April 14, 2020

Lots of people out today.


The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.

-Helen Keller


It’s forty degrees on the rail-trail and colder than it has been recently.   The sky is partly cloudy and there is a nine MPH wind that intermittently blows the temperature well down into the thirties. The coronavirus hit and the schools will be closed for at least three weeks. This is day 5 (counting the weekend), as of this writing (it will be posted later). We still don’t know anyone, personally, that has contracted the disease, but they’re sick people out there. Testing is still abysmal. Trump recommended that congregations of people be limited to no more than ten, when possible, with the result that the kids are sequestered, not quarantined, at home. They have cabin fever for sure. Matty (9) and Emmy (13 in about 2 weeks) are amenable to going for a six-mile walk with Waldo and me and I call them to make sure they dress warmly because it is quite cold when the wind blows.

As we walk along, Waldo out front, eagerly pulling at the leash and picking up sticks, I like to point out various things I’ve noticed about that part of nature we’re trekking through. Emmy knows about the Emmy bird and we listen out for it. Nothing yet. I point out how the trees have little buds on their branches and some of the other plants have tiny leaves growing from their buds. Spring is all coiled up, ready to be sprung — a little surprising, given the temperature today. I show the kids where, about a week ago, the wind blew over a big old tree, taking out part of one of the fences. The city came down to the trail and cut up the tree with a chainsaw and left the pieces on the other side of the fence line. Robins have reappeared and we watch them flit about doing their bird thing. Emmy and Matty already know that they are dinosaurs, that birds are the only ones left from the mass extinction millions of years ago. We’re able to look out over the bare landscape, made naked by the winter, and get a good sense of the area we’re walking through – something we won’t be able to do during the months ahead, once all the leaves come out and block our view. Emmy thinks it looks too barren and is ugly. I point out that it’s just different and that soon, we’ll be walking through a green tunnel that’s full of new life and is incredibly beautiful. We come across a couple of algae-infested ponds and cross over a creek and that is quite scenic. We stop and listen to the tinkling voice of the water as it trickles its way around the rocks and sticks in its way.

As we walk along, we talk about all kinds of things that interests the kids. One of the big things is the coronavirus and its impact on our lives. They’ve been told to keep six feet away from other people, but other than that, it is safe to be here, outside, amongst a part of the world that doesn’t have such a heavy human hand controlling it. Other people are on the trail, some afoot, some jogging, some pushing baby carriages, some on bicycles, and some walking their dogs. The people keep their distance, but Waldo eagerly meets other dogs, when allowed, and I can’t avoid a greeting pat or two as we pass. No one, of course, appears ill. Who would go for a walk in the cold if they weren’t feeling well? Still, we are mindful that there are asymptomatic carriers. The kids aren’t afraid of getting sick, they know that the virus doesn’t seem to be affecting people under 18 much, but they are also aware that they could pass it on to those of us that are older and they know the consequences of that could be bad. So, we’re careful. It’s the social isolation that bothers the kids the most. Emmy misses her friends at school, she is a teenager now, and Matty is just bored by having to entertain himself all day.

As we walk along, I try to turn the kids’ attention to the natural world. I’m hoping if they open themselves up to experience it, they’ll learn to appreciate it and value it. It also turns their awareness toward the moment, something else to be enjoyed and treated lovingly. I try to encourage them to be curious, about everything, and to appreciate the golden opportunity of not knowing – something I feel is richer than the complacent hubris of thinking you know.

Waldo can help me out with all of this too. But for this trip, I try to just entertain the kids and give them some relief from the boredom of being locked inside. The coronavirus disruption to life might just last quite a long while.

And what better place to give them that relief than out on the rail-trail with Waldo?


Always eager to make new friends.

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