Our little bubble, the one we have been living in for 14 weeks, the one where we ventured into public places as little as possible due to the pandemic, the one where we spent more time outdoors than ever because that is the only place we could really go, that little bubble burst this week. Softball practice began again and so did karate. We have quit washing the outside of our groceries and more stores are open. I even went into a clothing store, mask on, for about 20 minutes. Life felt…well, like life. Just different.

As fearful as I was when the pandemic began blooming around the world, the past 14 weeks have been some of the most enjoyable for myself and my family. We are grateful, daily, because we know this isn’t true for everyone.

When it was cold we built fires in our fireplace and tucked ourselves into chairs for the day. Our weekday routines were school and work and at the end of the day, long walks outside. We played games. We did puzzles. We read books. We watched movies.

We bought groceries in stores with shelves empty of meat and produce and toilet paper and soap. One week there was eggs and dairy and the next, these products were gone. I bought chicken when it was available and hamburger too. Greens and fruits and vegetables were hard to find some weeks while pre-packaged food never ran low.

There was time to bake and clean and do laundry. My son learned how to cook the most delicious scrambled eggs while my daughter just churned out homemade vanilla ice cream.

As Winter turned to Spring, we moved to our screened in porch, with sweatshirts and coffee to keep us warm. We weeded our flowerbeds and planted pots and beds full of color. We continued to hike into the woods.

Today marks the first day of summer and the air conditioning hums as I type this; we still sit outside as much as we can, take daily walks with our new puppy, visit with neighbors in driveways, and watch the baby deer jump about at the edge of the woods. My kids have had play time with friends, only outdoors, and shopping has become more normal.

Numbers of cases and hospitalizations here in Maryland are down. The daily whitehouse briefings have ended. The top news stories changed from Covid to protests, with sprinkles of non-pandemic stories in between.

We have had fun conversations and tough conversations. We’ve given each other haircuts and spent $0 on anything we didn’t need. The last time I filled my gas tank was in April.

We check out library books using an app. My kids cook their own breakfast and lunch everyday, desserts too. Sometimes dinners.

We have protected ourselves in the best ways we know – washing hands and wearing masks and physically distancing ourselves. We continue these practices as society begins to open back up.

We’ve finally eaten take-out, Chinese and pizza we ordered from the local Italian restaurant. After months of not eating out, we declared it, “the best pizza ever!”

We’ve painted our nails (myself, my daughter, and my son) and painted pictures on paper. I’ve stripped and stained and waxed a bookshelf.

We’ve watched the deer’s fur change from thick, coarse, and darker brown to fine, thin, and orangey red. The number of fawns we see increases daily.

We used to be able to see our neighbors houses through the forest and now all we see is a thick wall of green. Our daily hikes into our woods have slowed due to the growth of grasses a few feet tall and poison ivy everywhere.

Our daily walks haven’t stopped nor have our weekly hikes. We noticed the emergence, growth, and fading of redbud trees, daffodils, tulips, crab apple trees, lily-of-the-valley, and most recently peonies. The dogwoods are fading and the purple coneflower, daylilies, daisies and hasta are blooming around our neighborhood. Baby birds are emerging under our deck and just today on our walk, there were 2 blue eggs cracked in the street.

Over 14 weeks we have gone from normal to quarantining to a new normal. Despite all of the changes in our lives, nature continues its path, bringing new life and color into the world.

I even received a lovely nip from a mosquito last night. And we noticed fireflies lighting the evening last week.

School has ended. My husband is still working from home. I have some professional development to complete over the next two weeks. The normal fanfare of the end of the school year and beginning of summer never happened; days simply flowed from one into the other.

In 14 weeks it will be the end of September. School will have begun again. Summer will have faded and autumn’s presence will be obvious. Apples will be at their peak and pumpkins will be growing. Deer will begin growing their winter coats and our neighbor’s houses will slowly begin to creep back into our view. These things I know for sure.

What I don’t know is what school will look like, where Covid will be in its journey throughout the world, if my family and I will continue to be healthy, and if this new normal will begin to feel like normal. What definitive changes will the pandemic bring? What behaviors will stick around and what will society let go? Will we enter another quarantine in the fall/winter? If so, how long will it last?

What changes will the protests bring? Will they continue? Who will be voted into the oval office in November? Is change, in a myriad of ways, coming?

We are grateful, daily, for our good health, for the space to play and live both in and around our home, for the food we are able to purchase, and for our jobs which continue. We know all of it could change tomorrow.

What about you? What path have you been on for the past 14 weeks?