Chasing beauty and finding normal

Anyone who knows me knows I ain’t no city girl. Nevermind that I live 8 miles from downtown Dallas. 

(That was my husband’s doing. That’s not the topic of this particular post.)

One thing I’ve learned, maybe relearned, from all this “Safer At Home” and “Shelter In Place” is that I need the land. My mind and body crave the open air, big sky, fresh dirt under my feet, the need to look for snakes.

I thrive in the country. The city makes me a tad claustraphobic and always has. Wide open spaces, and especially SKY, help me balance. Man, do I love flowers.

My heart slowly cracks when I’m in the city too long. Six weeks is about my limit. I’ve been unsure how to care for this particular need while properly social distancing and staying at home except for daily exercise and to pick up groceries.

So while I appreciate avoiding a nasty virus, my mental health is close to breaking. Twice a day walks and bike rides don’t cut my need to be where I can’t hear anything metallic or smell exhaust (yes, I do recognize that the air IS significantly cleaner lately, thank you for everyone working from home.). 

I grew up in the country, and in the country is where I truly feel like I am myself.

So today, we took advantage of our freedom and took a long, slow, country drive. The kind of drive featured in movies where the top is rolled down, the radio is cranked up, and everyone sings. For us, it was the Muppets, but whatever. It’s fun to watch father and son duet as Kermit and Rolf the Fog.

All of our three sons jumped at the chance to go with us. That is unusual and says something about their mental health as well, because before March 15, none of them volunteered to go anywhere with us that didn’t involve food. My eldest, who is neck-deep in homework for his community college classes, even said he knew the drive would put him behind but he’d make it up tomorrow. He wanted out of the house as badly as I did, although he is quite ok with the city.

Bluebonnets are more frequently known in other parts of the country as lupines. They grow wild on my parents’ property in Michigan. I grew them in my garden in Wisconsin. Texas bluebonnets are much, much darker blue than the lupines I knew. I bought some seeds for my new garden in Dallas.

We didn’t go far, just outside the city to look for wildflowers. 

I’ve wanted to go look at the bluebonnets in bloom since we’ve moved to Dallas four years ago, but every April, something better comes first. We intended to go last weekend, but I’d read that some cities were enforcing the Safer At Home orders, and we decided it wasn’t worth a ticket. I’ve since found out which cities and counties, and we did avoid those. The Dallas News also posted an article of safe things to do while social distancing, and country drives were on that list.

I also looked up the Ennis Bluebonnet Trails map and saw that it had been removed from their web site, so we avoided most of that as well.

I first saw Indian Paintbrush when I went to college in Colorado. They seemed much more bountiful and beautiful here this year. Maybe I have a newfound appreciation.

Quite frankly, I don’t want to be around even small groups of people if I can help it. 

I did find someone else’s blog post with a map of northeast of Ennis, Texas, and we used that for our route. It led us down winding, hilly country roads past gorgeous ranches and a few stately longhorns. Palominos, buckskins, dappled grays joined the typical chestnuts and bays on the ranches. We even saw donkeys, goats, and a pair of stunning Belgian draft horses.

We stayed in the car except for a couple quick spots for me to take some pictures and a fabulous hill with ample parking and few people, which made it easy to justify stretching our legs and enjoying the fresh are and beautiful scenery.

My only regret is not actually sitting on the ground and face the hills and breathe deeply for five minutes. Somehow, I forgot to do that. Yet, I managed to come home a lot lighter and happier to have gotten out of the city for a couple hours at least.

I’m sorry I didn’t sit down on this hill and breathe in the the beauty.

I think after more than three weeks of the Safer At Home order (for Dallas) and longer for other places, people are beginning to understand the importance of mental health. Depending on a person’s experience, the coronavirus can either seem like no big deal or like everything important is at catastrophic risk. I refuse to downplay that. We have a wide variety of experiences in this, but being confined to a small area also plays with our mental health. 

If we have the ability and freedom to catch a moment of healing in all this pain, while not putting ourselves or others at risk, I think we should go for it. We also need to understand that people’s risk tolerance range wide. An acceptable risk to you is not necessarily safe to me. We need to accept these differences while not judging people for their different boundaries. As I heard someone say, we’re all in the same storm, but we definitely have different boats.

With that said, I do have some tips for making outings safer.

Get gas before you leave. Don’t take your exposure risk to places where there are fewer medical resources. Try to protect rural residents from your potential germs. Use gloves or towels to touch the pump and buttons. Put your used gloves and towels in the trash can, please.

Have a bathroom plan. We didn’t drink liquids or on our journey before we left and required everyone to use the restroom before getting in the car. This is safe for short jaunts like ours, but if you go longer, make a plan. Certainly wash your hands. Use sanitizer.

Take pictures. Leave only footprints on the path.

Follow the law. Don’t give a police officer a reason to stop you. Make sure your car’s taillights are working. Don’t speed. Give other cars safe distances on the road too. Traffic is reduced, so there is no need to get in an accident.

Be smart in where you pull off the side of the road. Get completely off the road, and do it well below the crest of a hill.

Slow down around curves and at the top of hills. You don’t know what’s on the other side.

If you get out of the car, give well more than six feet of space to other people. Out in the open air, six feet feels like you are on top of me. Keep your distance, people. Besides, you’ll get better photos and have a better experience that way.

Also, don’t trample the flowers. Once you step on a flowering plant, it wilts, and then the person who comes after you won’t be able to see them. Walk where the people who have gone before you have walked.

And, hey, learn from my mistake. Sit down and enjoy the quiet, the breeze, the sight, and let it soothe your soul.

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