that I do not want to go back to "normal." My hope is to create a new normal and in future posts I will elaborate more on what that means for me. This past weekend was a good example of how I wish to gather with people in a new way.
My husband volunteers for the Taos Mountain Biking Association (TMBA) and this weekend he took me and our daughter on the annual campout. This year it took place in Tres Piedras where they volunteered on constructing the new Aldo Leopold Trail. Aldo Leopold is considered the father of wilderness ecology. He proposed the first federally recognized wilderness area in the country, the Gila National Forest in southern New Mexico, which would be the model for the future of wilderness conservation in the U.S. If you ever took a class in ecology, you most likely read Leopold's classic book A Sand County Almanac. Leopold was also a ranger in Tres Piedras in the early 1900s. His home is still there as a mecca for environmentalists and nature writers.
Tres Piedras is named for the three giant rock formations that dot the landscape at the edge of a beautiful ponderosa pine forest. Usually, this area draws rock climbers because of the tall intricate rock faces. I'm a hiker at heart and though there weren't many hiking trails, I was in awe of the scenic rocks, the immense power of their stature, the beckoning pillars jutting from the earth in primordial formation. I was also in love with the ponderosa pine forest. These have to be one of my favorite trees. The remarkable vanilla smell of dried needles that my friend Kari said reminded her of cookies. The gleaming rusty crimson bark that up close is woven in red fissures. Also, they are great for my new hobby, tree hugging, since they are so tall and straight and their boughs start several feet off the ground. Up close, you can feel their trunks swaying in the wind.
The camping trip couldn't have been more poorly timed weather-wise. By late afternoon, the storms began and did not stop until early the next morning. And by storms, I mean hail, lightning and thunder. Small windows of calm only drew more attention to the impending thunderbolts above our frail canopy as we all crouched together on slightly damp chairs and waited for the hail to subside so we could find a bush to pee in. We grilled in the rain as our dogs bickered over barbecue scraps and animal bones.
My favorite part of the campout was the few minutes of respite when one storm had passed before the next one approached and we could sit in the comfort of our shelter, a small fire just beyond and watch lightning strikes in the distance of dark sky between the ponderosa trunks--one jagged levin after the next, massive bolts of electricity playing amongst the night clouds. This was soon followed by more hail. I was grateful for the cozy haven of our little trailer. We barely slept all night as flashes of lightning lit up our interior, thunder shook our camper and we watched vigilantly to see if our roof would leak with all the puddling rain. I am happy to say we stayed dry and by morning the high desert forest floor had soaked up all the mud.
The next day we went to a ceremony hosted by our dear friend, Jesse, in Santa Fe called Weaving Woven. The small circle of her friends gathered to share our stories from the pandemic, to support each other and witness what each of us had gone through individually and as a collective. This felt so important to me and so timely. As we begin our slow transition out of quarantine and masked smiles here in the U.S., the media has put so much emphasis on our excitement to return to business as usual, but we hear very little about the nearly 600,000 people who died and their loved ones, or the people who permanently lost businesses and employment. There is still grieving to be done, and despite the American inclination to sweep it under the rug, we are still all experiencing the aftermath of this last year. In many places in the world, they are in the thick of tragedy.
This beautiful and thoughtful gathering was an invitation to grieve. As one woman put it, some of us are grieving the loss of the quiet slow pace the quarantine gifted us as the world is quick to speed up again and return to the normal that many of us don't pace with.
The ceremony asked us to weave our stories both figuratively and literally together. Literally, we wove our stories into a giant bowl, a container to hold all our spoken and unspoken states of being. Guess what I brought to weave? Pine needles! For me the pandemic birthed my deeper connection to nature as we moved off-grid and I found solace in the desert around me. I feel this transition time deeply and no desire to rush it. That is the old normal, always looking ahead at what's next. The new normal is appreciating what's now--the shade of a tree, the breeze on my face, old and new friends gathering in new ways, the soft fur of a freshly shorn pup, the smell of pine cookies and the spectacle of lightning strikes from a safe distance.