Drive-By-Vacations during Quarantine
Even in good times, I am prone to cabin fever. In the past we have spent our summers in Oregon, where summer does not really begin until the end of June. From May to June it rains, storms, mists, is cloudy and miserable. Hiking Pacific Coast trails is impossible. After spending days on end in our little home I was ready to get out! I was so crazed with cabin fever that I insisted on Tim and I going to a Walmart opening in Eugene. Tim took one look at my wild eyes and gnashing teeth and said, “I gotta get you outta here! Let’s go to Walmart.” Just how desperate was I? A Walmart opening? Really? Yet, there would be free hotdogs, a huge new store filled with stuff we didn’t need and most importantly, PEOPLE!
All writers are voyeurs. People watching is our favorite activity. I come from a long line of Brooklyn stoop-sitting neighborhood spies. Brooklyn gossip was telegraphed over clothes lines between tenement houses. The neighborhood news was retrieved from the voices, shouts, thumps, laughter and groans drifting through the walls. The shared bathroom down the hall announced pregnancies. The earliest rising resident, a woman racing down the hall brooking no interference and the sounds that followed was a new life being announced to the tenement tribe of women. That was in 1910, Brooklyn. This is 2020, Tampa.
It is quite obvious that during quarantine I am craving the company of women friends, fellow writers and readers, and news of anything having to do with other people, anyone except myself. I am sick of spending too much time with myself.
We all share this frightening pandemic and quarantine. The end of June has brought the same complaint from all my friends and many of Tim’s students. We are suffering from cabin fever. Prior to June people seemed to be handling quarantine well. The week of June 30 a sea change occurred. We are all going bonkers with not seeing other people, friends, crowds on beaches, children cavorting, park ground picnics. We miss going to restaurants, movies, concerts and bars. We crave it all. And everything is closed up, again. Tim and I totally support the quarantine, masks, sanitizer and whatever it takes to keep us and the world around us safe. But still. We miss people.
So, Tim and I have devised a way to travel safely and view new sights, Drive-By Vacations. These vacations might last a few hours or a day. We get in the car, pick a new destination and drive. This works for us. Now, when Tim says, “Want to go for a ride?” I race to the door, leap about and pant for a new experience, much like Rover being asked, “Want to go to the park?”
Below is our first Drive-By-Vacation. I invite all my readers to let me know of their own Drive- By-Vacation suggestions. I encourage my readers share your suggestions/stories to my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Townsend House Church Cemetery: March 24, 2020: http://www.fivay.org/townsend_house_church.html
I am an avid gravestone rubber, etching gravestone images and words onto rice paper using gravestone rubbing wax. A cemetery felt like a good social distancing experience. Lots of dead people and few visitors.
We drove for about an hour and a half, loving the landscape, people, and cars on the road. The last half hour reminded me of Vermont with its rutted ladderback dirt road on which we slid from side to side. We arrived at this serene cemetery, overhung with ancient oaks dressed in Spanish Moss, stones shining brightly through the speckled sunlight, and nothing, no one, else, except racing squirrels and singing birds.
There was a Civil War Monument as well as Civil War, WWI and WWII graves. There were also monuments for Woodsmen Of The World, WOW, which we had not found outside of Oregon. What better place to remind one of the importance of life than in a cemetery? You can’t escape the gravestone messages to remind you of the value of carpe diem:
As I am now, so you shall be. Prepare for death and follow me.
We wandered throughout the cemetery with the chattering squirrels and Blue Jays overhead, their peace interrupted by our trespass on these sacred grounds. There were so many stories throughout the cemetery, soldiers, ministers and their wives, infants, children, ordinary citizens, the tombstone tales of lives lived. This is why I so love graveyards. I feel, as Tim does, that we are paying tribute to those long dead. Their families are probably also gone, with no one left to leave flowers or brush lichen from the family stones.
At this remarkable Civil War graveyard we etched two stones. The last names on both stones were the same, which we did not realize until we opened up our rolled rice paper scrolls at home. The stones were far apart. Our rubbings testified to these two lives buried there:
“Pvt Mitchel Jones, Co. B. Munnerlyn’s BN FLA Cow Cavalry” was our first rubbing that day. Who knew there was a Cow Cavalry during the Civil War from Dade County?
The second stone we etched was of “Edgar L. Jones, Florida, C 306 Ammunition Train, WWI.” We were dumbfounded. We imagined his job, loading and unloading ammunition from trains across the front, most likely in France, during WWI.
There was a large pavilion, aptly named “Gibbons Pavilion” with picnic benches and tables on it’s cement floor. There was a clean rest room, which held paper towels and hand sanitizer. There were flowers in a vase on the sink. It was obvious someone did care about this graveyard, and paid attention to whatever guests might arrive.
A brisk breeze blew through the roofed porch of the Gibbons Pavilion where we enjoyed our lunch from home. The birds sang all around us, darting and vying for our crumbs. We relished the peace in this serene setting. Our visit felt like a form of meditation.
Our first Drive-By-Vacation trip was successful and thought provoking. It was also a very necessary respite from quarantine. We were unable to visit our living friends but paid tribute to the dead. We left with our gravestone rubbings and our memories of the day etched into our lives, much as we had etched the lives of others onto our rice paper scrolls.