On March 10th Hubby and I traveled up into the Mother Lode to the small town of Sonora. It was a yearly sojourn to attend one of the largest Celtic Festivals west of the Mississippi. This year’s gathering was small and the festival grounds felt more like a ghost town. While the word “pandemic” had yet to be spoken, the fears were already setting in.
Little did we realize as we wandered about the fairgrounds that day that we were witnessing one of the last gatherings before California – and the nation – shut its doors in fear.
Two months later, parts of the country, including some rural counties in California, have slowly emerged and begun the task of rebuilding a sense of normal. Once again, Hubby and I ventured up into the Mother Lode. Only a handful of small communities have begun to open. With the noted exception of a fast food restaurant just across the newly opened county line, there weren’t swarms of people out and about in celebration.
It was quiet and subdued. Businesses were open, unsure what to except. The once busy streets swarming with tourists were nearly empty. Mostly locals came out to greet one another. They seemed genuinely glad to have human contact even if it were from a respectable distance. Some wore masks, but most did not. Still, there was a sadness in the air. It were as though a tornado had passed through. People were glad to be alive, but it was obvious that not all had survived. Some shops were boarded up, with notices of thanks for all the years, but they had called it quits. These tiny Gold Mine Era Communities rely on weekend events and tourists to sustain their existence. Parts of these towns are gone forever. Victims of the pandemic and fear. And that’s sad.
One of our favorite restaurants, The Pub and Grub, was open for our first sit-down meal in months. Every other table had a “reserved” sign so that patrons were properly separated, and the staff wore masks. It wasn’t the usual staff, just a waitress who acted as hostess and barmaid, an a cook who also did the dishes. The lunch rush consisted of six people. A couple of women at the bar, a couple of locals a few tables over, and us. Oh but the food was great. It was even better because I did not make it and Hubby did not have to clean up the mess from cooking.
It was nice to feel “normal” if only for a while. It was nice to have conversations with shop keepers and total strangers and to truly feel we are not in this mess alone. There was a sad sense of compassion for fellow human beings in a strange new world.