As I peck away at my column I’m sipping coffee from one of my favorite mugs imprinted with the message, ” let the adventure begin.” I like the size, shape and feel of the mug and the reminder that every morning is the beginning of a new adventure. Lately my morning begins by sitting in my yard as the sun radiates through the boughs of my maple tree and creates patterns of light and shadow on the lawn and garden. I could spend hours watching and photographing in this outdoor studio. Each minute the angle and quality of light from the rising sun shifts, creating new potential compositions. My friends often ask when and where am I traveling next, but for right now I’m content to journey in my garden.
The tree boughs and lawn also create a border that frames my view of activity and life on 25th Street. I watch mostly unobserved as kids ride bikes and scooters and adults amble, jog and walk dogs up and down the street. Some folks give a wave or say hello, but most just go about their business.
While enjoying my coffee I mentally plan my day. In the summer time my day often includes lap swimming at the Blair City Pool. I no longer jog, and even my hikes are not as vigorous as they once were, so swimming has become my principal exercise. Since I was a kid I have always enjoyed spending time in the water and for many years I owned a sailboat. Swimming is my aerobic exercise of choice because I don’t know anyone who has suffered a broken leg, a twisted ankle or a concussion while swimming. For these reasons I was delighted to learn that the city pool would once again be open for lap swimming as well as open swim. A big thank you to the YMCA for recruiting and training and hiring enough guards to make opening the pool for a full season possible.
Thankfully in the past two months the availability and effectiveness of the vaccines has drastically reduced the number and severity of COVID cases and deaths. In addition, medical professionals, schools and commercial operations are learning which safety precautions and procedures are effective and which are not. For these reasons and with some modifications, many events are again open to the public. As an example, the Nebraska State Track Meet was extended from two days to four. The modification not only made the event safer, it also enhanced the experience for many participants and supporters.
At the end of May I was pleased to attend and photograph the Blair and Fort Calhoun commencement exercises which were modified to follow established safety protocols. I enjoyed listening to the speakers talk about their experiences over the course of the past two years. While veiled in humor, a common theme was sense of loss by not returning to classes following spring break in 2020. Blair graduate Cole Wilkins thanked coronavirus for the longest spring break in history and for, “showing us how much we really took for granted and making us understand how important family and friends really are…”
Fort Calhoun Salutatorian Mackenzie Hansen thanked the school board and administration for the safety protocols that allowed the school to remain open throughout the school year. “Their careful planning and unwavering dedication has allowed us to experience as normal of a school year as possible.”
While Blair graduate Nathan Hiykel reflected on memories the class shared, by definition, commencements are about beginning. He ended his speech saying, “The experiences that you have made at this school creates a foundation that will propel you through life,”
Over the past 16 months each of us, some more than others, has experienced loss and fear and heartache. It is easy and understandable to be angry and resentful and look for scapegoats. But what is the point?
I like the advice that Fort Calhoun Valedictorian John McKennan gave to his classmates. “Spend your time wisely. Cherish your relationships, and give your time to others.”