It’s been almost 4 full months of lockdown and my mind goes from “everything’s OK”, to “OMG, I have to get out of here!” Even though London is easing up on lockdown, the idea that me and my family are sans a car (or a UK driver’s license) for the summer and then would have to deal with public trains to go to a claustrophobic crowded beaches with rocks - let me say no. Nope, nope, nope. I’ve got other plans. I hear talk sometimes of public pools opening up. All I can visualize is the local pool with the sub par bathroom conditions. I feel nauseous. I really, really need to escape.
Ever since school announced that kids in year 3 wouldn’t be going back this year, I have been quietly planning a getaway. The news cycle, the endless information about “air bridges” that the UK may or may not be in on, and figuring out quarantine logistics and the timing of the return to school in September has been weighing on my mind. I need to unplug. My daughter has been doing socially distant play dates and recently we started to “bubble” a bit with neighborhood kids and a close friend which has brought us a touch of normalcy. The thing is, this virus brings with it opinions from all ends of the spectrum. And I’m not a fan of unsolicited advice. So I keep planning.
In the meantime, the summer art fair that I love being in was cancelled, moving to an online format. But at this point, I just can’t. I need to see people. Social distance, mask wearing people. But IRL. In Real Life. If we are going to live with the virus, how do we live with it, around it, almost like it’s part of our family? An unwelcome one, of course, but it’s there. I’m going to be polite to it, set some clear boundaries, and respect it’s unstable presence. I’m not sure what it will do next, and I think it’s going to stay for awhile.
It’s the weekend of July 4 and 5 in London - lockdown is easing, museums and galleries are starting to open up and I’ve been cleaning up our formerly cluttered, carless garage. It’s almost go time. So I check in with my friend Angela Morris-Winmill to see if she would like to do an open studio with me. We met a couple of years ago when we did an art fair and were next to each other, our art looked good together back then and would look good together in our own space. We’ve recently had some fun times during lockdown, like our tie-dye art date that seemingly entertain the endless parade of people taking a walk and getting some fresh air outside of the house.
The day arrives, we throw open up the garage door and welcome in friends, collectors, and curious passers by. We spent the weekend talking about our process, selling work, and connecting. My favorite thing! The next one will be in the early fall - September 12 and 13, 2020. Feel free to sign up on my email list to get a reminder. We are planning on working on gold guilding and diamond dusting techniques while our art is on display. Ooooh, it’s going to be fun!
We pack up the show, I do a last minute application for an art fair, and I’m up all night getting ready up for our 6 week getaway. Travel insurance, car rental, downloading TV shows, you know the drill. And off we go!
I watched a segment on CNN recently where Sanjay Gupta talked about air travel during the time of COVID-19. So I had a better idea of what to expect. We arrive no earlier than 3 hours before our flight, are greeted with hand sanitizer and face masks, and check in. Lines move quickly, and security is way less intense since I’m not being hurried along by a crowd of people and the endless drone of overhead announcements. I can deal with this. Inside the terminal, I’m missing so many of many favorite food options. So many are closed, it’s weird to see businesses wither away. Instead, I stock up on yummy British biscuits for my mom and plenty of snacks for my gal.
Boarding the flight is also less crazy. The whole “hurry up and wait” that seemed to proliferate in the airport pre-COVID isn’t there. Yay for small wins. We board for Atlanta, 10 rows at a time. Except that the flight is at maybe 10% to 15% capacity. Empty rows everywhere. How is this international flight making money? The cutest couple is on board, masks and face shields. They are moving back to the US and their dog and cat join them on board. I want to chat, but mask wearing isn’t conducive to chit chat. Bummer. This virus is not only isolating us from each other, it’s also disconnecting us with distance and while we are blocking germs, we are also blocking potential friendships.
On board, I watch the Linda Ronstadt documentary, then Like a Boss, and my new favorite - High Fidelity with Zoe Kravitz, so good! After the intensity of the past few months, all I want to do is to soak in some fun. Eight hours later - there’s normally the familiar “ding” after landing and then the instinctive jumping out of your seats to retrieve bags. But that doesn’t happen. We are reminded to stay put and a member of the CDC comes on board and tells us all to self isolate for 14 days. I got that memo several weeks ago, thank goodness. All set. Then we go through a screening area - more CDC people ... we hand them our paperwork. COVID exists here, too. Floor stickers with “Stay 6 feet apart,” plexi glass dividers, and hand sanitizer aplenty. We get to our hotel and relax. American TV, silly commercials, and the sense of being in a familiar setting all start to soak in.
The next day - a five hour drive to our quarantine cottage - yay for FM radio and hand painted fruit signs that indicate the roadside goodness, like these peaches.
That and drive through stops at Dunkin’ and Wendy’s - oh how I miss these yummy treats. Now at my parent’s getaway in North Carolina, Bonnie-Blue and I are self isolating for 14 days. I can take a deep breath. The idea of a deadly virus in my immediate vicinity doesn’t seem so intense. Things feel normal for a minute, I can finally breathe. There is fresh air and a sense of space, a vastness. On our morning walk, we run into this beauty - a Scarlett Tanager. The showy male didn’t move. I swear I thought it was a clip on fake bird attached to the tree. It remained still as we gave it lots of space, thanking it for its presence. And fair warning - I am becoming a birder. I can feel it.
My sense of wonder and curiosity takes over, thank goodness. It’s hard to be dialed into those things when constantly on guard. What will I do today? I’ll dig through some storage boxes, work on my art journal, watch the birds on the porch, take in a sunset and take a deep breath. Free for a moment. I’m soaking it all in. And if you’re interested in a getaway, my parents are now renting out the getaway - we call it “Blue Haven” in Green Mountain. Oh - and art is still shipping from London, I’ve got you covered! Happy summer! XO, M.E.