What Social Distancing Looks Like In A Power Chair
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Looking Up: Social Distancing With A Camera In A Powerchair

A photo essay in Olympia, Washington

A person sitting in a power chair, wearing a mask with pansies and large sunglasses, aiming a Kodak camera at the photographer

When the local trails reopened, the photographer in me couldn't resist the temptation — yet stayed well over 6 feet away from all people at all times.

The Pacific Northwest tends to enjoy the few warm spring days that they get. This April was only slightly affected by the order to socially distance on the paved trails. Some souls did come out to walk, yet quite a few features remained empty, reminding us all of the invisible menace we were attempting to avoid by touch or by thought.

Empty serenity

A Wooden deck with rails surrounded by trees coming into leaf

Empty decks

M Slighte

As I passed by this deck, I could almost envision it coming to life with a family pearched upon the benches or toddlers trying to climb, impeded by a careful parent. Yet, the birds chirped in the distance and the deck remained filled with ghosts of playtimes past.

A quiet repose

A wooden bench in the middle of a meadow with daffodils and trees lining it

Poised for a quick conversation or perhaps a springtime proposal

M Slighte

A quiet bench sat in the midst of dandilions wilting and trees blooming, waiting for a couple to come along. Yet, no proposal is sprung, and the bench grows warm with moss, left to its own defenses.

The trail winds down

A paved trail winds down a wooded area while sunshine streams through the trees

I wondered if I should chance it

M Slighte

Using a new power chair for the first time outside more than a mile, I was leery of the angle of the descent of the trail ahead of me as it wound through the beautiful trees in front of me. Those same trees were more of my personal nemesis than the virus for which I was wearing a mask.

My doctor and I laughed about the fact that I had been hesitant to buy a mask for allergy purposes the previous year and now it was ordered that no one couldn't be outside without them. My how the world had changed.

It burns the eyes and stings the nose

A tree in bloom with yellowish green blossoms

Looking up can be painful sometimes

M Slighte

And man how that pollen blows!!

Wow, there it was, hanging in literal bags above my eyes as I looked upwards: Tree pollen.

I was more than thankful for the pansy mask made by a friend that adorned my face, but I really wished I could rinse my eyes out as well. It was difficult to see the pretty flowers for the searing pain they caused to my optical orbs.

Spiteful beauty

Red-purple tree blossom

Their beauty mocked my burning eyes

M Slighte

Regardless of the burning in my eyes, I couldn't help but to look up at the enticing blossoms.

The blooming trees had a resplendent grace about them that was irresistible. Like the temptation to wander the trails during a lockdown. A glorious temptation.

Looking over the hills

Brush in the foreground, trees and gentle rolling hills in the background

No differences from normal here

M Slighte

The rolling Black Hills behind the blooming brush caused me to long for one of those road trips around "the loop" and up to the Olympic Peninsula.

My mind turned to thoughts of our coastal towns, missing out on early tourist sales during this nice warm snap we rarely get an opportunity to enjoy in the northwest. A much different year this year, from before the start of the season.

Trails being enjoyed...at a distance

A person on a bike with a helmet ahead of the camera on a paved trail surrounded by grass with a tree over

He passed me again!

M Slighte

As I lingered here and there to snap my photos, I noticed a few people who raced passed me, not wanting to disturb my concentration. They all stayed far more than 6 feet away at all times, but some said, "Hi" and chatted a moment.

Looking down

A rotting tree stump with moss growing on a rock next to it

The charm of decay

M Slighte

As I enjoyed the enchanting nature scenes, I pondered the rapid deterioration of the structure that makes up what we know as our society. With "stay inside" orders, quickly many devolved into their most anxious states. Including myself.

My composure seemed to rot as the comfort of our infrastructure was dismantled temporarily. It has taken concentrated work to regain it.

What type of work will we need to do to restore the infrastructure of our society?

Looking up through cups of love

Red solo cups squeezed through a fence at Capital High School to make a heart

The love from Capital High School to its students is alive and well

M Slighte

Perambulating next to Capital High School, I could feel the love on display.

I looked up and felt the sun glow warmly upon the red solo cups pushed through the fence by the staff in a display that began with a heart and read, "We miss our Cougars."

Heading back home

a black latex glove discarded on a city sidewalk next to the edge of the street

The trash on the sidewalks has changed only in type not in quantity

M Slighte

As I headed back towards my home, I was disturbed to see that the littering had not decreased in the absence of large amounts of people milling about. Instead, the garbage discarded upon our city sidewalks and streets for others to clean up has an ominous medical air about it.

The PPE everyone is discussing day and night on the news, in desperate need, once used is discarded. Thus creating more jobs no one is doing.

A sign of the times

A sign in white next to a tree that reads, "Love each other as I have loved YOU"

A glimmer of hope someone left for others

M Slighte

As I came down the trail, I noticed a sign on my left side.

I hadn't seen it on my way in, I had been distracted attempting to stay over 6 feet away from a rather large family with excited children. I admit, when I read it, tears came to my eyes. I appreciated the neighborly effort.

My heart recognized the words and was touched profoundly by the sentiment.

Another sign these times are different

Capital High School sign displaying "STAY SAFE!" in red LEDs

Capital High reaching out on the Cooper Point Road side

M Slighte

As I got closer to home, I passed by the Cooper Point Road display for Capital High School. It switched between "STAY SAFE!" and "WE MISS OUR STUDENTS!"

I couldn't help but pause and think. My granddaughters who live down the street might be going to this high school someday. The class of 2020 isn't one like any we've ever had before.

I wondered how many new normals we will have to endure before their graduation year. I dried my tears for a moment and perambulated down the street back towards home.

Looking up

Sun in a star through the blooming trees

The sun shown down on my smiles and tears

M Slighte

On this early spring day, it was warmer than it had been in so long. At just over 70 degrees Fahrenheit, I felt the chill of winter, compounded by weeks inside sheltering in place, ease away.

The light seemed to permeate my soul. I felt warmed through with love from beyond what we know here.

I felt God smiling down. Keep looking up.

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