It was week five of “lockdown,” week five of not going to school, not seeing my closest friends, and not traveling any further than the front door. My family had never been so physically close for such a long amount of time and the confinement without a doubt stressed our relationships. Before the coronavirus hit, we could easily find solace outside of the house, whether that be in the gym, at a restaurant, or by a pool. But now, visiting any of those places was out of the question. Everyday life was duller than ever and there was no relief from despairing news. Each day was another tally mark towards the interminable prison sentence of lockdown. No matter how hard we tried to make each day meaningful, eventually, we all gave up and fell into a mindless routine. Without the endeavors and opportunities of our prior everyday lives, we all lost our purpose and life flatlined.
Desperate to escape the oppressive routine of lockdown, my father made an executive decision that my two brothers and I were to leave behind our phones and video games and go with him to Lake Darnell on a day-long fishing trip. I had never enjoyed fishing and my phone was the only thing that had kept me sane, but I agreed solely for a change of scenery. My younger brothers did not consent so willingly but, predictably, they did not have a say in the matter.
The next morning my father shook me awake at 3 a.m. From my dreary state, I recognized that he was more energetic than I had seen him in months. Usually very restrained, there was no concealing his excitement for the day. Before coming to my room, he had wisely turned on the lights in my brothers’ rooms and forcibly removed the blankets from their beds, forecasting correctly that it would be a prolonged effort to get them up and ready for the day. Eventually, my father’s persistence overcame my brothers’ will to remain in bed and soon enough our zombie-like party was ready to depart.
The car ride to the lake was uneventful, to say the least. I tried to recoup the sleep I lost the night before, but the constant rumbling of the boat trailer kept my eyes wide open. After two hours of travel interrupted by several hunger-driven pit stops, we arrived at the parking lot. I remained a hesitant participant, but I forced a smile on my face to appease my father. I knew that even his mighty self was not immune to the effects of the lockdown, no matter how much he tried to hide his emotions at the dinner table.
My father expertly backed the boat into the wind-licked waters then, without pause or conversation, leaped out, secured the boat to the dock, and ran back to park the car. As soon as I opened my door, whatever tinges of tiredness that still lingered in my body were swept up and away by the cool lake breeze and enveloping fog. From the time my dad explained the day’s plan to the time we arrived at the parking lot, I had merely feigned excitement for his sake, but stepping out into the open world and gazing upon a new scene gave me new motivation to make the day worthwhile.
In the pre-coronavirus world, my life and the life of my family was fast-paced and without many moments for reflection. Between sports, academics, jobs, and extracurriculars, time never slowed down for any of us. We were used to accomplishing one task then immediately moving to the next. Since the coronavirus struck, however, time came to a screeching halt. No longer were there sports practices or games, no longer did we have to go to school or work every day, no longer did we have anything outside of our house on which to focus.
In the prior weeks, all this uneventfulness did was contribute to my growing levels of boredom, but that day, for the first time, it granted me the gift to appreciate things I had never noticed in the past. I felt the wind on my face for the first time in weeks, smelled something other than Febreze “Clean Linen” spray, and rather than a ceiling fan, gazed upon a strawberry-banana sunrise.
We launched the boat and proceeded to take part in the tricky dance of finding our seats on the unstable boat. Breathless after the cumbersome effort, we eventually settled down and prepared for the second half of our journey across the lake. I was in a significantly better mood, although still not looking forward to a half-hour of bouncing up and down on a cold metal bench.
The boat ride was, without a doubt, much less comfortable than the hours in the car, but it became both timeless and enjoyable as we sliced through the waters. With the coronavirus having taken my life out of autopilot, I was free to enjoy the sensation of wind nipping at my ears and the sight of luscious forestry reflecting the rising sun with its dew. Never before had I appreciated these things, these subtle but beautiful aspects of nature. But never before had I been so encouraged to find solace in the little things of life. Never before did I have the freedom to drop the yoke of stress and responsibilities that everyday life thrusts upon our shoulders.
I did not forget about the pain that the metal seat drove into my tailbone, nor the cold water that constantly splashed my face. Instead, I embraced them, because I realized that it was a privilege to be out in the world, and to not appreciate every last bit of sensation, good or bad, would be wasting an opportunity to live my locked-down life to the fullest.
Chad Greenway Jr. writes from Little Rock.
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