Up with the sun, guiding the car alongside the familiar curves of Oak Creek Canyon to one of his favorite birding spots, D mused how he has traded one obsessive hobby for another. Left on his own in the States last summer, D spent a lot of time behind the wheel, traveling to see as many of his favorite bands in concert as he could find within a reasonable driving distance of D.C. Nowadays, with no live shows for the foreseeable future, D has turned the same zeal toward birding, poring through bird lists instead of concert listings in a bid to find as many unique species as possible.
Two months into the summer, a familiar assortment of hopes and worries hovers omnipresent at the forefront of our minds. This continuity is perversely reassuring. So disruptive was the pandemic and so great our longing for a return to normalcy that our minds have latched on to the constancy they offer, even if that constancy translates to heightened stress levels that can never quite be resolved. It is a testament to the mind’s adaptability that not even four months into our evacuation and with the world around us still very much in a state of great upheaval, we have reached a sense of routine.
Mid-morning, we’re both plugging away on our laptops, a stillness that is equal parts soothing and unnerving permeating the house. The living room floor is strewn with K’nex, snap beads, and Legos, but our two little troublemakers are nowhere to be seen. Is it possible that the kids are playing nicely together in another room or is it more likely that the calm and quiet belie the fact that they are up to no good? And does it matter if we can sneak in some uninterrupted work during our hours of peak productivity as a result?
Long before Junebug discovered and befriended the great blue herons that frequent nearby Bubbling Ponds and enlisted them as unwitting participants in a long-running, one-sided game of tag, she got really into with hummingbirds. The Anna’s hummingbird — a gregarious species whose males flash brilliant pink feathers on their heads and necks — quickly became a particular favorite, pink being Junebug’s favorite color.
By almost any measure, we consider ourselves incredibly fortunate to have spent the last three months in Sedona. For D, who has spent much of this time wandering the surrounding countryside in search of new birds, our stay in Arizona has resulted in a birding bonanza. He is reminded of just how lucky he is in this respect every time he meets fellow birders out on the trails. Frequently, they are out-of-state visitors who have travelled to Arizona for a chance to glimpse some of its unique birds, especially raptors.
The summer heat, not to mention Arizona’s lackluster coronavirus response, has soured S somewhat on Sedona as a retirement destination. Even so, we are continuing to enjoy our temporary residence in the Grand Canyon state. To escape the heat, we have been exploring the northern ponderosa pine forests around Flagstaff, hiking in the Kachina Peaks Wilderness and birdwatching at the Kachina Wetlands. Last week, taking advantage of D’s mini work break, we ventured a bit farther afield, visiting the Petrified Forest National Park.
Arizona, which we have come to love over the last few months of living here, is a real hot mess right now, and we’re not talking about the prolonged stretch of hundred-degree days, which have left us feeling dazed with heat. By nearly all available metrics, Arizona has become one of the country’s leading coronavirus hotspots and, given the state’s current trajectory, things are liable to get significantly worse before they get any better.
Several years have elapsed since we last revised our bucket list. Our recent hot air balloon ride prompted us to take another look. The first few years after we had penned this list on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, we updated it regularly, ticking off completed adventures and adding new life goals. We slowed down considerably after having kids. The last time we updated the list we were still a family of three. A lot of water under the bridge, and yet not a lot has changed in the intervening years.
One evening toward the end of our first month in Sedona, we found ourselves debating the advisability of putting up bird feeders. By that point we had acclimated after our sudden departure from the Philippines but had little in the way of guidance regarding the likely length of our evacuation. The Department’s initial global authorized departure only extended through mid-May, and there was considerable confusion about what lay ahead.
Much has been written about how unsustainable the new status quo is for working parents, even those who like us are fortunate enough to have jobs that can be performed remotely, for the time being. There just aren’t enough hours in a day to provide quality childcare while maintaining pre-pandemic levels of office productivity. Somewhere along the way corners wind up getting cut, especially since the policies of reopening seem to emphasize economic activity over children’s education and development.