Callie, the Macaw

Taking Flight

Heidi Carrington Heath

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It was o’dark thirty on a March morning when I finally emerged from my Covid bubble after almost thirteen months of isolation. On March 12, 2020, I boarded my last, pre-pandemic flight home from an abbreviated vacation with my spouse. The following day, I became symptomatic for Covid-19. In an instant, my world changed forever as I grappled with Long Covid, and I would not set foot outside of a tiny radius near my home on the New England coast for the next thirteen months.

BC, Before Covid as we’ve taken to calling it in my two-clergy household, I traveled sometimes multiple times in a week. I would fly to Dallas to present at a conference, and then to DC to teach a workshop. I would travel to Hartford to gather with other chaplains, and then onto Vegas for my annual girls trip. You get the gist. The rhythms of travel were a familiar beat, and I had a well choreographed dance. A bag of combos, and a sparkling water from the news shop nearest the gate. I only ate combos when I flew. A couple of trashy gossip magazines thrown hastily in my bag for plane reading. When the world stopped in March of 2020, my travel stage went dark. The muscles atrophied from lack of use, and faded gently away, my grief of missing it all bubbling softly under the surface.

On a cool, late March, early morning, I ascended the steps outside of my loft toward my first real taste of freedom. A large, but unseen owl hooted into the night. Owls have a spiritual and emotional signficance for me, and I had never heard one so close to our home. It seemed a promising sign. “Just keep going,” it seemed to say.

My best friend had given birth almost two months earlier to her first, long-awaited baby. Baby girl was one of many children born into the isolation of pandemic. Her early, sleepy, milky, vulnerable days marked only by those deemed “essential” to her well-being. Now, Dad would deploy on his next military assignment, and another set of hands was needed. Vaccination, and the work of many wonderful humans made it possible for that person to be me. I was eager, and already exhausted from anxiety.

After zipping down route one in Saugus (with an obligatory stop for Kane’s donuts and early morning coffee), we arrived at Logan airport. It felt so familiar, and so foreign all at once. A new kind of travel ritual began. I layered masks upon masks, and safety…

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Heidi Carrington Heath

The Rev. Heidi Carrington Heath (she/her/hers) is a preacher, teacher, activist, writer, holy mischief maker, and proud queer femme.