Yesterday for the first time in forever I loaded the younger kids up and headed to the “Big Town” for a bike ride. While we have been on our own rural bike ways many times I figured they (and I) could use a change of scenery and we could social distance well enough. So along with water bottles and helmets we packed masks and hand sanitizer took the long way along quiet roads to the trail head.
The trail runs both sides of the Willamette River, through parks and brownfields, quiet woods and homeless camps. It is a microcosm of the successes and failures of Urban planning- beautiful parks but not enough housing for the less-than-wealthy. The weather sunny and warm but not hot, breezy but not windy. Just last year my youngest, still on her first bicycle, had struggled to navigate these trails, but now shoots ahead on the new-to-her geared bike. The elder of the two is more efficient; while she shoots ahead then gets winded he paces me at a steady 9 miles per hour and rarely tires. His bike is new to him too, because kids outgrow bikes before they wear them out and I am not above scavenging off the rich for a deal.
Along the way we saw kids playing on the still-closed playgrounds. Of course my companions wanted to stop. Thinking of the fact my daughter cannot social distance, always standing close, touching hands while she talks I felt this was not a good idea.
“But pleaaase” they begged. “Those kids are.”
“If you got in a car and another kid took off a seat belt, would you take yours off too?” They agreed it was a bad idea and we biked on.
I understand the feeling. Like them so I long for many of the rituals of life that once seemed mundane and even banal. Going to dinner, meeting friends, going to church. But wanting something doesn’t make it so, and so we wait.
We are obviously not absolute isolationists, nor even always very good at it, but we try. Somewhere I read about recycling “we don’t need a hundred people doing it perfectly, we need three hundred million doing it imperfectly”, and so we try. The kids flushed and tired, guzzling water and collapse on the grass, and after nine miles are happy to see the car come into view. The afternoon was calm and (relatively) short on bickering, everyone ate dinner without complaint. Walking around at sunset the chicks in the stable tucked under their mother, the bunnies in the hutch ate the sweet grass I cut. Everyone is happy and fed for the moment. Its not perfect, but it is enough.