May 28, 2021
When I first started taking picture walks five years ago, it was just a hobby that I squeezed in between the joys of grandparenting, driving senior citizens to their doctor’s appointments, and volunteering with my dog at a local school. Seventeen months ago, when this pandemic started, all those enjoyable and productive activities came to an abrupt halt. I was faced with entire days, weeks, and months with no particular plans and no particular purpose.
I was thankful to be retired; to not have to worry about working from home (or losing my job) while simultaneously caring for children who were struggling to navigate a world of virtual learning. But I had lost my sense of routine and a feeling of purpose that babysitting grandchildren and volunteering had afforded me.
Eventually, I carved out a new routine of Zoom and Facebook visits with our kids, grandkids and friends. Sometimes, whenever the weather cooperated and everyone was available, there would be ‘family walks’ to various preserves and nature centers —all of us wearing masks and avoiding close contact. I was staying connected, but it was a bittersweet reminder of how much everything had changed and how much we had all lost.
And there were still so many hours to fill…
Over time, those empty hours slowly started filling up with longer and more frequent picture walks. It was, in many ways, the perfect pandemic diversion: a solitary outdoor activity that kept me happy and totally absorbed. After every excursion, there would be hundreds of pictures to look forward to –another delightful and time-consuming task!
Once the pictures were labeled, cropped and edited, there was research to do and stories to write about all the different creatures I had found. When I posted those pictures and discoveries on Facebook or in this blog, it was just one more way to stay connected with others, one more lifeline.
This last year and a half has been exhausting, terrifying and isolating. Most of all, I have missed spending in-person time with our kids, grandkids, and friends. At my very core, I have missed just feeling comfortable and safe around other people without the fear of catching or spreading a deadly disease. Thankfully, we have been able to get vaccinated; our friends and family members (except for the little ones) have gotten vaccinated, and our lives are slowly beginning to blossom again.
My picture walks were a blessing during this long, difficult year. They gave me a routine and a purpose and a connection. My forays into nature also provided solace; an island of calm in a sea of turmoil. It’s just not possible to spend time outdoors and not feel comforted by the wonder of it all.