I took off this past Friday to spend a peaceful spring day in the turkey woods, hoping to harvest another big, delicious gobbler for the roasting pot. I set my sights on hunting a large expanse of public land where I’ve rarely ever encountered another human. At 4:00 AM I scarfed down some oatmeal, filled up my coffee mug, and hit the road, filled with giddy anticipation for getting out and spending some quality time in the great outdoors. At 4:50 AM, as I closed in on my destination, I began going over my game plan for the day as my excitement continued to build. Moments later, as I pulled into the parking lot…still in the predawn darkness…a sea of strange lights lit up before me. It was the reflection of brake lights from an entire parking lot full of vehicles. I couldn’t believe it! But, not to be deterred, I headed down the road many more miles to another access point for the area, and sure enough, even more vehicles! Knowing that I’d have LOTS and LOTS of company out in the woods that day, which is a recipe for chaos when trying to hunt turkey, I begrudgingly turned around and went home.
After regrouping for a bit, deciding I wasn’t going to completely waste a designated day off, I switched gears, grabbed my fishing gear, and headed off to one of my favorite river bottom swamp areas. Once again, as I pulled into the parking lot where I almost NEVER encounter another soul, especially on a weekday, I could hardly find an open spot. As I got out and hiked around the area, I realized that there were more people out there that day than I had seen in over thirty years…combined! So, with all my good fishing spots already taken, I headed home once again and decided to go for a walk in the park with our energetic golden retriever, Yukon. Once again, I encountered a record number of people of all ages engaging in activities of all kinds. Yep. It was official: the coronavirus lockdown had people coming out of the woodwork!
While it was a rather frustrating day initially, it was a clear reminder of one of those ancient principles of life: the worst can bring out the best. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes only in the midst of suffering, struggle, and strife, that we humans realize the immense value of so many things we regularly take for granted during our busy, distracted lives. That day I saw young people playing together outside, getting lots of fresh air, exercise, and sunshine…instead of being locked away indoors, fiddling on their phones for hours on end in total isolation, as ironically, they were actually supposed to be. I saw folks sitting on their front porches visiting at length with their next-door neighbors…many for the first time in months…if ever. I saw couples of all ages holding hands and going for a romantic stroll while admiring the blooming spring flowers and listening to the symphony of songbirds.
While the great outdoors is naturally a place of “social distancing” and most folks seemed to be striving to stay at least six feet apart in their small groups, it was still quite an ironic phenomenon. Isn’t it interesting that when we are forced to embrace a lifestyle that we so often readily accept in many ways, we rebel and do the opposite…finally realizing how wonderful it is to live the life we were meant to; a life of community, relationship, and gratitude for the simple, irreplaceable blessings and joys that we take for granted, until they’re gone or restricted.
As we continue to pray for a quick end to the current pandemic, for the healing of those most affected by the virus, and for all those on the front lines of the battle, let us also pray that we may use this time to rediscover the beauty of life, love, and friendship, and regain our appreciation for the many simple, though priceless blessings that we so often take for granted.