Is there really freedom in the outdoors?

After a year indoors, a writer remembers the joy — and pressures — of a childhood spent in Utah.

About three months into the pandemic, I found myself standing at the window of my condo near downtown Washington, D.C., cradling my newborn. Outside, the sun was rising. The world seemed plastic. Nothing moved. Absent the usual commotion of honking cars, barking dogs and fast-walking humans, the empty thoroughfare was as quiet as a photograph, yet somehow eerie, as if a black-and-white still of a barren nighttime scene had been colorized and converted into day.

I was on paternal leave, helping with our newborn and a newly homebound 3-year-old, and my wife was back at work, which meant she was back at her laptop. Like everyone else, we’d been forced to shrink and edit our lives to fit inside four walls. This place was still home, but we rarely uttered the word anymore. Home was supposed to be a place you returned to after engaging with the world. What did home mean now? We were still trying to figure that out.

Krystal Quiles/High Country News

Not that we had nothing to do. I’d never been busier; almost every minute of my day was booked. Feeding the baby, changing her diapers, loading the dishwasher, unloading the dishwasher, reading to the toddler, putting on Sesame Street (and rewinding it, because the 3-year-old had to hear a particular song a second time) — an unceasing run-on sentence of survival.

Read the rest of the essay at



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High Country News

High Country News

Working to inform and inspire people — through in-depth journalism — to act on behalf of the West’s diverse natural and human communities.