The Gwynns Falls Trail Alongside the RESCO Plant on Russell Street

The Gwynns Falls Trail Alongside the RESCO Plant on Russell Street

It’s Monday, but wow, it feels like we’re off the calendar altogether. This is my spring break, and I’d planned to spend it in upstate New York, visiting Harriet Tubman’s old house, stopping by Seneca Falls, and touring John Brown’s Farm, maybe a quick zip down the old Olympic bobsled course in Lake Placid, weather depending. And I was looking forward to space to read and write, all by myself. Less than a week ago I was crowdsourcing travel stops. Wow, that seems quaint now.

Now I wake up to the radio, off at 5:55am. It’s the BBC business report, and they are talking about stocks in Asia and Europe and how they’re falling. Then at 6:00am it’s the news, and it’s always terrible, but part of me is glad it’s at least the news, because at least we’re still here. and I’m glad it’s not the pledge drive anymore; I get that they need to raise money, but last week it just felt obscene.

My day started with my regular routine–make coffee, do the dishes in the sink, and put some yogurt, fruit, and granola in a bowl to eat while staring at my phone. I usually pack a lunch for my boo, but she’s working from home now too, so I didn’t bother. Would gladly trade the saved ten minutes for the world to return to pre-coronavirus times, but alas.

I scrolled through my phone, ate, scrolled, sipped coffee, scrolled, and then decided it was time to get to work. But how? I can’t concentrate at all. Everything is upside down, and no one knows how it will end. I had grading to do, though, so I set a timer for 25 minutes and graded. And then I did it again, and it felt like I’d run a marathon, time for a break.

R. texted just then, asked if I was up for a bike ride. I was! We biked to an errand, and then rather than ride around downtown to check its ghost town levels, I took us out to the Gwynns Falls Trail, back behind the casino, the bus station, and the waste treatment plant on the way to Middle Branch Park. I hadn’t been out this way in a long time, my bicycle-to-nowhere days mostly replaced by running at this point. But today what felt good was stretching the legs with a friend (at a safe distance) under the sun and blue skies. Those things are still here, and they are still real, and enjoying them doesn’t mean we’re not taking the rest of it seriously. And I want to do it while I can, because I just don’t know when what will make the most sense to save the most lives is to shut down everything, including my bike rides.

I snapped this picture as we stopped to blow our noses–it’s allergies, that’s all–and I wish there were even more flower trees. They are coming. We rode another 15 minutes and then turned back, off the trail and back on the street, heading to downtown. And we watched as tan military vehicles poured off I95, headed to the stadiums. The last time I saw them was April 2015. It wasn’t a good feeling.

I’m scared of so many things right now–of losing the freedom to travel by myself by bike, of losing my students, of my community losing its ability to support itself, of the mental health of so many people for whom being asked to stay put is so difficult. And I’m afraid of when we all get sick, because that’s the part that’s coming that I can barely peek at. Two friends texted me today about their coughs and fevers and fatigue, and I’m not sure what to say, except rest, drink water, and wait. There’s so much waiting right now.

The sight of those military vehicles reminded me also, again, of how quickly the authoritarian busts through to “save” the day and then never leaves. We have to save lives right now, but we have to keep an eye on the horizon, too.

We kept pedaling up the hill, both realizing we’re out of bike shape, and both hoping we have the space and freedom to get back into it. My goodness, I love riding my bike around. Here’s to another day of it.

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