Looking Up at the Blue Sky Above St. Mary’s Park at Paca & Druid Hill

Picture of a blue sky with a whisper of white clouds. A tree and a lamp post are also in the picture.

I was so, so tired by the end of last week. I start every week with a to do list that seems pretty manageable, and yet all it takes is a couple extra tasks getting dropped on the plate to throw me out of whack. By the time I hit Friday I was toast, and when I finished my tasks for the day, the last thing I wanted to do was ride my bike somewhere. But I was meeting some friends and collaborators for an outdoor meeting in the park, so I had to suck it up and ride my bike down the hill.

I filled my bike bag with water, snacks, an extra layer in case it got cold (it did), and a tiny camping chair so I wouldn’t have to sit on the ground (I hate sitting on the ground) and headed off.

And I instantly felt better. My bike is magic, I swear, a total mood lifter. Pedaling along and checking out my neighborhood reminded me, again, that the view from this desk chair in what used to be a dining room is not the only, or anywhere near the most important, view.

I was the first to arrive at St. Mary’s Park at 4pm on the dot, because I’m an on-the-dot kind of person. Nobody else was there yet, so I walked my bike around and read the historical signs about this historical place, the site of the first Roman Catholic seminary in the United States. I said how-you-doin’ to other folks in the park, the guy reading a newspaper and grunting about it, the woman having a snack and reading a book, the guy talking on his cell phone. I cannot begin to express how much I miss easy and regular interactions with strangers, and it felt good to get a nibble of that again.

I heard my name–N. and B. were there. N. is an on-the-dot person, too. We set up near the turned-off water display at the north end of the park and waited for everybody else. I settled into my tiny chair and spent the next bit of time just staring up at this sky. It was such a nice fall day, and here I was with good friends, enjoying the sunshine and laughing about whatever foolishness we were laughing about. It all felt so human, and so much doesn’t these days.

S. and S. came, bringing beers for all and extra chairs. L. wandered over with his camera, and A. and N. joined us from the other side of the park, where they’d been waiting for us for 40 minutes. S. came next, and we settled in to talk about teaching, and how we might teach together, even though we all teach at different institutions and about different things. When we’ve had these conversations before, the first question is always, Who is going to pay for the bus? But we aren’t going anywhere anymore, which is terrible, and also, how can we use this to our advantage? How can the Zooms, if we can’t avoid them, enable something really new and important? Some of us were already doing this, so we got to hear how it’s going, and we got to brainstorm for spring.

There’s a real sense of optimism in planning for spring, and I felt really refreshed by taking a step out of this eternal present I feel like I’ve been in for months to think about futures. I am so lucky to live in a place with so many thoughtful people, and in a city with so many beautiful parks. I had to leave a bit early to ride home before it got dark, but I left recharged in such good ways. I waved hello to other friends who I used to see at the bar in this neighborhood but can’t anymore, and who were sitting on their stoops. We’re still here, we still have community and fellowship, and winter might be long, but I’ve got a tiny chair, a bicycle, and blankets. I can do this. It was the most refreshing drink of water I’ve had in a long, long time. More friends in person, please.

My ride home was quick and easy, and another good reminder of how important it is for me to get out there for bike rides on the regular.

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