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  • Dan Rattiner

Into the Woods: Conversations at a Social Distance

Walking the dog and desperate for connection with others—while safely apart.


Originally Posted on Dan's Papers - April 4, 2020



Photo: iStock

My wife Chris and I, self-sheltered, are going for walks with our dog, Bella, down various trails nearby every day for half an hour or so. We keep our distance when we are near others. We wash hands before and after.


Yesterday we drove up a steep-hill dead-end road near us that we’d never been up before. Nobody was around. But as I was turning the car around at the dead end, a couple sitting on a second-story deck at a house on one side of the road waved at us. We waved back.


Something occurred after that that would never have occurred in other circumstances. The four of us were desperate for long-distance eye contact, smiling and shouting conversation. It went on for half an hour or more.


They’d built the house six years ago. He was an engineer, she a social worker. Yes, they knew our house down at the bottom of the hill with the lights on. Hasn’t the area changed over the years? Our daughter knows the paper. What’s your dog’s name? They might rent part of the house out in the summer this year. What’s your name? We’re Flora and Jim.


The whole time, the engine was running, the passenger window was down and Bella was keeping tabs on everybody. Meanwhile, the unspoken topic was never touched upon.



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