Corona Art

I was surprised to see art on the walls of the small exhibit space in the art building! Turns out, it’s last year’s junior art students’ show – work they couldn’t exhibit last spring because the world melted down. Beyond its excellent name, the show includes lots of great drawings, among other wonderful stuff. If this is any indication of this cohort’s skill, their senior show in the spring should be great!

Crowded in the Woods

I went riding yesterday afternoon on the mountain bike trails at the far western edge of town, a network of mostly flat dirt tracks through some woods along the Cannon River and a creek that flows south into the river.

I spend a lot of time on these trails in all four seasons, and I rarely encounter more than one or two people – and often I see no one, even riding two hours or so.

This ride was different! Not only did I meet another serious rider, but I saw a guy starting a campfire, a group of four college students at a fork in the trail, and several pedestrians. So much traffic, I could hardly find a quiet spot to stop for the obligatory bike photo:

Pandemic! in the Men’s Room

The old building where I’ve worked my whole time at Carleton is being renovated this year, so we’ve relocated to slightly less old building that boasts all of two restrooms. I dunno about the women’s, but the men’s has two stalls – done up in heavy, dark wood like a lavatory at Hogwarts – which under the new pandemic rules, has the capacity for just one, uh, user at a time. Barging in and knocking didn’t work very well to determine occupancy, so a colleague installed a four-phase system for using the restroom.

Phase I: Arrive and flip the occupancy sign to red:

Phase 2: Do your business and as you leave, let Uncle Sam remind you to flip the sign over:

Phase 3: Immediately forget to flip the sign over, but be reminded by the other sign, pinned to the bulletin board straight across the corridor:

Phase 4: Flip the sign back to green and walk away, wondering if touching the sign negated the 20 seconds of hand washing:

Self-Surveillance

Every day before going to work, I’m supposed to complete a short form to document that I don’t have any COVID symptoms. Sometimes I swing a little late, but so far I’m batting 1.000. It’s bizarre how satisfying I find that streak of “Green – Negative” descriptions. Proof of my virtue, or luck, or privilege, or something.

Pandemic Racing

Today, I should have been in Marquette, Michigan, racing the Marji Gesick mountain bike marathon.

Finishing the race last year was just about the hardest athletic thing I’ve ever done, up there with the Arrowhead and perhaps only exceeded by the Fat Pursuit. I super eager to do the race again this year, but alas: the pandemic forced its cancellation.

Instead, I headed into the woods here in Northfield for a ninety-minute bike ride on our far easier but still fun trails. Riding the same bike I’d used a year ago at the Marji, I reflected on how much training for and riding in that race changed me as a bike rider.

Some of the changes are pretty trivial, ones I could have achieved with plain old hard work: I use my brakes far less often now than I did 18 or 24 months ago, and I’m far better at riding technical stuff with some speed. But other changes are more interesting, and probably more valuable as we look, as a society, down the long tunnel of this pandemic, work against social injustice, and a tumultuous election. I think they can be reduced to a willingness to be patient and to suffer quietly. Right now is not the time (no matter what the president and his supporters think!) for a white guy to whinge. Just like this night last year, but I have to (metaphorically) just avoid crashing and keep turning the cranks. Maybe donating some money to Democratic senate candidates would be a good start.

Online Sidewalk Yoga

Tuesday, I looked out my office window around 10 and saw a young woman, dressed in athletic clothes, lying perfectly still on the sidewalk below. I started, thinking something was wrong. But she had a laptop next to her, and after a second, she sat up and assumed a yoga pose. Ah, okay, she’s doing yoga. Outside. On concrete. In the open spot between one academic building and another. Okay.

Today, I happened to get a cup of coffee at about ten, and as I walked back to my office, I nearly stepped on her, again lying perfectly still on the sidewalk. This time, though, I could hear a yoga instructor giving directions through laptop. Ah, okay, she’s in a yoga class. A physical education yoga class. Online. The kid is doing her required PE class via Zoom. Outside. On concrete. In the open spot between one academic building and another. Impressive. Sad. Impressively, sadly normal.

Physical Distancing on Campus

With the return of students to campus last week and the start of classes today (finally!), signs about masks, about hand washing, about COVID symptoms, and about physical distancing* have flowered everywhere: walls, doors, windows, bathroom stalls, floors, pillars… I guess I haven’t seen any on trees or ceilings, but maybe those will show up tomorrow.

And anywhere two people can queue up, the floor is marked with traffic-flow arrows, spacing dots or x’s, reminders about the magical six feet (“2M,” if you’re metric)…

Covid Riding

I had a fun little gravel ride today with two friends.

We kept pretty good distance between us, not that it matters that much in the open air when we’re mostly moving at 15 mph. A couple times, I thought about other rides on these particular roads – at least once, with one of today’s riders – and struggled to remember, at first, why we could have every ridden in a pack, or clustered around the guy who had a flat, or camped in a tiny little cabin in a county park.

This resetting of older memories is getting more and more frequent for me, a phenomenon that I’ve talked about with many people. Masking and distancing have permeated public life so deeply that it’s hard to remember that they’ve only been around for us since February, and only really common in Minnesota since late July (when the governor mandated masks in public places).

I guess it’s a nice demarcation in our shared personal histories: things we did before the pandemic, things we are doing in it. I suppose there will be a whole set of things that we’ll do after the pandemic, too (ubiquitous masking in health-care settings?) – or not (salad bars are over, right?). For now it’s enough of a challenge to remember that we weren’t being foolhardy eight years ago when ten of us rode in a tight paceline down a rutted, muddy road – we just didn’t have to worry about COVID.