FEELING STUCK IN a ditch, under a ton of debris? Join the herd. But whatever you do, make no sudden movements likely to cause a stampede.
That’s our new guiding principle here in the Virus Age, where life as we knew it has been shut down while people adhere to strict travel rules designed to enhance public safety as a highly communicable virus sweeps our ranks.
And it’s the primary motivation for today’s cover piece, which is not exactly the one that was atop my writer’s schedule as recently as a couple months ago.
Because of a production process that takes several weeks, the pieces you read in the Sunday magazine are some of the most planned-in-advance content in a publication that’s otherwise mostly breaking-news-oriented. We’re always working roughly a month in advance, anticipating topics that will be timely a ways down the road.
That forward glance got infinitely more blurry when the spread of the coronavirus literally put life as we all knew it on pause. And that was clearly our status at this writing, in early April.
This week’s story, on the cusp of what once was the traditional Memorial Day Weekend summer recreation season, began on the Big Gore-Tex Story List as a humorous look at the foibles of camping. With “foibles” of any sort suddenly seeming questionable, it shifted to a serious guide to places one might go to escape.
When the shutdown of most outdoor areas soon followed, along with those dreaded words, “until further notice,” it became what it now is: an outdoor staycation, of a sort. An ode to the outdoor places we all have come to lean on — “touchstones” that sustained many of us to a degree we never fully appreciated until we were shut off from them for the first time in our lives.
It is in that spirit that this week’s personal essay is intended — a look back at places we have been and will always love, and a yearning glance forward to hint at how sweet reuniting with them will be.
Please don’t take it as an invitation to restart regional travel, which at press time still was under tight restrictions, for all the right reasons. But do take it as an invitation to keep a warm spot in your heart for your favorite source of brisk wind.
There is no rocket science, nor high moral purpose, nor journalistic mission here. It’s merely a jaunt through my own travel calendar — and photo scrapbook — for the past couple years.
So pull up a chair, and go outside with me to say hello to some familiar old places, from wherever you’re ensconced. Here’s hoping the mental journey will inspire for you the same sort of subdued excitement, and restrained anticipation, that it did in me. We have to believe that this, too, shall pass.