Perhaps it was doomed from the start. But I had waited so long to embark on this journey, I didn’t think about complications.
For 18 months I’d been regularly checking the internet, eagerly awaiting the reopening of the border to Canada. My home in New Brunswick had sat empty for those long months as Covid-19 ravaged nations around the world and closed borders to visitors, even those who owned properties or houses.
I could certainly understand the restrictions. Thousands were dying every month from the pandemic and countries were trying, often in vain, to control the spread. That didn’t make it any less difficult.
You see, New Brunswick isn’t just the place where I purchased a home 15 or so years ago – it’s the place I now feel most “at home.” I love the tiny village in which I live and the people there have become friends about whom I care deeply. Add to that the wild beauty of Fundy National Park, which sits on my doorstep, and it’s easy to see the magnetic attraction.
That’s why I was so thrilled when Canada announced it would reopen its border on Aug. 9 to vaccinated U.S. citizens. I was going home.
I thought I had planned everything carefully. I’d squeezed in all my needed appointments before the day to embark. I’d acquired the needed paperwork to take my cats over the border. I’d gotten my vaccination. I’d packed everything I needed for what I anticipated to be a three-month stay. And, I’d checked for the presence of my passport over and over again.
My first stop was at a lovely Airbnb in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Ever since a family trip there when I was very young, I’d wanted to return. I figured three nights there would give me a chance to explore the nearby area, including the Badlands, and would be a good introduction to the remainder of the trip.
What I hadn’t counted on was the rising tide of Covid infections in the U.S. and the increasing difficulty in obtaining the type of test that would be required to cross the border.
When I reached Fargo, North Dakota, after my three-night stay I set about trying to find a Covid test. No luck in Fargo. Hospitals and urgent care centers weren’t giving tests for travel. Pharmacies were, but by appointment only – and appointments were booked up for days. I checked pharmacies for hundreds of miles around me. No luck.
Making it even more difficult, Canada required that a negative test result be presented at the border within 72 hours of the test having been taken. The Covid spike, however, was causing delays in lab processing making it uncertain I’d be able to get the result within the allotted time.
Defeated after two days trying to get the test, I finally gave up. It was a monumental disappointment.
Exhausted and disheartened, I decided to book another three nights at a cabin in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming. I figured it would give me a chance to regroup and reconsider.
Nearby, I knew, was also the battleground where Native Americans defeated the Custer-led forces in the Battle of the Little Bighorn. It was somewhere I’d always wanted to visit.
On the hours-long car drive through the Dakotas and Montana to the cabin, I had time to consider how Covid had changed everyone’s lives. Although I’d contracted the virus at the very beginning of its spread, I’d been lucky. I’d only gotten a relatively mild case. There are certainly hundreds of thousands of families who have experienced the grief of a loved one’s death from the disease.
But it’s changed our lives in myriad small ways as well.
Always a planner, my pre-Covid life had been filled with trips, excursions, and events I sometimes planned a year in advance. It wasn’t hard then to anticipate what I’d be able to do in a month, six months, a year.
Now, however, the world has changed. Covid has made us rethink how we live our lives.
It’s much harder to anticipate things. Should I buy tickets to this event, or will a spike in the virus make me unwilling to mingle in large crowds? Should I plan a trip, or will make me uneasy to fly or suddenly cause nations to close their borders to outsiders?
Even small things took some thought. I might not want to visit a local art museum if hospitalizations were spiking. Similarly, even visits with friends and family had to be carefully considered.
It wasn’t that I was angered (except perhaps at the unvaccinated) but more that I had become simply consigned to the difference. It now required that a “we’ll see” or “enjoy-the-present” attitude be adopted.
That wasn’t all bad, I realized somewhere on my drive through Montana. But it did require letting go.
It meant letting go of the despondency that can occur when your expectations are not met. It meant adopting a philosophy to take only one day at a time, looking forward to hoped-for future events but not relying on them.
I thought I’d learned that 20 years ago when I unexpectedly required open-heart surgery. Then, I resolved to enjoy each day fully, realizing that subsequent days were never guaranteed. That worked for a while, but as I settled back into the regularity of life, that attitude began to be replaced with an “always-look-to-the-future” perspective.
Now, Covid wouldn’t allow that. It had forced me back into a live-for-today mindset. And that wasn’t all bad.
As I and my two feline travelers arrived at the cabin I’d rented, two magnificent male whitetail deer came to attention nearby. They slowly stalked off into the woods and I smiled.
In the coming days, trips to the Bighorn Mountains and the park site commemorating the battle of the Little Bighorn enthralled me. Yes, Canada still called, but the remorse disappeared as I focused on each day as it dawned.
I realized that I was enjoying making lemonade out of the lemons I’d been handed. Sometimes silver linings can be found in the darkest of clouds.
I’ve resolved again to live for today because, with Covid, you never know what tomorrow might bring.
You little lemonade maker, you!
So, where are you?? What’s the plan?
Gary Porter Boston, MA
I’m still in Colorado, hoping to maybe try to get into Canada once again next month. Where and how are you? We need to talk sometime soon.