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.
Posts tagged ‘Foreign Service’
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.
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.
Over the course of the last decade, only twice did we spend the Fourth of July together in the States — in 2013, between our first two overseas assignments in the Foreign Service, and again five years later. We were also stateside in 2016, but spent the holiday apart, S marking the occasion with her family in New England while D took in a memorable Independence Day celebration in a small Colorado town. Last year July caught us on opposite sides of the globe from one another; the other years we were together but far away from home, at various postings in Africa and Europe.
Every time we set foot on a trail amid Sedona’s towering red rock mountains, or spend a lazy afternoon at Oak Creek with the kids, or watch our dog roll around contentedly in a patch of sun-dappled grass in the Coconino National Forest, we feel a now familiar mix of conflicting emotions: gratefulness for the respite from cramped city living and the restrictive pandemic lockdown we escaped in Manila, mixed with a foretaste of nostalgia ahead of our eventual return to the Philippines.
We just passed one hundred days of rupture. A handful of countries – China, Italy, South Korea, to name a few – faced the pandemic sooner, but for most of the rest of us mid-March marks the breaking point of lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, and other social distancing and virus containment measures. Speaking from experience and judging by our social media feeds, the last three months have fueled a wide array of personal obsessions as we all struggled to adapt to this new normal.
It’s the middle of June, temperatures routinely flirt with 100 degrees, and locals and visitors alike can be seen seeking refuge at Oak Creek swimming holes and Sedona’s crowded watering holes. A small handful of people wear masks, but by and large life here appears to have snapped back almost fully to the pre-pandemic normal. The contrast to the ghost town we had encountered when we arrived in Sedona a couple of months ago could not be starker. An uninformed observer might be forgiven for surmising that this corner of the country has been untouched by the pandemic. Unfortunately, quite the contrary is true.
Our serious interest in and passion for photography notwithstanding, we are and will always remain amateur photographers. We both have taken photography classes and understand the basic mechanics of manual photography, but frequently default to the automatic settings on our cameras and deploy only a small fraction of their sophisticated features. Similarly, D does some light post-processing – cropping mainly – when he sorts our photos, but he barely knows Photoshop basics and has never opened Lightroom or any of the dozen other photo editing programs that enable pros to correct and enhance their raw images.
This weekend marks the midway point of S’s first Foreign Service tour. A year has now elapsed since her arrival in the Philippines, though given all that has happened in the intervening months, last June seems a decade ago. Needless to say, marking the occasion in Arizona is not something we could have anticipated. So much of this year has been defined by rupture.