It is a truth universally acknowledged that as soon as you say “nothing much is going on here,” life happens:
The move you’d intended to make last year suddenly seems possible,
The weed that you meant to pull turns out to be four feet tall, and flowers,
And you find yourself held hostage by a very tiny, very loud white-crowned sparrows, who decided the perfect place to build a nest in a burner in the camp stove in the backyard that you were just getting ready to use to roast some peppers for salsa. The sparrows are not amused by your presumption.
Things happen on a very small scale these days, but things are happening nonetheless – mainly Spring, and its corresponding encouragements that the Earth endures, and that we will, too.
How do you find yourself, here in the year of our Lord 2022, Phase Four of the Endless Pandemic? We hope you are well. We are… still here. Still playing with metal, fumbling with embroidery, failing at gardening, and signing new contracts for work, thank God. Still managing school visits and business meetings in this strange, Zoom-centric existence. You?
Last summer when the State reopened for travel, many people eagerly grabbed suitcases and scheduled flights. We were still getting second shots in June, so were hesitant to take off – and were deeply disappointed when travel restrictions were reintroduced as Delta variant cases in California skyrocketed. We We’ll do something next summer, we comforted ourselves. Surely by next year we’ll find a little bit of time to go somewhere everything is safe.
Nope. “Everything” is never safe. That’s probably the truth writ largest and most clearly: we never were safe before a pandemic, and now we’re reminded at every turn that nothing is permanent and nothing can be counted on. In 2019, we had two big trips planned with dear friends to celebrate an anniversary that we put off… and we’ve now had to put that trip off repeatedly. Nothing we planned looks the same anymore, and our friends have a new family member, and all the conferences we’d thought to go to have long since been moved to Zoom. As there are likely to be more challenges ahead, we finally went ahead and took one the trips we’d put off for so long. We went to Iceland.
We chose Iceland because of its convenient location (just a little longer than a flight to New York), low COVID numbers and their robust vaccination response. Nearly their entire population received the two-shot vaccination and they seem to be boosted in the 70% range, country-wide. They no longer require any Covid Information was splashed all over to tell us how frequently all of the air in the plane was sucked through the HEPA filters (every three minutes) and the statistical probability of getting COVID germs on a flight if you’re wearing a properly fitted mask (one in forty-three thousand) but it was still difficult. Due to T’s worsening autoimmune issues, we really have heeded medical advice to cut our risks and stay home. Getting on a plane when we rarely even get into the car seemed very odd, and wearing masks for eight hours straight was… not something to leave one in the frame of mind to whimsically enjoy air travel again. We were reminded that people are loud and generally chaotic, and the whole thing was a bit stressful. We were quite ready to deplane when the time came.
Still, the inconveniences of the trip faded with the delight of meeting our friends at their air terminal and greeting our newest, drooliest member of the gang. (And then we spent forty-five minutes trying to figure out how to put his car seat into the rental car, which was a little reality check from all the rose-tinted happy of being together again.)
Traveling with a five month old and two women with autoimmune disorders meant we were neither going very far or very fast, but we so enjoyed every geyser, every glacier, every waterfall, lake, pond, and lichen-shrouded boulder that just riding in a minivan was a treat. It was wonderful to have a baby to squeeze, and he was every bit as charmed by us, as we were by him – it really does get boring drooling on all the same people all the time. It was delightful to engage in wide-ranging conversations that didn’t require a good Zoom connection, and cooking and eating together – even the simplest foods, because none of us were energetic enough for anything gourmet, was just a shared happiness. (The taste tests of Random Icelandic Flavors were amusing as well.) Iceland has a very, very low speed limit (90 kph – about 55 – on a two-lane highway 112 – 69 on a four-lane freeway) and permafrost, sand, -and-volcano ash roughened roads, so we drove slower than we wanted to, and more than we wanted to (which was a difficulty for our friends who drive on the other side of the road in the UK) and we were all tired, and it was windy and very cold sometimes and some of us were carsick, but we made it work. Traveling with people means you really love them – because honestly, traveling with another family shows ALL the cracks we normally like to hide, no? Five days was short for our usual length of trips – we prefer to go somewhere and sit for a minimum of fifteen days – but the five days seemed a reasonable amount of time for a first foray back into the world of Man.
Had we realized the risk, we might not have done it. We hadn’t remembered that a new (since January) requirement for reentry to the U.S. is a clean COVID test. We then understood how risky it is to engage in any kind of traveling if you don’t work solely on your computer — we’ve had asymptomatic friends who tested positive wand were obliged to stay where they were overseas for an additional five days until they tested clear which seems to be …strange, since no one tests people on the way OUT of the U.S…? We were grateful not to miss our flight or be required to come up with a week’s worth of new lodgings. That’s an expensive new wrinkle in travel, isn’t it? At any rate – everyone arrived home Covid-free, exhausted, and grateful.
We took our trip just before the newest sub-variant of Omicron sent cases skyrocketing again, just like last summer. We’re probably not going anywhere for another six months at least (well, nowhere out of the country, anyway – we’re past time to move to a new town, since the landlord raised the rent so much last year, but stay tuned on that), but we cherish the memory of every waterfall, every giant, honking gull dragging something flopping from the surf, every sulfur-scented spring, and every puddle of drool.