COVID-19 has affected us all. I’ve had to shut my small business down, but I have been lucky so far. My life has not changed that much. Still, I do have an underlying sadness that bubbles up on occasion. I worry about my niece in Spain, my brother in Japan and I feel glad that my parents are no longer on this earth to worry about. I worry about other places and countries, including our Native American populations who are without running water to wash their hands and keep the virus at bay.
Some people’s lives have been totally disrupted. Businesses closed. People learning how to work from home and possibly homeschooling at the same time. Others are working extra hours in stressful situations like hospitals and grocery stores. Everyone’s situation is different.
Yet, except for this “thing” hanging over all of us, everyone I know in Moab has been enjoying the glorious outdoors this spring. It’s been so peaceful and quiet. It’s the first time in a long time where we have been able to enjoy our yards, and our beautiful natural “backyard” without a constant buzz.
How and why did our little community become such a noisy place? National and state parks were intended to be places to enjoy the wonder of nature with stunning scenery, ample wildlife and places to experience solitude and peace. Around here, they seem to have become islands of “nature” surrounded by playgrounds for loud vehicles.
Awareness can start with little things. For me, time has been made for yoga and meditation. One of my wonderful yoga instructors is providing Zoom classes. I’m enjoying the quiet of my house. I’m also discovering how many noises there are when I am quiet: the house settling, water trickling from the pets water fountain, dogs licking or breathing noisily, the ticking clock I thought was broken, cats eating or climbing on me or the computer, and my fabulous husband emptying the dishwasher, banging cupboards, putting away the dishes. Besides actually noticing the sounds, I also notice my body tenses as the sounds escalate.
That’s one thing this COVID-19 situation has given us: an increased awareness of how all our human activity really does affect the entire world.
It’s amazing to hear how air, water and noise pollution around the world has lessened. I’ve had the excuse that what I did wouldn’t make a difference unless the governments made real changes. But it turns out that if we travel less and use less gas, it really does make a difference. Animals are coming into the cities or maybe we are just slowing down enough to notice them. Thousands of lives have been saved from reduced air pollution and substantially fewer vehicle accidents.
I think now is the time to change our dependence on the automobile. European cities are re-thinking how they want their transportation to be structured; Milan is re-purposing 22 miles of city roads designed for cars into walking and bike paths.
I am not innocent regarding my gasoline consumption. My travel imprint has been fairly high. I limit my trips into town, and I own a Prius (and a truck). I am considering getting an e-bike, since biking back from town is uphill and the last hill is a doozy. Maybe I’ll just get in better shape and take my old mountain bike. That’s cheaper. Hopefully I will do something different. It’s difficult to change, but I’ve seen it happen.
This past year, I participated in the effort to reverse three issues people thought were “a done deal”: allowing UTVs into the National Parks, building the parking structure downtown, and a personal triumph of improving the design of a kitchen after the cabinets had arrived. All three issues, large and small, were turned around.
We can change things. I’m thrilled that there are efforts now to plan a Moab Valley-wide transit system. Could we encourage people to come here by bus or train and not bring a vehicle at all? Maybe it could increase the bike and boat rental businesses in town.
What I ardently hope is that this disruptive experience will cause us to re-evaluate our lives. To take time to figure out what we want our inside and outside environments to be like in the future. Then to do the work and help shape that vision.
Maybe some good can come out of this pandemic. Maybe, just maybe, it has given us the time to re-evaluate our priorities to health, happiness, friends and family.
Judy Powers moved from New York City in 1991 to live with her father in Castle Valley “for a few months.” More than 27 years later, she has had lots of different jobs in Moab, including 21 years as a Realtor. Now with her business, Powers with Animals (powerswithanimals.com), she gets to follow her passion: spending time with animals and sometimes training their humans.