Quarantine Causes A Collective Return To Nature
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Quarantine Causes A Collective Return To Nature

Parks and hiking trials provide a much-needed escape for those in quarantine.

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Quarantine Causes A Collective Return To Nature
Courtney Hittle

A few days ago, my boyfriend, our friend and I went to Busiek State Park to explore for the day. We pulled into a packed parking lot, with cars lining the side of the road. While we were hoping it'd be less crowded, it was uplifting to see so many people adventuring and appreciating nature, despite the saddening circumstances. The busy trail reminded me of my trip to Canada in August, where hundreds of people lined the trails and suspension bridges, just to get a view of an astonishing feature of nature. While I was struggling with my new state of being unemployed, as I knew many of the people around me were, too, I couldn't help but be reminded of the important things in life.

As someone who worked as a host in a restaurant, it was disheartening to see the lack of business we received in the few days before carry-out and to-go orders were our only mode of service. I felt for our servers, as well as for local restaurants and retail stores who were dealing with the same things. Driving down one of the main roads in town after most places had shut down, it was odd being able to hear the silence.

And while it was eerie and scary, because it meant a detour from normalcy and a dark financial turn, it was oddly peaceful. I started to think about what was essential for living. Things like new clothes and fancy meals didn't have as much shine as they used to. I didn't ache to spoil myself with ice cream.

Instead, I found peace in the outdoors. Whenever I met up with my best friends from high school, we took to the woods to clear our heads and catch up on what we'd been up to. I'd walked a local trail after a hard break-up and loss of a classmate. Nature was always there to remind me that I was a little drop in a big fountain, and that it was necessary, at times, to slow down.

The woods seemed to hold a similar place in other people's hearts, as we passed families, couples, single joggers, and numerous furry friends. The virus may have knocked them down, but they knew where they needed to go to build themselves back up again.

Pawprints and Humanprints alike in the muddy trail at Busiek State Park.Courtney Hittle

With a variety of different trail options, the Busiek State Park provided a "choose your own adventure" mentality, much like the popular book 80s and 90s book series. It was exciting to see so many young ones, pups, and adults energized by the scent of adventure, one that many of us had forgotten altogether, due to our daily grinds and fixation on technology.

Springfield photographer and director Christian Gideon shared on his Instagram page, "I've always explored these spaces on the fringe of society. Back roads. Ghost towns. The overlooked. Returning to these spaces together as a way of staying safe and staying sane has given them new meaning. Part of me feels like I was preparing for this moment my whole life."

I felt like this personal reflection on what seemed like a mass return to nature summed up what I, and so many others must be feeling right now.

I found myself thinking about how incredibly lucky I was to not have to feel this sort of financial uncertainty and emotional collapse every day, due to the privilege I carry. It saddens me to know that so many families regularly struggle with trying to qualify for unemployment, and if they do, living off of that small sum each month.

The reality of all of this hit when we made it back to the end of the trail, after four and a half hours of hiking. On a rock, shattered pieces of pottery with writing on them told individuals stories regarding the virus.

What looked like had been a mug, read, "Corona Virus. You took my: safety, piece of mind, graduation, counseling job, coffee job." The weight of this epidemic and all of the strife it has caused couldn't be ignored. But knowing that this was a shared experience, however troubling, made it somewhat easier to bear.


Broken pieces of pottery at Busiek State ParkCourtney Hittle


Broken pieces of pottery at Busiek State ParkCourtney Hittle


Broken pieces of pottery at Busiek State ParkCourtney Hittle

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