Memorial Day Weekend 2020: We’d been allowed to open. Yippee!! But now what? How to open safely? We brainstormed, made plans, changed plans, built new doors and dividers, moved counters, painted directional signs, bought plexiglass, a portable sink, hand sanitizer, wash tubs, bleach, more bleach, soap, more soap, bleach sprayers. We changed the flow of customers, implemented new safety measures for guests and employees, and trained staff in our new cleaning protocol.
But would it make a difference? Would we be allowed to stay open? Would the beach towns allow visitors? And, most importantly, would anyone come?
People trickled in over Memorial Day weekend. The following week, the trickle dried up. Light traffic volume on Route 1 rivaled the mid-week, off-season days before the current new construction explosion. Raucous Laughing Gull calls easily outnumbered phone calls. Little Assawoman Bay waters remained winter-clear, undisturbed.
But then Delaware and Maryland opened their borders, allowing short-term rentals and hotel stays. The beach towns allowed access to the beach. We got the answer to our most pressing question.
People came—families with kids pulsing with unspent energy; city dwellers depressed from staring out their windows at grey, empty streets; essential workers needing a break from their intense reality, remote workers blinking in the sun as they finally pushed back from their computer screens.
“This is the first time I’ve left my house in two months; ten weeks; three months; etc.” That sentence repeated itself over and over through out the summer.
While I’d like to think these people flocked to Coastal Kayak because of our fantastic staff, our great equipment, and our beautiful location, I know we were simply the intermediator. They wanted to breathe fresh air. They wanted sun on their faces. They wanted to move freely, without judgement or fear. They wanted a return to pre-Covid life.
And nature, like she usually does, provided exactly what the weary public asked for.
Once on the water, it was as if 2020 never happened. Horseshoe crabs still covered the beaches during spawning season, doing what they’ve done for the last 445 million years. Great Blue Herons still stalked minnows along the shoreline. Osprey still built their nests, reared their young, and plucked fish from the water with their mighty talons. Sea nettles still blobbed along towards the leeward side of the bay, trailing their graceful and awful tentacles. Atlantic Ribbed Mussels still opened and closed their shells with the tides that still ebbed and flowed. Sunsets still slipped into the bay, streaking the horizon with oranges, reds, pinks, and purples. Full moons still crawled up out of the ocean, big enough and close enough to touch.
For most folks this summer, any normal-ness was found outside. We could eat outside, play outside, socialize outside. The outdoors gave us our sanity.
When someone gives us a gift, we say thank you, right? But how do we thank the outdoors?
Maybe you’ve heard about an important event coming up on November 3rd? We can say thank you with our ballots. #VoteTheOutdoors