I went out to my favorite park today. It was the first sunny day we’ve had in a long time, and the blue skies drew we outside. I felt like I’d be safe at the park, especially on the nature trails where I don’t usually see a lot of people during the week.
But before I get into that let me tell you about the most extraordinary thing that happened while I was in the woods. I had followed a popular trail half way around a lake. Every corner seemed to have more people and I wanted to find a quieter place in the trees, so I veered off onto an old, unmarked cross-country ski trail. I figured wherever it ended I’d recognize where I was and find my way back to the car. And no one else was walking that trail.
When I was quite far back into the woods, I noticed three red bellied woodpeckers screeching and chasing each other among the top of very tall trees. I stopped to watch. They stopped and watched me. In all my years visiting this park I’ve never had a red bellied come to my hand. Sometimes they’re interested, and they always take advantage of any seed I drop, but they’ve never landed on my hand.
Bet you can guess what happened today!
Yes, I was looking the other way, watching a chickadee decide whether to come in for a treat when I felt something with considerable weight land on my hand. I looked out of the corner of my eye and couldn’t believe what I saw. I had to really look, and I had plenty of time because he was sitting there eying me and considering which seed he wanted. He sat there and ate every single peanut out of my palm, leaving all the oilers, before he flew off.
I have no pictures because I had my long lens on the camera, too long to catch a shot of him sitting on my hand.
I refilled my hand and waited. I saw him, or one of his friends, come in for more treats from a long and high way off. He swooped down at what seemed to be breakneck speed, aiming directly for my hand, and landed with quite a bit of force. And once again we watched each other, eye to eye, as he swallowed down every peanut there.
Well! I decided if they were going to be this assertive I was changing my camera lens and grabbing a shot. But of course by the time I got the short lens on the camera they were long gone.
Still. It’s something I’ll never forget and I hope you can imagine.
Back to my miscalculation.
I figured the number of people at the park would be similar to most other weekdays that I’ve been there. But the parking lots were full. There were families with kids screaming and running everywhere. There were lots of individuals quietly walking too, but overwhelmingly there were groups of people tromping around the trails. It was noisy. It was crowded.
It felt like a Saturday, and then I realized that it might as well be a weekend day. Kids were no longer in school. People were off work. There will no longer be a difference between weekdays and weekends. I felt a small pang at the loss of my quiet weekday mornings at my favorite park.
And then I realized that none of us should have been there. That maybe we do need to close the parks. I know that people have been cooped up for a couple weeks, that kids are going crazy and need to expend some energy. But maybe that should be done in their own back yard.
And that’s where I’ll be staying into the foreseeable future.
Yesterday in the United States almost 1000 people died of the virus. The day before it was just over 900. When these kinds of numbers were being reported in Italy I couldn’t fathom the enormity. Now that enormity is here. Here in the states 5,713 people are dead, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
So I realized, as I left my favorite park, that maybe I won’t be back any time soon. I will miss it. But it’s important that we all stay home. All of us. Stay home. That’s the only way we will get through this.
And on a lighter note, I had a successful grocery store venture this morning, though I spent twice what I would usually spend because I’m hoping not to go back for at least two weeks.
And look what I found!
But today’s post is not about the toilet paper…it’s about the realization that a stay-at-home order means just that. Stay at home. Don’t go to the park to walk. Walk around your neighborhood or your yard if your neighborhood is too busy. If your yard is too small then walk around your house. But stay away from everyone else.
It’s going to be hard. But we’re strong. We can do this.
We have to.