Reconnecting with my daughter, Lucy, has been a big part of the silver lining in this pandemic for me. When she was twelve, she started on her path in dance, which consumed her every waking moment. She was so focused, so sure of herself. At that same time, I was facing what appeared to be the end of my own path, unsure about what came next. Lucy was headed up the mountain, full of optimism and excitement, and I had just come tumbling down it, broken and scared. Her sight was clear, mine was foggy; we both had a lot of work to do.
And get to work we did. One step at a time, over the past six years, has led us both on all kinds of adventures, but in most instances away from each other. Throughout this past year, we were both on the road more than we were home, and we were rarely ever home at the same time. It was definitely a blessing to be busy. Still, my heart hurt daily thinking about the moments I was not just missing, but losing, that would never come back. And then, with one text message, while walking through the airport in Lima, Peru, the pandemic came into my world, and I got on the first airplane home.
This past month, despite the fear, confusion, and uncertainty, has been its own blessing. Lucy and I have spent every day with each other, talking, walking, reading, writing, exercising, playing, eating and enjoying every moment. Our lives have slowed down, and I have surrendered to the reality that I can’t get it all done in one day, and that it’s not realistic or healthy to try. I can still work hard, but with a sense of ease that removes pressure and the anxiety that comes with it. I have felt a weight leave my shoulders, and it’s one I intend to keep off. Lucy and I have discussed this feeling and the liberation that has come with it in both of our lives, and how we want to hold onto it going forward.
I’ve traded that weight that has left my shoulders for a 30lb rucksack, and Lucy and I have been putting down miles on our “Suburban-Hikes.” Yesterday’s hike was to our old neighborhood of Naples, where Ann picked us up for some Blue Bird Sushi take-away. After that, we walked the dogs and then played Scrabble as we floated through the silver lining.
The Dust Bowl and the plight of The Joad Family consume mine and Lucy’s ruck from our home in Lakewood Village to Emily’s apartment in the Wrigley Neighborhood. Lucy is currently reading the classic Steinbeck novel, The Grapes of Wrath, which I read in 1995, and which has informed my consciousness ever since. To be discussing the book, some twenty-five years later, and the ecological and economic situations that it is centered around with Lucy seems appropriate in these times. History gives perspective. I mention a bible verse that reads, “there is nothing new under the sun,” to say there have always been and always will be hard times.
We discuss a Route 66 road trip for when the pandemic is over. Cliché perhaps, but a fun adventure none the less. The Southwest, the Grand Canyon, the open road: these are ongoing themes in my psyche, and so the idea lights me up. I’ve been through that country many, many times before, and I look forward to seeing it again with Lucy. We make a deal; it will happen.
As we walk along, we find ourselves cutting through the historic neighborhood of California Heights, filled with beautiful homes and properties built and developed during the time of the Great Depression, where the fictional Joads were on the road seeking work and dignity. Somehow walking through this neighborhood, at this moment, gives us a deeper connection to the story; to the past, present, and future.
We arrive at Emily’s apartment, and play with her cats, before putting our rucksacks back on, and traversing back across Long Beach. The last few miles of our twelve-mile trek are spent in relative silence as we “Embrace The Suck” that we feel in our shoulders and legs. But what seems difficult while you’re in the midst of it, quickly recedes to the past, especially when greeted by loving dogs who slobber all over you.
About the Author
Mike Vallely is an old-school GRT who did the first GORUCK Challenge in Las Vegas. He and his family founded streetplant.com out of their garage. Stay tuned for more collaborations with Mike, including GR1.