The Outbreak | A view of the pandemic from my hammock

The Outbreak is a new blog describing the different ways the coronavirus pandemic has affected our lives.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been one silver lining — the increasingly warm and often-sunny weather in Pittsburgh. On days when there’s not a cloud in the sky, my favorite thing to do is take my hammock to different spots around Oakland.

The hammock, a huge, bright pink piece of nylon with yellow trim, came cheap — it includes the necessary hardware for hanging and I got it for $20 at Walmart last summer while working at a YMCA camp in Maryland. It lived outside my cabin for 10 weeks, where it played host to countless meetings and hangouts with my campers before moving to the back of a closet in my Oakland apartment once the weather got cold in October. Now that spring has sprung and classes are remote, I’ve gotten plenty more opportunities to use it again.

One of the best, and most popular, spots for hammocking Pitt students is in the trees lining Schenley Plaza and in front of the Oakland branch of the Carnegie Library. My favorite thing to do, back when life was normal, was order a breakfast burrito from Mesa, my favorite food stand in Schenley, to eat while reading in my hammock. On sunny days, the park was always filled with members of the community, hanging out, playing frisbee or sunbathing. 

Now Mesa is closed for the time being, though plenty of people are still getting their exercise outside. A couple of weeks ago, I met up with my friend Ben and we took our hammocks to the plaza. Though everyone present was keeping 6 feet apart, it was still a pleasant scene. We saw a group of girls Rollerblading, a couple on recumbent bicycles and a group of people slacklining. If you closed your eyes, life almost felt regular again.

My roommate Steffani also has a hammock of her own, so on the weekends we take them to the park together. We live a quick walk away from one of the many playgrounds inside Schenley Park, which these days are devoid of children, even on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

One weekend, on a mysteriously gorgeous — though windy —  day, we walked the 10 minutes from our apartment, hammocks in our bags, and tied them up at the playground. I had packed myself a picnic lunch of a sandwich, homemade pasta salad and grapes. I loved the simplicity of it all — being able to whip up a quick lunch, grab my hammock and my best friend and go.

It was a lovely day, which almost made up for the fact it was mom’s birthday and I couldn’t go see her. She works in a hospital, and I, as an asthmatic, am at a high risk for the coronavirus.

One reason why I keep reaching for my hammock the moment Pittsburgh gets even the slightest hint of a nice day is because I like being able to see people, even if from a distance, and thinking about a time when we didn’t have to make an effort to avoid other people. Anything from seeing my friend Janine in the distance riding her bike to a man having an all-out photo shoot for his tiny husky puppy on the empty playground is a bright spot in this now isolated world. Everything has changed so much in the span of just more than a month, and the future still looks uncertain.

Some things haven’t changed. Even though I’m unable to order a burrito or visit the public library like I used to, I still pack a book and my hammock in my bag when I go out on a walk. My most recent acquisition, “Play it as it Lays” by Joan Didion, sits on my desk, unread, waiting for a nice day and a spot for me to hang my hammock.