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THE UPSIDE OF RESTRICTIONS

THE UPSIDE OF THE RESTRICTIONS, PERHAPS

A PARADIGM SHIFT?

We had just come in from a two-month sojourn in Tunisia. We were free as a couple of peregrines could be. In anticipation of a spring return to our nest in the Great North Woods, we took a house-sitting gig in Picton, Ontario, Canada. Now, the thought of spending the lion’s share of the winter in Canada, not to mention being on the ice-bound north shore of Lake Ontario, was chilling in and of itself. We had no idea what was coming.

The house was a sturdy and warm old farmhouse on the flats of Prince Edward County. It had a great kitchen where we made bannock, hearty soups, scones and curries. The house came complete with a wonderful library, plenty of art, a piano and an irascible old dog called Humphrey, a Puggle. We were warm and sated, had adequate internet and did some good writing and photo art. The weeks marched along, and we received an opportunity to go to Spain in May to house sit for friends there. Of course, we said yes. For the month of April, we rented a great Air BnB in Old Quebec City, and bought tickets for a flight to Malaga via Quebec to Burlington, to JFK. Alas, it was not to be.

The Virus began to rear its head. We first heard about it from our son who works in China. Ground Zero…his descriptions of burgeoning restrictions, illness and deaths seemed other worldly. That was in mid-February.

“That’s in China,” we said. “We’ll be fine here and in Spain, of course.”

Then it crept. Or did it creep and explode? It grew and ignored geo-political boundaries, potentiated itself and spread like a California wildfire. We soon heard from our friends in Spain.

“Everything here is locked down,” they said. “The police are patrolling everywhere, sending everyone back inside their houses, it is hard to get food.”

“Well, that’s just in Andalusia,” we said. But then it was all of Spain, and Italy, and all over Asia. LOCK DOWN.

So, it came to America. New York #1 in cases and deaths. It came to Picton, lockdown in the county…masks and gloves in the small supermarkets there. Spain closed borders, China closed borders, borders were closing all over. We had to scramble to change plans. First it was clear we needed to cancel flights to Malaga. We did so but with no clear answer about refund or possibility of destination change.

Trudeau suddenly announced closure of the Canadian border. Again, we had to scramble. We cancelled our rental in Quebec City. Good conscientious landlord there…immediate refund. So, what to do? Falcons without the sky to fly in.

We decided to make a run for the border. We took a train from Bellevue, Ontario to Toronto. This is when the so-called upsides began to shine through. Though we hated to say goodbye to the dog, to whom we had become attached, we knew we had to go…somewhere. The train to Toronto was deserted. We had a comfortable ride, no coughing, sneezing throngs as in China, which was getting worse by the the day, as was New York.

We booked a flight from Niagara Falls to Florida, where my wife’s sister lives. But, first we had to get across the border.

We hired a car from Toronto. It was pricey, but there was no public transport going there, crossing the border. Our car guy was game to try though and so we did. We hit the border at Niagara Falls. The empty and deserted looking border where we were detained by border guards. They did not seem to know what to do and so hemmed and hawed for nearly an hour until they waved us through telling our Canadian driver he would have to come back immediately.

“Yes, but can I get back across?” He asked this half joking, but then blanched as the border guard said, “Maybe, I don’t know.” But, to our joyous surprise he was game to go anyway…good man.

We had booked at one of the only accommodations open in Niagara Falls. We could get food there delivered to the room…OK! We ventured out onto the walking trails that skirted the tops of the falls on the American side. We were the only people there. Nobody else, we had Niagara Falls all to ourselves. Despite the dearth of tourists, and even locals for that matter, the falls were lit at night with colored floodlights. Spectacular and exclusive! The desertion of the place made it quite surreal. It was though we were in a sci-fi movie trope! This feeling has held fast with us and is strong even as I write this on the deserted shores of Sebec Lake, Maine.

After two days at the falls that we spent hiking around each brink of them, we flew out of the small airport there. It was also deserted, and we had an easy, empty flight to the pocket-sized airport at Punta Gorda, Florida. Again empty, but people still not all wearing masks. We made it unscathed or diseased to our destination at Placida. In the condo complex, the pool was open, and the weather was fine. A very good supermarket just down the street. But, after just a few days, Florida locked down as well. The pool closed as did all the beaches. We were able to go out walking, but the month of April was spent in quiet contemplation, writing there, walking where we could. Our oldest son and his wife joined us there as they were in the middle of moving east from California when all this hit. Another upside; there we heard the news that a grandchild is on the way. I hope they don’t name the kid Covid!

Our idyll there went on until May 1 when we decided to drive north to Maine to our special hideaway in the woods on the lakeshore. Quiet, beautiful, uncrowded, 0 cases of Covid in the county and only very few in Maine at all. But first we had to run the gauntlet.

I love road trips, and I welcome any opportunity to jump into a car and go, far and fast. This was a little different though. We had the added dimension of the surreal sci-fi trope I spoke of. It was strange indeed. I kept thinking we had popped into an episode of The Walking Dead. I kept waiting for the zombies to appear and imagining which store would be best for looting and where to get gas, and weapons. As we drove, on and on, this became more and more realistic to me and I was warming quite quickly to the idea of some sort of Armageddon or at least protracted anarchy! Alas we only had Trumperies and mounting pressure that would eventually blow into the cop-fed violence of the various protests.

We made it, again unsullied, to our secluded retreat, our veritable fortress of solitude here in deep woods, surrounded on the three sides by water. When we arrived in early May it was cold, the snows of winter having recently melted. The house is not heated, not winterized. But, now in mid-June it is warming.

We will stay here, hunkering down, catching bass, making art and music, living and loving. And missing our man in China.

I have finally finished the first draft of my second novel. I will let it gestate until July when I begin edits. Meanwhile, there is finally time for things like this blog post, my FaceBook page, author website, twitter and linked in. Oh, and also canoeing, fishing, and the Harley!

So, upsides were exclusive Niagara time, announcement of a new grandchild, positioned for visits from current grandkids, the untamed, unequalled beauty and serenity that is Sebec, escape through locked borders and moving through small, empty airports instead of Miami and JFK, and time to contemplate next in the series of Roulon Balbozar tales.

We are safe here in the most beautiful place on the planet (to us, and many others), and from now until the end of October we have the gift of time.

Hmmmmm perhaps I’ll write a screenplay!