May, Week 8 of Massachusetts COVID-19 Protocol.
As soon as the campgrounds opened, we were among the first to camp. With each governor’s extension of stay-at-home orders, I had scheduled, rescheduled, and rescheduled again campgrounds in several New England states. Originally, in April, we had hoped to take our online learning on the road with a WiFi booster, but it made more sense, as COVID stats became apparent, that campgrounds were initially only open to seasonal and essential healthcare workers.
So, on May 7, we headed to the White Mountains to one of the first campgrounds to open in New Hampshire. We maintained mask and 6-foot protocols for COVID-19, and we “stayed at home” or inside our vehicle, but it was really fascinating to observe people so hungry to see other humans again in a relaxed setting where you could talk to your neighbor from site to site without also balancing the crazy stress of which direction to walk in the grocery line and worrying about stepping too close to the person pulling some cereal from the shelf.
Because prices were cheaper due to April cancellations, we landed a very nice site with a patio overlooking a pond. I don’t know who was more anxious to exit the dually and get out on nature’s path more—me or the dogs—but my heart and soul screamed:
Oh God Oh God Oh God Oh God!
See, I knew God was there in our time of home-bound COVID-19 Isolation, but when I saw His Creation all around me, my eternally designed heart could feel our hands touch across realms of heaven and earth.
Oh God Oh God Oh God!
Having opened two days before our arrival, even the campground workers were starved for conversation. In general, I find the nicest people on campgrounds—and dog parks!—(yes, even in grumpy, cold New England!), but this time, they were tripping over themselves to help us park, fill our tires, grab us planks to level the camper on solid ground, etc.
And that’s exactly how I felt: leveled on solid ground. Oh Hallelujah! It felt like holy ground. Sacred ground.
These campground workers were longing to do the good for fellow man.
We chose this weekend on purpose. We arrived on my husband’s birthday and left on Mother’s Day. COVID-19 Isolation had started to mess with the family dynamics of three adults and two teens in our home. We needed to separate and then draw back together. Everyone appreciated the arrangement. Two of us were home taking care of our lionhead rabbit business, while the other three of us had Shih Tzus, coffee pods, and plenty of firewood in the middle of the woods.
It was also the weekend of a Junior Prom (we call it Cotillion here) that was never going to happen. Of a rising senior wondering what happened to life as she knew it.
We had many things on our agenda during this first Camping During Covid-19 Isolation. Among them was a campfire to burn a hellish sophomore year away, for which we were a year overdue. We came with a bag full of school and other papers from that year, and we lit a match! The pleasure and relief my daughter felt as her father stoked those flames high and fast as she dropped her year of pain, suffering, chronic illness, and six months of treatment protocols away was unforgettable. I think along with it went expectations of what a junior year of high school should look like as well. Ashes blew in the wind the day after the fire, carried off into the rippling brook at our feet, where geese and ducks found their spring bathing grounds. They were none the wiser as our lost year’s ashes blew to land in fertile ground, fodder for growth of all kinds—both natural and personal.
A rising senior and like many other high schoolers, my daughter does not know what next year will look like. College visits began before COVID-19, but after—what world will we be living in, I wonder. Will anything be the same after this?
We went on hikes across a footbridge through the long, dense woods to a marsh that looked like, with a little care, it had the makings of a cranberry bog. I’m pretty sure I saw one or two cranberries peeking up to the surface—or maybe that was wishful thinking.
We found a picnic table near a little dog pond at the edge of the marsh where we shared fresh strawberries, grilled balsamic chicken over fresh greens and cheese, finishing it all off with wild chicken and rice.
We were present, in the moment, neither taking on the past nor assuming any particular future.
While we sat under blankets during a freak May case of snow flurries the next morning, our college son was back home recalibrating the expectations for his junior year of college. Apartment plans with friends were on hold. The university could not guarantee in-person instruction. He was thrust back into our home, not altogether happily or unhappily, wondering what had happened to his newfound freedom and responsibilities. It was so nice to have him with us for a while, cooking up a storm, making intellectual commentary on everything from COVID-19 to the meat shortage, but I knew he was only ours for a little while and by circumstance. His life had moved on outside our house, as it fully should, and it was a delight to hear him zoom-calling with friends he had made in his new life. It did my heart so much good to know he was established.
At one point, those of us in the wilderness drove to a nearby town just to assess the damage on a vacation town with closures everywhere in sight. Mini-golf, boating houses, restaurants, water parks, recreational train depots—all a ghost town. One single Dairy Queen drive-thru seemed to be the gathering place for all those folks starting to stir within their homes after the COVID-19 unexpected extension of an already long winter. Being two hours from home for the first time during the stay-at-home orders was both unnerving and freeing.
At one point during rounds of Colorku, Five Crowns, and Skip-bo, my daughter noted it was Saturday night, the time of her Junior Cotillion. No dress, no hair and nails salon, no bling. But we had a very cuddly, willing “living teddy bear” (our male Shih Tzu, Samson) and some Billy Joel songs, so we took a brief moment for her to dance and record the 2020 version of a prom—just us, in a camper, in our sweatshirts, reclaiming a new way of doing things.
We’re on our way home now. I’m looking forward to seeing how much our pregnant (rabbit) doe Ivory has expanded in a few days’ time. My younger son, 14, likely has a stockload of shows he wants to watch together and some rabbit antics to report. We come back to a garden, almost ready to receive the seedlings growing indoors, a caterpillar about to emerge from its chrysalis as a painted butterfly, and neighbors (having seen the 30-foot trailer pull away a few days ago) a bit curious about where in the world did the Smiths go during COVID-19. I assure you we didn’t touch anyone, approach anyone, or take our masks off. But we did plant ourselves in the healing balm of Creation for a few days. We bring back nothing but that with which we left.
As we took one last hike before loading into the truck to drive off, we saw a family also crossing the bog bridge to what had become, at least for a few brief moments, our picnic spot. Before crossing the footbridge, their tiny girls parked their preschool-child-sized bikes at the clearing in the woods. It struck me as so poignant—life resuming during COVID-19 Isolation. Two bikes, evidence of paths once again crossed, young life embracing what it can during unsettling times.
It breathed life and hope into me to see this, and I felt compelled to share it with you.
Two little bikes. A clearing between woods and marsh. A new beginning.
Claim it with me.
Let it settle deep within your heart.
Grab the truth of it, and don’t let go.
We were made to come back out again.
I knew God was there in our time of home-bound COVID-19 Isolation, but when I saw His Creation all around me, my eternally designed heart could feel our hands touch across realms of heaven and earth. #EspressosofFaithhttps://t.co/8AhfHLWOfF
— Bonnie Lyn Smith (@BonnieLynSmith) May 10, 2020
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace.
She is the author of Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day and the founder and editor-in-chief of Ground Truth Press, a book publishing company.
Part of a family of lionhead rabbit breeders, you can follow her buck Cloud Nine, does Sookie Jane and Ivory Rae, and their kits @thegivingrabbitry on Instagram and Facebook.