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Don Rogers: Silver lessons from sheltering

Don Rogers

Each day I’m running my greater neighborhood in Rough and Ready, delightfully more hick even than I had imagined. Front yards with horses, cattle, chickens, one place with goats, and I think I saw a llama out back at another. Love it.

And dogs, of course, mostly herding types, border collies, bob-tailed Australian shepherds. They spin as they sound the alarm at the jogger passing oh so slowly past their gate. Sometimes I can hear my dogs a mile away joining the chorus, part of the canine network echoing across the countryside.

Neighbors smile. Drivers wave, even the ones speeding. Preoccupied teens on bicycles still say hi. A guy gray and around my age on an electric bike stops to pass a word, socially distant, and thanks me for my service. My what? Oh, I’m wearing an old hotshot crew ball cap from another life ago.

We chat personal history for a bit, and about the Lobo Fire. The scars on the landscape where I run today tell quite a hit-and-miss story of overnight wind and fury in October 2017, six months before we bought our home just outside that fire’s reach.

I’d have never known the extended neighborhood otherwise, always hard on the commute, home to the office, the office to some trailhead after work this time of year, then home again. So many great trails to run in the foothills and around Lake Tahoe. But these lonely roads are like those trails, too, in their early spring green and budding glory.

It’s everything I could have hoped for growing up small among 15 million people, only a sign on a pole to note the next city right across the street. This, here — deep breath — this is living.

• • •

Monday, my wife and I met old college friends for cocktail hour — on Zoom, the video conferencing app. Why this took a pandemic to figure out, I can’t imagine. Such a simple idea. And so fun.

We go back 40 years from College of the Redwoods in Eureka, a community college with dorms. We all went on to different schools afterward, but for whatever reason this group of friends stuck.

Each fall through the decades, we’ve camped together or stayed at one of our homes with space for tents or lately, rented a home roomy enough for a dozen or two of us and our adult children, who also have become friends. My son is the first to bring kids of his own.

I hope our virtual cocktail hours outlast the pandemic. So good to see everyone and just laugh and talk. This group is family, and so this was easy, no breaking ice like at mixers or parties or those reunions where you haven’t seen everyone since before wrinkles, white hair or no hair.

• • •

I drove to Truckee and Tahoe City at midweek. Felt like a jailbreak. A perfect sunny day, snow from Five Mile House on up, traffic light and freedom oh so sweet.

A videographer for the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association waited between the visitor center and pedestrian bridge for people to answer his questions and offer encouragement holding a sign declaring, “Stronger Together.” Amen to that, and pass the sanitizer.

Hardest part for me was not petting the dogs there with their masters. It’s so instinctual to love ’em up. And I realized again seeing Liz Bowling of the association, a reliable ray of sunshine herself, how infectious we humans can be in good ways, too.

In these stolen hours I also dipped into a Taco Bell on my way up, then a McDonald’s on the way home. Sigh, I’d been so good for so long.

The therapists say to go gentle on ourselves. So I will.

• • •

I read somewhere how binge watching series has ramped way up in our isolation and our dread during this fearful, uncertain time.

So it was with me last week. Good to know I wasn’t the only one vegging, drained, at the end of the day, getting into the wine when the beer ran out, my wife isolating herself downstairs since coming home from a couple of weeks with our little grandsons (and their parents) in Upstate New York.

I had found myself fascinated with “Designated Survivor,” part thriller, part West Wing soap opera. Episode after episode after episode. I did have better things to do — emails to send, calls to return, family to reach out to. Yet there I sat in a blue glow, in a funk, late into the night.

I read an email from one self-improvement guru or another about “dead time” and “alive time.” It resonated.

Maybe three-quarters into season 2, I just stopped. I tell myself the show finally got too stupid to watch, but I’m not so sure about that. The show probably didn’t get any smarter or dumber from the beginning. Anyway, it wasn’t the show. It was me.

Alive time, dead time. Which will it be? Stuck at home, how shall we live?

Don Rogers is the publisher of the Sierra Sun and The Union, based in Grass Valley. He can be reached at drogers@sierrasun.com or 530-477-4299.


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