Finding Peace in a Pandemic

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     "Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it."

     — Ferris Bueller's Day Off

This is one of my favourite movie quotes. Even though we are in the midst of a pandemic (and have been for almost 5 months now), time has appeared to merge into itself. Looking back, I’m not sure where it all went. 

After month 3 of physical distancing and lockdown measures, the government of Ontario announced that some provincial parks were planning to re-open for camping. COVID has added safety and social distancing to the top of any trip planning process this summer. Whether that be to the local grocery store or to a distant campsite. The possibility of a change in routine prompted me to book a 3-night trip to  MacGregor Provincial Park with my friend Christine. 

A few weeks later, I loaded the last of my gear into the trunk of my car. Excitement is an unfamiliar feeling these days, and for once I welcomed the knots tightening in my stomach. As I drove north, the constant state of the unknown faded into the distance with the city skyline. The rolling fields and trees on the horizon brought endless possibilities of three days spent entirely outdoors. 

I arrived at the park and followed the check-in procedures, ensuring to take caution around the new COVID measures. Our campsite was nestled in a grove of birch trees, rimmed by ferns grasping at patches of sun that fell through the forest canopy. We wrestled with the tent and food shelter for nearly two hours before they were arranged to our satisfaction. At first, I wondered why the process took so long. My hands were out of practice and my mind was not used to focusing on a concrete task of the day, but instead rather drifting towards the unknowns of tomorrow. Soon little things that had bothered me at home no longer seemed to matter here. I no longer felt the need to rush through tasks for the mere sake of completion, I could take my time, there was no rush. 

 

With our campsite complete, the next task was to find the water! The camper’s beach is on the shores of Lake Huron. By volume, Lake Huron is the third largest of the Great Lakes. It provides a home to many species of fish, frogs, and flies. As we wandered towards the distant blues of the lake, mayflies dipped in the cool summer breeze as my lips curled into a smile. Mayflies indicate good water quality, also known as a bioindicator, my inner environmental science major danced for joy knowing the healthy sanctuary this lake provides.

We emerged through the trees and took our first step onto the sandy beach. Fellow beachgoers were basking in the heat of the sun that beamed in a cloudless sky. I crossed the beach and chose to wade through the water for the majority of the day. In my experience, the feeling of swimming in a lake is like no other. It is a feeling full of contradictions. There is a sense of calm, yet adventure. There is the warmth of sunlight when floating on the surface, yet a coldness when exploring below. The world slowed when I was in the lake, giving me a moment to stop and look around at it. 

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I spent the following two evenings watching the sunset over the lake. I had a new and refreshed mindset after a couple days of camping. Part of my change in mindset came from the change in routine. But more importantly, I believe my change in mindset also came from my connection to the Earth and Water. Throughout the trip, I was present and focused without feeling overworked or agitated. I strongly believe the connections and experiences one makes in nature can help with many aspects of their wellbeing including mindfulness and grounding.

I’ve learned in these times especially, being in a healthy headspace is incredibly important. Trying to stay present and grounded is a challenge, pandemic or no pandemic. We can’t always escape for multiple days to the solitude of nature. We can however go for a walk, eat lunch outside, or watch a nature documentary before bed. It is more important now than ever to promote positive mindfulness.

Overall, this trip taught me Ferris Bueller is right. It’s important to slow down, notice the small things, and appreciate every moment in life.

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