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A visitor arrives in the COVID pandemic
EM AND MCCUMBER go way back, and like all best friends, eventually they’re gonna get together no matter how hard the world may try to keep them apart.

RISING SUN - I’ve heard more than once lately that living is easy and beautiful in late August. The overabundance in the garden, the apples coming on, the warm days and cool nights. All of the flowers sending out one last powerful blast of color, before the Autumn leaves take hold. 

Fall is usually the time I get together with my best friend Stephanie for some grand last hoorah before she hibernates in mid-Iowa until Christmas pulls her back across state lines for a few days. 

A year ago, we originally had planned for her to take my kids, while Chasca and I went to Larryfest. We decided this was going to be our year of adult fun and late night dancing. But alas, like everything else, Larryfest was canceled. Stephanie and I had made no other grand plans. So naturally, a weekend trip to my place seemed like a good fit. 

Anyone still navigating the life of social distances, mask wearing, and sound scientific thought knows that social gatherings are still a bit awkward. At least when you extend beyond your Pandemic Pod. Luckily, she and I have been practicing our cautious measures to the same extent and felt like a visit, with some restrictions, was safe enough. 

One of the best parts about having a best friend during a pandemic is not needing to explain why they can’t come in your house except for the occasional masked bathroom break or that they have to sleep in a tent. One of the worst parts is not being able to hug hello or goodbye or seeing the full-on laughter in its full glory on their face when you have a morning chat over coffee.  But, we managed. 

Luckily, our property is rustic and quaint and offered many spots for her to choose for her camping pleasure. Chasca even took the opportunity to fire up his lawn mower and carve out a spot in her chosen destination. We donned our matching, freshly made masks she brought, as hopped in the UTV to drag all her camping implements up the hill, and set up the tent without much trouble. Still wearing our masks. 

We planned a weekend of crafts–like jelly making, candle dipping and tie dying. All the stuff we always want to spend our time doing, but reality always gets in the way. 

We started with the tie dying, which turned out to be the top choice for Thatcher and Waylon. Both boys methodically picked our colors and dribbled them onto their tiny tied up shirts. 

“Oooooh I need these colors to look like a super powerful fire blaster snail!” Thatcher exclaimed, while throwing his fist in the air, bottle of orange dye in hand. 

Waylon was a lot more relaxed about it all, keeping with his usual style of pointing, nodding, smiling and laughing. 

We ended the first night with a feast, outside on the porch at separate tables of carry out food from Pacifico, the Mexican restaurant in Viroqua.

Perhaps one of the wildest things we did was riding in a car together. I realized I had not had anyone outside of my immediate family in my car since this whole mess began. We both masked up and opened our windows for extra measure. And at times it even seemed like Stephanie was keeping her answers short as to not need to open her mouth and talk too much. However, strolling around the parking lot, a rummage sale and even a quick trip into the thrift store and we felt back in our old comfortable groove of friendship. 

Our weekend went on like this, with bumps in the road when it came to navigating around potential droplets and germs. But all in all, the experiment was a success. 

After talking to one another about stepping out and making changes during these times, I was reminded again that life is a growing and changing thing, even during a pandemic. That what works one day may not work the next. And I myself came to the conclusion that I do need to be a little more flexible not only for me, but for the people I love and those that love us. We are all growing and adapting through this and eventually we’ll all find a middle ground that works and there will be brighter days to come.