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Stolen Spring

Updated: Jul 17, 2021

Covid-19 has prompted State-wide stay-at-home orders that will prevent most of us from enjoying the spring season. But the alternative is worse. How to get by?

Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

Living in a quiet neighborhood in Washington State, my wife and I are able to get outside for a 3-4 mile walk each afternoon. Typically, we encounter only 2 or 3 other couples during our hour-long circuit. Everyone keeps their distance these days: no handshakes, no hugs—a new normal.

Markers of spring.

Yesterday, we passed these daffodils that, together with the crocuses, heather and the cherry blossoms, are colorful markers for the arrival of spring in our area. For the past two decades, the arrival of spring meant I would soon be heading to southern Utah to spend 2-3 weeks hiking and photographIng in the canyons. I'll have to miss it this year.

Covid-19 and the stealing of spring.

The covid-19 pandemic is expected to reach a peak in the number of new deaths per day in Washington State in 3-4 more weeks, and then slowly improve. The rate of rise in new cases already appears to be slowing and may have reached its peak—which would be very welcome news.

Washington State was one of the first covid-19 "hot spots" in the country and it took aggressive action to prohibit large gatherings, close schools, and mandate stay-at-home measures. That early intervention may have had the desired effect of slowing the spread of the virus.

Other States have been late to act. Some have still not acted—even though the number of new cases and deaths continue to surge exponentially throughout the country. Experts anticipate there will be rolling "hot spots" throughout the States as the disease erupts in different places at different times May 1st may be the earliest date for a peak in new deaths per day in Washington and New York, but other states will likely hit their peaks weeks to months later. It is possible the warm weather of summer will suppress the virus' spread, but until more data are available, it is hard to say when and where it will be safe to travel.

Dealing with the loss of a season or two (or more).

For my part, I am assuming I'll be staying near home and keeping my social distance for the spring and much, if not all, of the summer. Data will drive my decision thereafter. An effective vaccine would mitigate risks substantially, but one will probably not be available for another year—at least.

Meanwhile, I will busy myself with this website and photography. I'll review some of the photos I made during past springs and share them with you. When the risk abates, I may just venture out for a camping trip where there are very few people. I know just the place.

A heavy overnight rainfall created a flash flood that is now receding behind a delicate stand of cottonwood trees in Fence Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Thanks to John Leuba for discovering this spot.

Young cottonwoods and flash flood. April 2016. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

With thanks to John Leuba who was here first

As I deal with the personal loss of this season or two, I contemplate what things will be like for all of us when we finally start to resume "normal" activities. Epidemics change people and they change societies. I don't think we will ever completely go back to the way it was. There will be a new normal. I don't know what it will look like, but I plan to be there to see it.

For some of us though, especially those who are older or ill, there may not be another spring. For them, this stolen season will be especially poignant. How to comfort people dealing with that loss and facing that future?

When you speak to a family member or close friend, I would recommend asking them to look at photos and videos of past springs and summers, and to share their memories. Ask them to share, if they are able, what those experiences meant to them. The reminiscing itself may be a pleasant distraction for them. The shared meaning may provide insight to the meaning of life.

On that note, my little contribution towards maintaining a modicum of sanity and optimism during this stolen spring will be to share a few of my own images and stories from past springs in the canyons. I suspect doing so will be therapeutic—at least for me.



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