I was on vacation, so I had the luxury of taking my kayak out on Penobscot Bay every morning, six days in a row.

One of those days was foggy. As I set out, I thought the mist had burned off; I could see Sears Island again. Then, suddenly, it disappeared. I was alone in a gray-blue world.

The bay was still and I rested in my kayak, just gazing around. In my little, gauzy, watercolor world I felt no fear. There was no COVID-19.

My husband, Paul, and I have been staying at the same vacation rental for 18 years. Initially we brought our mothers with us; my mom continued coming until 2008. Both are gone now. Four different dogs have accompanied us; we only have one left. Each visit is fraught with memories. It is a special place for us.

We reserved our slot for the summer of 2020 and paid our deposit in January. Then the pandemic struck.

At first, I gave little thought to summer. There were hopes the virus would abate by June and restrictions could be lifted. But improvement was slow. In May, I wondered if we’d be able to rent the cottage this year. If we’d want to.

But finally things did get somewhat better and I heard from one of the owners. Our original reservation was for the middle of July.

There was a family scheduled to come in for two weeks before us, and another for two weeks right after us. If Paul and I could come in August instead of July, that would allow the cottage to sit empty for a week between guests. And it would be vacant the week before we arrived.

Oh, and we could have the week at half price, or two weeks for the price of one.

If there is one bright side to this pandemic, it’s that it has highlighted the value of relationships. The cottage is owned by the daughters of the lobsterman and his wife who built it. We’ve known them now for nearly two decades.

Of course, we said yes. Only for one week, though, as I would have to return to my job as a school librarian after I got back.

It would not be the same, I knew. Sameness, routine, were what we liked about this vacation. We didn’t have to think. I kayaked in the morning, then Paul and I would go out to lunch and a walk. We’d visit the local bookstore, and I’d always hit Renys and a local shop I liked.

The rest of the time was pretty much spent on the deck, eating or reading.

But we wouldn’t be eating out this year. Paul is “at risk,” so even outdoor dining at a restaurant doesn’t seem worth it. I’m the one who usually handles takeout at home, and I have found that I like to know how things work in advance. If I’ve tried takeout at a place in the Augusta area and found it satisfactory, I will keep going back. I have to talk myself into trying “new” places though.

I know it’s childish, but I sometimes despair that the simple act of getting a cup of coffee has become so complicated.

After doing a big shopping at a nearby Hannaford following our arrival at the cottage, I usually just picked up odds and ends at the IGA in town. But would I want to go there? Its aisles were narrow and would get congested in normal times.

There would be no shopping for anything other than essentials. I’ve calmed down quite a bit since more people are wearing masks, but it just seems frivolous to me. I feel better keeping my mingling with others to a minimum.

Our week arrived. I felt an overwhelming sadness as I packed. As I drove the hour to our destination, my mind felt numb.

But there it was — perched on a bluff. From the driveway, looking through the kitchen window, I could see the sea.

Five months of essentially staying at home is great preparation for staying at home for a week in a vacation cottage. We had no urge to go anywhere, though we did go for our daily walks. I ordered a new title from the bookstore and went inside to pick it up. I followed a couple in, and one of the bookstore associates ran to the front door to switch the sign to read “We are at capacity.”

No, things were not the same. But the store smelled the same — bookish.

Paul went to the little market on Sunday to buy the newspapers. He reported everyone was wearing masks. I then braved it and found it was a better experience than the Hannaford, because I could get in and out a lot quicker.

I could relate to the Londoners who fled to the countryside to flee the Black Death. From the deck, we could see a bald eagle soaring, and feeding on the pogies that schooled in the bay. A great blue heron regularly flew by. The resident loon called, and one morning I thought I heard coyotes.

COVID-19? Huh?

The weather was perfect. One day it rained briefly. Then a rainbow appeared.

I didn’t think it could happen, but it did. I found solace in the midst of a pandemic. And now, the gray-blue world persists in my head.

It is pure, pristine and safe. It is hope.

Liz Soares welcomes email at [email protected].


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: