The beautiful ballet of social distancing

I’ve been keeping a journal of my family’s adventures during the coronavirus pandemic. And by adventures, I mean I write about how we’re all coping with this new (and hopefully, temporary) reality while we stay at home. Here’s what happened on Day 44 of our self-quarantine.

Whenever the family and I take Ruby the dog for a walk in the evenings, the beautiful ballet that takes place on the sidewalks and streets of our neighborhood begins anew.

With everybody aware of the six feet of social distancing, people who are taking a stroll go out of their way to make way for those who are passing them. If we’re on the sidewalk and see somebody coming the opposite direction, we move into the bike lane. Somebody running the same way who’s already in the bike lane might move a few feet onto the street. Somebody might cross the street entirely up ahead to make room. You might make a half-circle into the road if somebody has stopped to chat with a neighbor.  Everybody moves separately but moves as one to keep themselves as safe as possible.

People with small kids and babies and those with dogs seem to get the right of way. As in, they can stay where they are while others make room by moving to a different area. Just about everybody is accommodating and waves hello, and every night, it’s a graceful dance to stay safe and sane.

On Sunday morning, I took the kids hiking on a local trail, and quite a few other people had the same idea. It wasn’t a beautiful ballet on those hilly trails. To keep at least six feet away from other hikers, we oftentimes had to step off the trail, where vines rubbed against our shoulders and branches scratched our legs. We were less than graceful as we tried to keep our balance on the uneven terrain while stepping on tree roots and avoiding spiderwebs as strangers walked on by.

Everybody, though, was generally happy. We saw a few dogs—one golden retriever named Charlie, who was leading a group of six people down a trail, came up to us and wanted to be petted—and a few babies. And more than a few smiles from those who were just happy to get out of the house and into the sunny 70-degree weather.

For the kids, it was the first time they had been out of the house, aside from those evening walks, since school ended in mid-March. The air was fresh. The scenery was pretty. It was just a nice day to be outside.

But it wasn’t perfect. As Charlie the dog broke off from his group and sauntered over to ours, looking for some affection  I felt a twinge of sadness that we couldn’t kneel down and give him some love. I’m sure he’s a good boy, but we couldn’t pet him to let him know.

“He’s a friendly dog,” one of the group members said to us as they passed us from about eight feet away. “I’m sure he is,” I said. “And normally we’d be all over him. But now …”

They understood, and they walked off. We hopped back on the path and began walking up the hill. The dance of social distancing was done for the moment, and we moved on until we’d have to do it again.

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