It’s been almost 10 weeks since we returned from Europe, where we spent two weeks quiet and carefree, exploring the Algarve, Portugal. Ten weeks seems like a life-time ago though as so much has changed. Consider this: on March 1, the day we left Tavira to begin our long journey home, Portugal had no cases of COVID-19; Spain had 26 new cases, for a total of 84, and its first death was confirmed in Valencia. Italy, the worst of the European countries, had 566 new cases, for a total of 1694, and five new deaths, for a total of 34. In Canada, we had four new cases, all in Ontario from people who had traveled to Iran or Egypt, for a total of 24, and no deaths had yet been recorded.
We had been following the disease, not yet called a pandemic, since it appeared in China late in December. While we listened with great concern, we didn’t consider ourselves at threat, nor had any inkling how it might affect our lives. How fortunate we were to have left Europe when we did, though, as the handwriting was on the wall. When we arrived at Toronto Airport on the evening of March 1, we joined the throng of passengers arriving en masse and crowding the customs kiosks. There were no queues; it was a free-for-all to get a machine and then join the very long snaking line of arrivals to get to the Customs Officer. All she asked was, “Where are you coming from?” to which we replied “Portugal.” Then she waved us out. We squeezed into the small hotel shuttle with perhaps eight others. Distancing was not an issue then.
We noticed a few more people wearing masks on Transit on our arrival in Vancouver, but it didn’t seem unusual. Fast forward a couple of weeks to mid-March, and life began to change. Instead of adding social dates to the calendar, I began erasing them (tennis, plays, lunch with friends, dental appointments) until the calendar was blank. Now I record how far we’ve walked each day, and when we’ve biked or I’ve done yoga at home. Zoom meetings, WhatsApp chats and phone calls keep us in virtual touch. Our daily walks have become a ritual that can’t be missed. Mostly we’re able to avoid others on the paths through the woods or on the streets. People are friendlier; we’re all in the same boat and have time to “be kind” as Dr. Bonnie Henry asks, while we’re trying to “flatten the curve.”
We have been trying to shop as seldom as possible. My first experience felt like going into battle; I didn’t sleep well the night before. Armed and ready to go at 8:00, I was second in line to get into the store, gloves and mask on, carefully planned list in hand. The manager disinfected the cart and let about eight of us in to start. Immediately I realized it was impossible to stay 6 feet apart in the small produce area just inside the door. Getting the plastic produce bags to open wearing gloves was another challenge, then navigating the one-way aisles. Some people stopped to check the shelves and I hesitated: Do I wait or pass by? Searching for bargains has given way to getting what you can, when you can.
I’ve started a salad greens and herbs garden, about all I can grow on our north-facing deck. I nurture them and check their progress each morning.
The cupboard shelves are opening up just a crack as we try some items that have been there an age! “Here’s this salsa someone gave us…how long has it been there?” I spent a day slicing and dehydrating onions. A ten pound bag was too much to keep! Carrots were turned into some yummy curried carrot soup…delicious! I got my sourdough starter out of the freezer and am making bread and buns every week. Oh, but it would be lovely to go out to dinner just once in a while!
We love our city with it's mountains, beaches and forests and appreciate it more as we have time to get out and explore it. It represents freedom and some control. April was such a lovely month: mild weather, flowering azaleas and rhododendrons, cherry trees and magnolias. Cheery daffodils and tulips brightened the gardens. We notice the bird song and breathe the fresh air, clearer with less traffic. It’s sad to watch the empty buses pass by, though. And know how many are suffering with the pandemic or job losses.
|rear-boarding only and no fares; distanced seating|
We’ve been able to visit our son and his young family weekly by distancing outside, but it sure would be great to give them a hug!
Another term we’ve become familiar with is the “new normal.” This is a fluctuating term and who knows what it will end up being, but we suspect some aspects of life as we knew it will not return in our lifetime. Certainly, travel will change; we will not be moving about as freely as before. We tell ourselves we’ve been fortunate to have visited most of the places we’ve wanted to see, but it will be difficult not to plan for another adventure for now, or dream of just getting away. But we’ll always have our memories until we can.