Debris on the Beach

It’s something to realize what we have been living for a year.  A year ago I scoffed at the idea that the virus would shut down schools, or even more, force our doors to close. But a few days later, I was very clearly proven wrong.

The first few weeks were a bit surreal.  I remember having the same feeling I had whenever I had missed a day of school for being sick.  That uneasy feeling that I was missing something, offset by the freedom to eat chips and pop in my pajamas all day.  I’m referring to being ill as a child, not what happened last spring.  Although the counterpoint was remarkably similar.

Since everything was shut down, Kathy and I and our two dogs hunkered down in our up north cottage.  We felt a little sneaky traveling at a time when everyone was telling us to stay home.  

It was also a time when everything was beginning to thaw, and absent much to do in the evenings or weekends, I started collecting debris on the beach.  I cannot find the picture, but by July my collection had out-grown all the vessels I used to store the debris and I made a crafty looking shadow box with all the junk neatly assorted.  I called it “COVID-19.” There’s a sustainability aesthetic thing there that I hope catches on.

Having a through-line in life or in various chapters has been helpful for me, and collecting debris on the beach was mine. But it was more than just cleaning up the shore, or giving me an excuse to walk barefoot in the sand.  It became like a treasure hunt, and stumbling upon a beach bounty was a mini thrill.  Better yet, was identifying the various items and wondering how or when they got there. 

I’ve always had a thing for beach glass also.  But instead of being inherently beautiful like beach glass, the junk I found had a story to tell.

There were other things that became important daily routines during that time.  Getting up early every day and capturing a shot of the sunrise was one.  Visiting beaches and parks never visited before, and feeling like we were the only people on earth was another. Watching Jeopardy or TikTok videos were additional simple, yet comforting activities.

I certainly don’t take lightly the hardship and harm that has come to people as a result of the pandemic.  But like any cathartic event, it helped me to reassess my priorities.  Rushing around doing this or that gave way to peaceful moments of reflection, spending time with family and learning to develop common interests. We even gave a puzzle a shot.  That one never made it.  We called it our “Unfinished Symphony.”

I still haven’t mastered the shuffle dance.

Now with an end in sight, I am curious whether we will all revert to our previous behaviors.  I am glad that businesses can open and kids can be in school.  I am also happy that fewer people are getting ill.  But I am not sure about more people on the road or crowding into stores. I REALLY liked the serenity and being allowed to let my dogs run on the beach without worrying about people–who were clearly dog haters–who used to remind me about the leash law. 

I am hopeful that we can retain some of the behaviors and mindsets that helped us through this last spring.  Although, I don’t think I will be able to call the next piece of beach junk “COVID-21.” It doesn’t have the same ring to it.  

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