To escape the daily march of coronavirus news, several times a day my dog Moz and I launch ourselves outside for a stroll in the sunshine, snow, freezing rain, or mud – whatever Mother Nature has to offer.
We live on a Castle Rock golf course, and Moz and I know every inch of its paths. We know where a female red-tailed hawk likes to hunt solo. We know the spot where a pair of great horned owls nest. On the part of the course where protective does and their freckled fawns like to nibble on virgin spring leaves or shy bobcats hang out in the shade of tall pines, we keep a respectful distance.
There’s a bank where a fox dug a den beneath the roots of a spray of scrub oak, and Moz and I can hear the foxes during the day, hunting and playing. On rare occasions, we spot them relaxing in the sun as they wait for their litters to be born.
But Moz and I are not the only ones seeking refuge in nature. When the governor issued the stay-at-home order, it was clear that the golf course had become a sanctuary for others as well.
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Golfers carry or wheel bags of clubs – much to the delight of Moz, who loves golf balls! In the last month, his hunts have turned up a treasure trove, filling two dozen empty egg cartons with white, yellow, pink, and orange balls – some checked with black squares or spotted with stars, others ringed with black lines.
Each ball discovery is greeted with the same ritual – Moz sniffs the ball carefully, dances around it in a circle, sniffs it again vigorously wagging his tail, and then snatches it as if stealing food off the counter and prances home carrying his treasure.
Other people also walk their dogs — occasionally tossing a tennis ball for a delighted golden retriever or black lab when the “golfer” coast is clear. Small clutches of families come and go with parents hovering over children wobbling on tiny bikes with training wheels or pushing infants in strollers, while their leashed family dogs gaze longingly at chattering squirrels.
A retired couple who live next to me walk in companionable silence holding hands. In the morning they walk the path from the 12th fairway to the 13th, and in the evening the 13th to the 12th. Several times a day, another neighbor carries his two elderly red dachshund dogs out to the neighborhood common area that borders the golf course path.
He carefully sets them down, stands ready with brightly colored plastic poop bags and waits patiently for them to finish their business. Task accomplished, he then re-bundles the dogs into his arms to carry them back into his house.
My office looks out onto the street and as I work, I realize that life on the street has also changed. There’s a steady stream of Amazon, UPS, and FedEx trucks making deliveries. Two couples bicycle as their morning workout and another couple jogs up and down the street at the same time, 8:00 each evening.
Last Sunday, the family who lives across the street parked their van in the street to clear their driveway so that they could spend the afternoon drawing chalk pictures. Children spilled from the house into the driveway, dressed in mis-matched PJ’s.
In just a few hours, they transformed the concrete into a canvas splashed with vibrant zig-zags of color, shaped into lines and circles. Their giggles and shouts of “Hey mom look at this” reminded me of children playing innocently at a park playground. There was an assortment of pictures—large and small– depicting unidentifiable images that delighted the artists. Was that a purple duck? A pink dog?
A friend who lives at the top of the street emailed me a photo of his new roommate: a delicate young Siberian Husky mix who loves to walk and run. John lost his dog, Rizzo, to cancer three months ago and now the COVID isolation inspired him to make room in his heart again. Siku is a perfect match for him as John also loves to walk and run.
They have several routes that they go each day. Moz and I frequently spot them on our early morning walks on the golf course. Then mid-afternoon I see him drive by in his SUV with Siku’s head hanging out of the back window on their way to the Douglas County Fairgrounds. And each evening they – like us – often end their day with a sunset walk back on the course.
What I have noticed in this time of coronavirus is patterns. Of people and animals and the routine comings and goings in my small as well as the larger worlds.
These patterns of life may well have always been there and I was simply less observant, but I suspect many of these activities reflect changes in our lives’ routines. This is what the people I live with are doing in my neighborhood to cope with a pandemic that has altered our lives.
But while life in my little neighborhood has definitely changed, it reassures me of how resilient we are. Even though COVID has infiltrated and upended the entire world as we know it, it has also given us an opportunity to slow down, to keep a more careful eye on what we each are doing to ensure that we’re OK. And to appreciate the generous but simple gifts that a golf course, street, or driveway in our little part of the world give us.
Danelle Young is a writer and consultant who lives in Castle Rock.