Devlin-Scherer: The goodbye girl

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I think about relationships and experiences I have said goodbye to during this period of solitary confinement. We have a cottage in Island Heights, New Jersey.

A small house that could be part of the current tiny house movement, our 1870s dwelling sits proudly on a tree stump.

If one looks closely between tree leaves across the street, the Toms River is visible. If the crabs are in, we rush to local docks to get cherished spots to try our luck with bunker or chicken.

When the tides are right, at 4:30 am, we set off for clamming in Island Beach State Park.

As the sun rises, we are paddling our canoe, fully loaded with baskets, rakes, and two eager toy poodles. Thick socks protect our feet as we dig in mud until we hit something hard. Joyfully we cry, "Got one," then hope for a herd, a bed. We are also missing pedaling in the Deck-to Deck bike ride along the river with multiple stops at friends' homes and restaurants and the Weird New Jersey bike trip with local fitness club members. The coronavirus count in Ocean County is too high.

Here in Vermont, our social life feels secure and circumscribed. Every morning we walk the dogs by the Battenkill, hoping we beat the golfers and any other potential dog walkers.

The now off-limits path in the woods might cause us to meet runners or walkers, unmasked.

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Ordinarily, we could be cozy inside the happy-go-lucky bar scene of the Union Underground, trying out a new IPA with rave-worthy tuna poke or tater tots and listening to great music; now outside is the norm.

We are preoccupied with chores, some routine, laundry and cleaning house and some done new ways, shopping and picking up meals curbside.

A kayak trip to Chittenden Reservoir produced some anxiety as entrance and exit were blocked by 15 campers unloading kayaks and five adults sitting on chairs, scattered across the small beach, few using masks. It is Saturday, of course, and crowded. Paddling around, I wait for the area to clear.

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Like the actress, Marsha Mason, in "The Goodbye Girl," I am bidding a regretful farewell to one set of behaviors and welcoming other safer choices for me.

Zoom is positively consuming. The Manchester Gym faithfully presents an array of fitness classes which can be done virtually anytime. I am getting more exercise than ever due to them. With Zoom live, I get to talk with my fellow-sufferers before and after the class. This bonus contact is a gift.

A re-energized wine group with seasoned connoisseurs from Bennington, Florida and North Carolina have been informing my selections. With quality wine, I can feast on books.

Northshire Bookstore and the Manchester Library have held multiple conversations about nonfiction and recommended books.

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For several hours I have had the opportunity to discuss interesting books and add to my reading list with well-read participants. Another delight has been to join a long distance book club with faraway friends. The Martha Canfield Library has provided curbside delivery throughout the pandemic and I have gotten the latest readings from them.

Kayaking and paddleboarding have now become other worldly adventures. Imagine the early mist privately rising over clear and quiet waters — just for me. Red-winged blackbirds streak by flashing their colors.

Herons fish cautiously. Nightfall, a head lamp illuminates the trip. Frogs croak for a mate — not for me, but I get a free concert. Finding swimming holes is a new occupation. Behind bushes I watch a flock of former swimmers leave and get to sidestroke in comfortable solitude.

My musical side has been neglected and a 6-inch steel tongue drum is my first instrument. With much practice, and numbers designating notes on the song, I can play almost recognizable familiar tunes with granddaughters. "Dreams Come True" is among my favorites; it uses three notes. I already have it memorized. Feeling elated and at home, I plan to tackle Home on The Range next.

A German proverb applies to my life now — "You can't direct the wind, but you can adjust your sails."

Roberta Devlin-Scherer has a doctorate from Temple University and was a professor at Seton Hall University for 20 years. She has written books, articles and poetry. She lives in Sunderland.


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