Living in the Age of COVID-19: 4/5/20



White Rainbow Root, 2008, Steve Tobin (Naples Botanical Garden)

I spent the last week thinking about going back to Michigan – and realized that along with analyzing the ton of information from infectious disease and pandemic experts, I also need to think about my thinking.

We had been planning on leaving right after Easter, a week from now, but I kept thinking about all the “what ifs” of traveling 1,340 miles by car while the pandemic seems to be getting worse everywhere from here to there. Will hotels be open along the interstate – we got word that friends of a friend were the only couple in a hotel on the way from Texas to Illinois? Do I want to trust that I won’t get infected by staying in a hotel? Can two mid-seventy bodies sleep at a rest stop well enough to be safe driving for the second (or third) day? What are the chances of getting infected when we used toilet facilities and buy gasoline? If we have a medical emergency or accident will we get treated (and do we want to get treated) in an emergency room that is at capacity with COVID-19 patients? What if we are infected when we leave and one or both of us develop a fever and cough while on the rode? Will we be able to continue to share driving when sick or do we spend a week in a hotel room recovering? What if we wait until the end of April or May – the experts are predicting that many places (including Florida) are going to peak about then? Will we be able to leave later if we don’t leave now?

I horded pieces of information in various sections of my brain and worked to put them in a row of logic so I could end with an equal sign and a conclusive decision. When I reached that point I would tell Jim of my decision and see if he concurred. And then I would listen/read some more and start the process again to make sure there wasn’t a fatal (figuratively and real) flaw in my reasoning. I would talk with Jim some more and we would reach a consensus. And then I would…  As of today we are staying until the end of April and then make a new decision. A few other couples in our complex are also doing something similar.

Parallel to this decision making process is a voice the breaks through saying, “I want to go home.” Sometimes it threatens tears. Most of the time I look around at the blue sky, palm trees rustling in the breeze, orchids blooming in trees at each end of our lanai, hear birds singing and think, “How can life be any better than what I have in this moment?” What will I gain by “going home?”

This is when I realize I need to do some ‘thinking about my thinking.’ Thinking is like any other skill we learn; we need to practice the skill and continually think about how we can improve our performance.

I realized that “I want to go home” really meant I want to go home to a time when everything was normal and the threats to my well-being and life were pretty much understood as a normal part of aging. I want to go home so I we can go to breakfast at the Wooden Spoon, see my kids, grandkids, and that precious great-granddaughter, have friends over for supper, get together with our card club for a pot-luck and card playing, and go to my favorite fabric shop to buy a few pieces for a couple of new projects. When I think about my thinking in this way, I realize that it is impossible to go home. Not in a way that allows me to go back to the way I left home last October or even early January.

Cleaning up the clutter of my thinking has left me with sadness. I miss so much of the life I used to have. But I don’t have to go down the rabbit hole of believing that my life is ruined, that we don’t deserve this, that everything is lost. That is not good thinking, not based on facts. Yes, our life has changed and our world will be different when we reach the other side of this pandemic. I am curious and look forward to seeing who I am and how we live after going through this crisis. It could be a wonderful chance for our young people to take charge and make our world a better place. But I hope they remember to think about their thinking as they work for a better world.

And let’s keep those rainbow roots watered.

Getting Ready


Spring dune flowers in Upper Michigan

It is August and today the weather has that late summer feel, when I start thinking of Fall and our annual 5-week camping trip from mid-August to mid-September. I am so eager to go as we are returning to the Canadian Rockies, the western side of Glacier International Park, and down to Oregon to see our grandson’s family. I have menu items planned, our bed made up for warmer nights, have started stocking the cupboards with staples, and have meals in the freezer so we don’t have to do much grocery shopping while on the road. Next week I’ll be able to start packing in earnest as we will need both warm weather and cold weather bedding and clothes. I really want to get this show on the road.

At the same time as I am eager to move on into Fall and our travelling home, I have been spending time looking at the photos from our last camping trip with friends to the very upper portion of the lower peninsula of Michigan. Not surprising because both involve quiet, easy living. My request for a day trip was to go to Wilderness State Park that is situated where Lake Michigan narrows into the Straits of Mackinaw between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. Our friend was asking if we would be able to see the Big Mac so I told him to pull over at a turn-off.


I remember camping at Wilderness when our kids were young but the campground didn’t look familiar. That has happened several places because the shorelines change as sands shift resulting in the campgrounds needing to be redesigned and enlarged. What was the same was the sense of wildness and quiet. We were far away from towns.

It is a place where the kids learned how to entertain themselves with simple activities using nature’s toys. Maybe we don’t outgrow this pleasure.


The vastness of each of the five Great Lakes pulls me into thinking about the greater questions of life as I gaze into the horizon. Sometimes we engage in small talk, but most of the time we just enjoy quiet time together.


This is a beautiful wilderness in the summer months with warm sun and cool breezes off the water. In the winter the weather can be brutal although a lot of people enjoy the outdoor winter sports that are available. When I think of winter in northern Michigan, I think of Florida.

But before I think of Florida, I’m thinking of driving across Canada and down the Rocky Mountains into the northwest states. I’m thinking of traveling with our cozy little home behind us, spending time exploring the changing landscapes, eating healthy meals we cook ourselves, finding small pleasures along the way, and taking lots of photographs.


Pure Michigan: St. Ignace

20150805-DSC_0005We have been on the road for two weeks doing the circle tour of Lake Superior. Internet service is weak to non-existent in state and provincial parks so I have had to sit on my photos and stories. Photography and blogging has made travel so much fun as I attempt to capture the personality of the places we visit.



We had made reservations at the Straits State Park for a week of camping with our daughter, her husband and our three granddaughters. At the last minute they had to cancel because of trailer problems – what a disappointment. We decided to decrease our stay to three nights and then head for Canada.

I was looking forward to staying at this campground because it is on the Mackinaw Straits that connect Lake Michigan with Lake Huron, on the Upper Peninsula side. I walked just a few yards from my campsite to the beach for beautiful views of the bridge.

One of the first things we want to do when we reach the U.P. is to have a pastie. I was in St. Ignace a year ago with a friend and she took me to a little restaurant that had really good ones. I wanted to take JB there – hoping they would live up to the hype I was giving them.


While we were waiting for our order I wandered around the small dining room looking at photos on the wall. I noticed the staff was making a table full of pasties in the kitchen so I grabbed my camera. When they saw me they invited me in and posed.


The family has been selling pasties in St. Ignace for over 50 years. Before the bridge was built connecting the Lower & Upper Peninsulas of Michigan, the state ran ferryboats and “Pee Wee” Phelps worked as a cook for many years on these boats. His wife, Bessie, was a good cook in her own right and would go to the docks to sell hot dogs, sandwiches and such to people sitting in their autos waiting for the next ferry to depart. When Pee Wee retired they decided to open their own business selling pasties – and the rest is history. JB and I have eaten a lot of pasties across the U.P. and none compare.

We are back in St. Ignace after two weeks of driving and camping in the way “up north.” Tomorrow we will cross that beautiful bridge and in the freezer of our travel trailer will be some Bessie’s Pasties. We are taking some of the personality of the U.P. home with us.

What is wrong with this picture?

Superior 016

Don’t start analyzing focus, composition, etc. because it wasn’t meant to be the one National Geographic is looking for to have as their photo of the month. This is just my memories of the beautiful roadside parks along Lake Superior. It is all the memories of picnic lunches, kids building sand castles, skipping stones, and playing with water pumps, while I am soothed by the ice cold, crystal clear water as it laps the shore.

Superior 022

We are heading west, to Glacier National Park, and the “wrong” with this picture is that I put tons of energy into getting ready. I purchased new long sleeve tees for myself so I would be warm, I made the down comforters smaller so they would fit our beds better, I packed the flannel sheets and comforter covers, and made sure we had plenty of layers because we are going to the mountains, to the great northern tier of states, we were going where it is cold while my daughter returns to the sweltering heat of Texas in August. I feel so bad for her but so happy for us.

What is wrong with this picture is that we worked on the shoulder of Highway 2 yesterday, in North Dakota, in 95 degree heat, changing a tire that had blown out (exploded) on the trailer. We were thankful the truck held steady, that my hubby is good at changing tires, and thankful that it was on the passenger side. We were thankful that there wasn’t much traffic and there was a relatively cool wind with low humidity. But still, we were down to our last layers to take off before we risked arrest.

What kept our spirits up was knowing we had freshly purchased sweet corn in the fridge for supper and there was a good-sized city about 50 miles down the road. I was silently (I know how to avoid fights) bemoaning that the tire chose to blow at a very boring stretch of highway after passing lots of very interesting photo opportunities where stopping wasn’t possible. I couldn’t resist (in spite of guilt) taking a few photos while hubby was working but none had enough interest to be keepers.

Last night it was boy-this-flannel-covered-comforter-feels-good cold and today is predicted to be in the high 70’s. Hubby is in town getting a new tire for the trailer and then we will be off for Montana. Go west, old folks, go west.


Which Way ?

I should be packing – we are leaving Sunday for a 4-6 week camping trip to the Pacific Northwest. Today my task is to get most of the food in the trailer so I sat down to make lists. I also checked e-mails and looked at the photos I took yesterday on our photo safari to the old train yard. It was called the Junction by people who lived in Jackson, because the city was the central location in Michigan for passenger and shipping rail services. During the heyday of rail travel, there were trains coming and going from all directions. You can tell that I have been derailed from my original goal of packing.

Rail yard 363

I am feeling a little unsettled today, which is probably why I am writing this post instead of getting ready to leave. Transitions from home to travel do that to me, but I think it is also the way we plan on traveling. I decided I didn’t want to travel on a schedule and that is unsettling for someone who likes to have everything planned out and under control.

We know what direction we are traveling in and we have decided that we will go to the upper peninsula to get on highway 2 on Sunday. We also know we want to stay at Marquette on Lake Superior for that first night. Because we prefer the state highways to the interstate, we will take highway 2 across the northern US to Glacier National Park but our plans are pretty loose after that. Maybe I should call our plans flexible because that sounds better. I can be in control of my destiny while still being flexible.

Rail yard 358

Manual Track Switch

I really like the idea of being able to shift tracks if we find something interesting. I bought several tour books and have been marking things I’d like to do. We can read these and plan our trip as we go, one of the benefits of being retired and having a flexible time frame.

Mechanism that switches the tracks.

Mechanism that switches the tracks.

Another reason we have chosen to be flexible instead of all-planned-out is that I need to travel at a pace that is comfortable. On last year’s trip to Newfoundland we both needed and enjoyed having a slow day every three or four days – maybe do a little sightseeing but also have time for an afternoon nap. This slow day can be our day for planning “which way” we want to go on the next leg of our journey. But now I have to get packing!

Cee has provided her readers with weekly opportunities to post photos and stories of “which way” they are moving through the world. You can see for yourself by clicking here.