With the rain coming down on my Oregon Coast cabin on New Year’s Day, I’ve been excused from the daily walk I’ve been trying to get in since we first went into lockdown last March. I do walk most days. I’ve been taking yoga again after an absence of over twenty years. Though I’ve tried to jumpstart my defunct practice more than once, I couldn’t get a regular rhythm going until 2020 began rocking and bucking last spring. I’ve been meditating most days. I joined a Zen center last February and was enjoying regular sessions in an in-person zendo when the lockdown forced us to close. The regular schedule was moved online. While Zoom Zen is not the same as sitting in a zendo, the regular contact with other Zen students in cyberspace has anchored my life in a significant way. To sum it all up: the world has been irrevocably altered due to the global pandemic. Yet this health crisis has strengthened my health habits.
Full disclosure: I’m probably drinking a little more alcohol than I normally do, though I try to keep the reins on that. I enjoy takeout coffee on some walks. Actually, takeout meals have become something to live for. I save this pleasure for my last online work shift of the week. Takeout. Wine. Netflix. I’ve engaged in other potentially detrimental behavior. Though I’ve been religious about wearing a mask in public, I’ve spent time in a campsite with a friend who lives in another household—we both finally dropped our masks and camped together normally after a few masked hours (though we did put on our masks whenever we were around others). Indeed, I’ve embarked on a number of road trips, particularly to this Oregon Coast cabin. AirBnb hosts at stops along the way have super been friendly. I’ve imbibed in one backpacking trip in Mount Lassen National Park. I’m pretty sure a couple of bears roamed around my tent at night. While I survived their explorations, the park closed that very area to backpackers a few weeks later (due to aggressive bears).
I’ve got another risky activity on my schedule. I didn’t want to lose the Amtrak miles that had been piling up from too much credit card use, so I’ve booked a sleeper for a three-day journey to Chicago in late March. Amtrak claims their air filtration system has been beefed up. They’re cleaning everything—that’s what they say. And they do encourage sleeper guests to take advantage of room service in lieu of sitting in the dining car with other passengers. I figure I’ll be alone most of the time in my own little room, so this couldn’t be too hazardous. I’ll bring wipes and hand sanitizer. And I can always cancel if the COVID numbers remain daunting. Yet I hope I feel safe enough to hop on board. I’m feeling the need to stare out the window and watch my country move past me. I want to meditate on America’s landscape, horizons I’ve never seen, and let the muse whisper in my ear.
I want this to be a better year.