Let me say this up front: Global pandemics aren’t awesome. Folks are worried about jobs, health, loved ones, and whether they’ll forget how to dress in something besides sweatpants before this is all over.
I feel ya. But rather than dwell on the negative, I’m donning my Pollyanna hat (which, fortunately, matches my hiking boots). Here are four silver linings I’ve observed since COVID-19 grabbed our peaceful Bend snow globe and shook the ever lovin’ snot out of it.
More kindness on the trails
I’ve always loved how strangers smile at each other on hiking and biking trails around Bend, and they’ve stepped up their game in recent months.
Folks step aside to allow extra space when passing, and most everyone’s conscious of keeping a six-foot bubble. Instead of just smiles and hellos, people are engaging in full conversations about trail conditions or complimenting each other’s gear. Perhaps it’s that we’re all starved for human connection, or maybe we’ve learned to be gentle with each other. Either way, I hope it continues once the COVID crisis passes.
Case in point: Last weekend while hiking near the Crooked River, I passed a couple trying to take a selfie. I offered to snap a pic and text it to them, keeping a good 20-foot cushion between us the whole time. After the photo exchange and some pleasantries, we went our separate ways. 20 minutes later, they texted from a ridgeline above us offering to take a photo from that vantagepoint. The result was a genuinely unique family photo, and a belly full of warm fuzzies I’m still feeling a week later.
Look for opportunities to go the extra mile when interacting on the sidewalks, trails, or shops around Bend. You might make someone’s whole day.
An intimate dining experience
Let me first acknowledge all of you who’ve been pulling quadruple-duty as homeschool teachers, telecommuting employees, full-time personal shoppers, and short-order cooks for families eating three meals a day at home. I would totally hug you if it weren’t for this @#$% social distancing thing.
These past two months, Bend restaurants have reinvented themselves. Many offer unique takeout menus geared toward families or couples doing date night at home. Some even employ their own drivers to better control food presentation and the costs involved with third-party delivery services. I’ve been charmed over and over by little touches like a handwritten thank you card in my takeout bag from Jackalope Grill or extra pita bread from Joolz.
With Deschutes County entering phase one last week, many Bend restaurants are slowly easing into dine-in services, but they’re doing it carefully and cautiously. Dining rooms have been scoured and cleaned, and tables have been removed and rearranged to allow for social distancing. While this does reduce capacity and require you to book ahead, your dining experience will be a quieter, more intimate one.
If you’re like me and staying the course on the takeout train, consider setting up a special space in your home or backyard to make it feel like a cozy eatery. A $10 string of twinkle lights, a bouquet of grocery store flowers, and a few strategically-placed candles routinely transform my home office into a romantic cafe.
Bright spots in the business world
A few weeks ago, community members banded together to help Bend businesses struggling through COVID shutdowns. They launched SOSBend.com, making it easy to pledge your support for Bend businesses by purchasing gift certificates to be used now or in the future. It’s a tremendous boost to local shops and eateries, and a great example of how we can all work together to help one another.
I’ve also been touched by Bend businesses who’ve shifted gears to serve the greater good. Oregon Spirit Distillers has long been a producer of amazing local gin, vodka, and rye, but at the start of the pandemic, they put their distillery equipment to use making hand sanitizer. They started out giving it away, eager to help local healthcare providers and community members. When the state got wind of this, they granted them special funding to keep on crankin’ the stuff. You can now find it in oodles of local shops, or swing by the distillery and grab some while restocking the liquor cabinet.
With so many local businesses needing face masks for employees, it’s been lovely watching them keep their money local when purchasing PPE. For years, Allison Murphy has operated Utilitu Custom
Sewing and Design offering everything from repairs to hemming to one-of-a-kind custom pieces. These days, most of her time is spent making durable cloth masks complete with a pocket for an optional filter. Several local businesses like Bellatazza have sought her out to create custom, logoed versions for their employees. Best of all, they’re pimping each other on social media, and urging community members to support each other.
Rising tides lift all ships, and Bend’s business community is doing a bang-up job tending each other’s boats.
More time for things that matter
I realize essential workers and healthcare employees are burning the candle at both ends, and I salute every single one of you struggling to juggle families and jobs without enough time in the day.
But for many who’ve bid farewell to girls’ nights, televised sports, concerts, and vacations, our calendars are a wee bit emptier.
It’s a good excuse to redirect your time to things that really matter. Take a bike ride around the neighborhood with your kids, or plan a family game night. Fans of the escape rooms at Puzzle Effect will be thrilled to know they now sell kits to replicate the experience at home.
Bend Parks and Rec has done a fabulous job improving facilities and trails to make social distancing easier, and sports courts are slowly starting to re-open. Why not find a new spot to visit?
Ditto that for hiking trails, which are gradually loosening restrictions. For updated info on what’s open and what’s not, check out Visit Bend’s COVID page.
If you’re outside the Bend area, we’re still urging folks to stay within their own communities for now. This isn’t the time for non-essential travel, but it’s a great time to dream and plan.
The time is coming soon. Promise.