Do you remember the beginning? Early in the pandemic, measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 were haphazard. The world felt newly terrifying. We understood we needed to flatten the curve. But how? What spread the virus? Should we wear masks? Could we go to the grocery store?
Many of us cloistered inside. But, as science learned more, we realized we had one respite: the outdoors. Studies seemed to be finding that outdoor activities were safe when exercised with caution. And as the science developed, so did the regulations. State and National Parks began to reopen. We realized we had parks to go to—from the massive ones of great majesty to the corners of grass we can sit in down the block.
Growing up in the mountains of California, minutes from the beach, gave me an appreciation for being outdoors. But for the last chunk of my life, I had been living between Chicago and NYC. Being outside became less of a natural outcome of existing. Instead, it was a deliberate planned, processed, and curated event. At first, I had to double-down on this approach. I had to figure out exactly how to leave my cave of work to go walk a mile or two around Prospect Park in Brooklyn. I was thankful for space, no matter how urban, where I could see the sky and hear the breeze. But it was still a process.
Then, as the pandemic showed no signs of letting up, my lease was up and I was able to go back to my home in the mountains. Being outdoors has become less purposeful and more natural again.
Still, each time I walk out my front door and into the redwoods, they don’t pass by like they did growing up. The ocean’s roar isn’t as quiet as it was on my ears before. Watching the sunrise over a crystal clear lake in the mountains of California, for some reason, doesn’t quite have the same allure as a stroll in Prospect Park. Each lacking something, perhaps others or even community. But they both offered a type of magic that kept me alive this year.
Sam Van Pykeren