by Christine Wingate
“Can I squeal for a sec?” I typed into my family’s long-running Facebook Messenger chat thread.
“I JUST SAW A CARDINAL!!!!!”
Now, spotting a cardinal might sound like a small, non-squeal-worthy thing. But for me, it was a novel, and therefore treasured, experience.
Like several members of my family, I suffer from a congenital eye condition that impacts my vision. I get by pretty well in everyday life, but I usually miss out on experiences like winning athletic games, reading a PowerPoint from the back of the room….or spotting birds. Normally, I might spot a bird from a distance, but only enough to see a vague outline, not enough to identify it. I’ve adapted recently by strategically placing two bird feeders on the balcony of my apartment – and suddenly I’m seeing more birds than ever before!
Sharing that joy with my family made me realize I have a subconscious “wish list” of things that I hope to see. They aren’t just the things that I “can’t” see, but the things that I truly enjoy spotting, like chipmunks, brightly painted house doors, blooming lilacs, or oversized dogs.
Now that we’re facing restrictions due to COVID-19, many of us are stuck at home and not doing a lot of “sightseeing”. For me, home is a basic 2-bedroom apartment in the cheaper part of town. I see the usual things – dirty dishes in the sink (oops, maybe I missed seeing those!), the eclectic art I’ve collected from international travels, and the doom-and-gloom headlines popping up on my smart phone. But if I want to check items off my “wish list”, I have to go outside. And if I want to find joy in the midst of this pandemic, I have to choose what I’m going to look for.
What’s a Quarantine Scavenger Hunt?
That’s why I developed the “Quarantine Scavenger Hunt.” This is my personal list of what I’m going to try to spot, for as long as this quarantine lasts.
- A bird’s nest
- A woodpecker
- A brightly-colored house door
- A car that is probably older than me
- Lilacs in bloom (come, spring!)
- A 90+ lb. dog
- Holiday decorations
- A bird-of-prey
- A person in a hazmat suit (because in these days you never know…)
- A purple house
- A rainbow
- A gorgeous sunset
- A chipmunk
- A two-color cat
- An outdoor fountain
- A unique mailbox
- A weeping willow
I can’t complete this hunt by just sitting at home. Following this scavenger hunt requires:
- Leaving my home (even if it’s not to be with people)
- Walking around (because there’s not much to see immediately near my apartment)
- Paying attention to my surroundings (instead of getting lost in my own introverted thoughts)
Ultimately, the idea behind the scavenger hunt is this:
I can choose what I look for.
There’s a lot that we can’t avoid noticing right now – the headlines highlighting an increase in COVID-19 cases, the empty public spaces, or the screens of our computers helping us work remotely. Seeing all of these can really put a damper on our mood – if we let it. But there is still so much more to see, so much that can bring us joy in the midst of turbulence – if we let it! We can’t help what we see – but we can choose what we look for.
What will you choose to look for?
Christine Wingate is an instructor of English as a Second Language (ESL) at the University of Iowa. Like many other college instructors and professors, Christine is now teaching her classes online and acclimating to being at home all the time.