I had a moment recently. I realized that it’s been 1 year since I’ve ridden in an airplane. Most normal years I clock anywhere from 6-10 flights. We went to Park City, UT in February 2020 on a ski trip for our anniversary. Our friend is a pilot for the airline we were flying – even though he wasn’t on our route, he managed to get the flight attendants to put cookies at our seats before we boarded and tell us “congratulations” as we walked down the center aisle. It was hilariously embarrassing.
We had to cut the trip short and come home for a funeral, a not-so-fun reason to be in the air for the last time. I also managed to come down with the flu on our final day in Utah. We flew home on a red-eye as I nursed a fever, sweating with exhaustion—something that sounds so absurd now (flying while feverish) that it’s *almost* laughable. I curled into my seat with a scratchy, single-use blanket, half-watching some movie I’d seen 10 times before, and glancing at distant lights miles below my small window. I didn’t know how much the world was about to change and how I’d come to crave that uncomfortable, scratchy seat so many times.
The winter has been especially hard for all of us. We found some clarity during the warm months – learned to dine outdoors, see our friends and family in the safety of circulating air, relax a bit amid plummeting numbers. We went to the beach. It almost felt normal. But with cold and a changing climate of the virus, we’re driven inside again. Our families and friends are not nearby and the giddy energy we once had for Zoom hangouts has dwindled. I know we’re on the cusp of the end, but it’ll be a long crawl to that light.
We got out of the city last weekend, picking a new spot on the New York State map to retreat into an Airbnb. Seeing the rest of my home state has been a special light amid a shitty year. It’s a smaller map to tackle, but still beautiful. We’re lucky that we can still drive off to somewhere.
I’d been to North Fork years before with my mom for a wine tour. Katie and I decided that it was the perfect location for a socially-distant getaway – was anybody else crazy enough to hang out at the beach or go to vineyards in February? We made some winery tasting reservations and jetted off to Greenport for a few nights in a “beach bungalow” with a chimenea in the backyard and a light-filled kitchen. Our first stop was One Woman Winery, a single-room tasting spot on a dirt road offering bottles-to-go. It was a favorite on my trip with mom.
Greenport is a cute waterside town full of old buildings that host shops and cafes. It wasn’t as empty as we’d expected for wintertime, but pedestrians were good at mask-wearing. That night, we were the only people willing to eat dinner outdoors at Noah’s as temps dropped into the 20s, but the espresso martinis and a sweet, buttery lobster roll kept me cozy.
It has become a tradition while staying in Airbnbs to cook those oversized, lazy breakfasts we rarely make at home. I am giddy over the thought of a big open kitchen and breezy breakfast nook by the window. Bacon grease everywhere.
We spent the next couple days visiting the handful of wineries that stayed open through the pandemic winter – Sparkling Pointe for a cupcake-and-champagne tasting (so good), Shinn Estate for appetizers and flights under a heat lamp watching migrating geese (do they normally fly home this early?), and Old Field Vineyards – a tiny, quiet, rustic tasting room run by a family with a big dog that sits by your toes while you sip. The vineyard vines were bare, and the fields covered in bright snow. It was a unique time to be anywhere like it.
Some of my favorite moments of the weekend were spent outside in the bracing cold. We visited Orient Beach State Park – the entrance is a skinny road that snakes between two bodies of water and ends in a parking lot surrounded by twisted trees. The beach there is pebbly and mellow, covered in crunchy snow with a hazy sky behind it. The whole place felt like a bright whisper. The air pierced my cheeks as we collected shells along with a few other stray visitors.
On our final night we picked up dinner from Ellen’s on Front – fried chicken with honey hot sauce that had the most perfect crunch. We set up at our Airbnb like we lived there, putting together a “tapas” plate from cheese and veggies we bought in town, setting the table, and managing to light the chimenea in the yard and get through a glass of wine outside without freezing into our chairs. I’m lying if I say the weekend away was “everything” I needed, because the needs are great right now. But I do love those quiet nights of new places, even if they’re just a little bit new. It gives me something to grip onto while crawling towards that light.