May 5, 2020
Though I rarely look at my calendar nowadays, I can still sense when the weekend has come around. The neighbors tending their lawns outside my window are visibly relaxed. In the park a few blocks away, cyclists and dog walkers and fishermen are out in force. The park, which borders the Wisconsin River, is large enough that each group gets its own socially distant segment of shore.
The weather this past weekend was almost painfully gorgeous. When I wasn’t outside, I threw open the windows of my house so I could pretend I was. In the absence of cafes with patios, it was the best possible compromise.
Our small community has been feeling that absence a little harder lately. Last week, the owners of a beloved local establishment announced that it is closing for good. My heart goes out to the supporters of the business as well as its employees. I know I’m not the only one in these parts feeling like a dear friend has been lost.
The crown jewel of this particular cafe was a multi-tiered patio overlooking the river. Because of this feature, the place has held a mythical status for me since my childhood. Before the pandemic set in I was eating there several times per month. And if I didn’t bring friends along with me, I usually ran into some. It was a pleasure every time.
I had the superb experience of biking there one wide-open Sunday in July of 2018. I rewarded myself with iced coffee on the patio as the river slid by below. It was the best seat for miles in any direction. I always told myself I would do that again someday. For the next few months, at least, I’ll have to make do with nature’s patio of grass and sand.
It’s a loss that is somehow tempered by knowing I have a community to mourn with. All those hungry families, corporate workers with lunch breaks, and friends looking to catch up on local gossip are missing the place too. I’ve probably encountered some of them in the park, searching for that same feeling of closeness to the water. We all watch the ducks and pelicans (at a distance from the birds and one another). We’re all living in this uncertain time, and we all hope that brighter times are yet to come.