It has been a little more than a week since our lives became dramatically altered.
The kids are pent-up with no school, the adults are stressed out, and the questions on everyone’s mind are how much worse will it get and how much longer will it last?
I do not have answers to those questions about the coronavirus pandemic that has engulfed daily life in Central Oregon and around the world. But I do have a suggestion for a stress therapy that does not require FDA approval:
We’ve been doing it forever in Central Oregon. Heck, it’s the reason many of choose to live here: outdoor opportunities. Most of those opportunities are still available to us.
Most public parks and trails in Central Oregon have remained open during the pandemic, allowing for hiking, trail running and mountain biking on lower-elevation trails.
While most ski resorts have closed, backcountry skiing and nordic skiing are still viable options in other areas while the snow remains at upper elevations.
And all of these activities allow for social distancing and fresh air, both of which are vital right now.
U.S. public health officials have cautioned against group gatherings of more than 10 people, and they recommend people stay at least 6 feet apart.
These outdoor activities seem to work within all those criteria, as long as we are not irresponsible by heading out to enjoy the outdoors in large groups. So go with one or two family members or close friends.
During this past week, I’ve been glued to the home computer reporting on the latest sporting event that has been canceled or postponed and the ensuing fallout. The more urgent news of the number of infections and deaths — and the related slumping economy and surging unemployment — has been even harder to swallow.
My one escape each day has been running. I have managed to sneak out most days for a 5- to 6-mile run. I encounter others along the way. We wave or smile at each other but keep our distance. Sometimes I run with my wife, a high school teacher who is going stir-crazy, and my 12-year-old son — though I can barely keep up with either of them anymore.
I think running has helped to keep me sane through all of this. It reinvigorates me and gives me optimism that we will find our way through this to the other side.
Many of us have that favorite outdoor activity that can give us this therapy, whether it’s running, road cycling, mountain biking, hiking, fishing, or whatever.
A lot of us are out there already. Some of us need a nudge. Some of our kids need a nudge. Some of us need a nudge from our kids, who will be out of school until at least April 28 here in Oregon.
One day earlier this week as I pored over the latest news and cancellations, my eyes locked to the laptop screen, I heard a child’s footfalls approach quietly, cautiously.
This pandemic has been particularly hard on my daughter. She will turn 10 later this month and will not get to make that trip to Washington state we had planned for her birthday, or have a party with her friends. (We are postponing it until it is more safe to do so.) She does not usually join the family on our runs.
She looked at me with her big blue eyes, tearing me away from the computer screen.
“Daddy, can we go for a bike ride?”
“That’s a great idea, honey,” I replied.
I went into the garage to put air in the kids’ bike tires.
We rode around the neighborhood and through the park, the crisp air of a sunny Central Oregon evening beckoning the beginning of spring. We waved to others but kept our distance.
We smiled and laughed and everything was all right with the world.
We will get through this together, Central Oregon.
We will get through this outside.