Like everyone else on the entire planet, normal life was on hold for me between late winter 2020 and, well I guess now. I received my second shot a few weeks ago and am now able able to unmask and congregate. Life back to normal after more than a year of decidedly abnormal.
Vermont has been an outlier in the U.S. with regard to how we addressed Covid. When it was recommended that we mask up, close our doors and not congregate en masse, we complied for the most part. We have a strong sense of community in VT, so while we watched video reports of crowded bars and beaches in other states, we stuck to our guns to protect the health of our fellow Vermonters.
As a result, we were continuously the state with the lowest infection rate per capita, the lowest amount of deaths, and currently we are the state with the highest amount of immunized citizens by percentage.
Still, life was far from normal. We closed most our businesses for a good three months, and operated under restrictions for the next 12. Our northern border has been closed, people didn’t travel to other states for the most part, and there were no parties. So, what do we do with ourselves?
I work with the public so I didn’t have the luxury of working from home. My business was closed, and for three months I was told to stay home. Not too difficult, I love my home! I could have easily spent three months in a life that revolved around sleeping in, Netflix, video games and box wine, but that can’t be healthy. Fun, sure, but I needed to care for my mental health. So I indulged in a lot of photography.
Upon waking up at the crack of ten-or-so I would have a leisurely breakfast and coffee, a bit of doom scrolling on news websites that I was progressively able to taper off of (Much like the taking of temperature every time I sneezed. Once I realized that everybody else was doing that too I felt less crazy), then I would pick a camera from the shelf and go for a walk. drive or motorcycle ride.
Burlington, VT was safe and conscientious though on occasion this town can be a little “extra.” Plenty of instances of people yelling at joggers on the bike path for not wearing a mask while jogging through the wooded area, and a lot of chasing people out of the park… “Go home! Lock your doors! You’re killing people!” Half the streets in town were closed to pedestrian-only traffic so people could play and walk safely outside, 20 feet from the next living person. If some towns in other states were a reckless, maskless free-for-all, Burlington was a nanny state. We had low rates of infection, sure, but we also had our nosey neighbors scolding us from 30 feet away for gardening without masks and surgical gloves.
The exposures I captured defined the year. The pedestrian mall was empty of people, businesses were closed with various sun bleached paper signs of support in the windows. Streets were empty of traffic, there were no crowds and any people you DO see are hidden behind cloth masks.
There is a lot of nature in the photos. All events were cancelled. Every festival, every concert, every play, every parade. No movies, no bars, no restaurants. More than 75% of Vermont is covered in forest, so there was no shortage of woods to wander into. There are lakes and rivers and brooks and waterfalls. We share a border with New York and, while we avoided cities, there are miles of unpopulated and otherwise virus-friendly activity over in my home state.
I taught my partner how to shoot film as a Covid project we could share. “Pick a camera off the shelf” I’d tell her, then I’d load it with film and we’d hit the road. Every weekend, we’d look for new places to explore and photograph. Now she has her own Pentax and a pile of film in the fridge. It gave us something to look forward to, and something to do together.
Also, we played a lot of bocce. Bocce and Bananagrams. One day we will invent a form of bocce that you can play in the snow. We will call it “Snocce.” Go ahead and say that out loud, it’s fun.
We’re now vaccinated, many of us anyway, and life will be normal again. Work is back to pre-Covid normal, and we’ve already made some hotel bookings for lengthy vacation time, in some other towns that aren’t home. As much as I’m looking forward to a post-Covid lifestyle I didn’t completely hate the past year. I had a lot of free time that I haven’t enjoyed in many years, my partner and I found many things to do and made a difficult situation tolerable and actually quite lovely.
We survived it (though sadly 550+ Vermonters didn’t), and we made due as best we could. Life went on, and I have pages of photo negatives that will serve to document the experience.