With the coming of COVID-19, the Hour of the Introvert is at hand. Many writers fall into this category of humans for whom “social distancing” is the old normal. For us, solitude and quiet do not equate to loneliness and boredom. The period of recharging that stretches out ahead of us does not strike us as altogether unpleasant, so long as we and our loved ones remain healthy and employed. This may change, of course, with our tolerance for cocooning depending on how long the emergency lasts and how fragile our economy and our civil society prove to be. But introverts will likely be the last people to freak out from cabin fever.
We must, however, acknowledge that there are plenty of others who don’t thrive without frequent social interaction. These are the people who suffer most during a long winter, who always want to stop at a gym after work or a tavern after dinner, who enjoy bustle and noise and lots of human company.
Here’s one happy truth that may help us all: Being on “lockdown” when the adversary is a microorganism that inhabits human hosts does not necessarily mean staying indoors all the time. We can take walks, so long as we stay more than six feet away from other people and avoid touching surfaces that get touched a lot. We can celebrate the upcoming Vernal Equinox, Arbor Day and Earth Day by hugging a tree; it won’t get sick. The myriad health benefits of vigorous walking include increasing your lungs’ capacity to transmit oxygen to your bloodstream, which could confer a handy survival edge if you should happen to contract the virus and find yourself on your hospital’s waiting list for a ventilator.
Making such activity a whole lot easier, and putting an official Cuomo Administration imprimatur on it, is the announcement on March 17 that the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is waiving fees at all state, local and county parks. That means that users can come and go without handing money or day passes back and forth at points of entry. Both the Wallkill Valley Land Trust and Scenic Hudson sent out e-mail blasts this week reminding us all that rail trails and privately owned parks also remain open to the public.
If you’re not a backwoodsy type, if the idea of getting mud on your shoes or bug repellent on your skin or your phone outside the range of cellular service sounds like no fun at all, there are also plenty of places to take a long walk in our region’s small cities, towns and villages without rubbing shoulders with the potentially infected – for example, Huguenot Street and the Nyquist/Harcourt Wildlife Sanctuary in New Paltz, or the Chestnut Street Historic District and the Maurice D. Hinchey Promenade along the Rondout waterfront in Kingston. So, you need not fret at home; you can practice active social distancing while toning up your muscles, improving your cardiovascular health and also enjoying the beauties of nature, or of human-designed landscapes and architecture.