On the Beat column artwork

It’s a cute scene. Our 3-year-old runs around the kitchen island almost as if he’s Lightning McQueen vying for the Piston Cup. Over the past few weeks, his 13-month-old brother has entered the race, although he just tries to stay on the oval and survive the occasional wipeout.

My wife calls it “zooming” — these bursts of energy that overtake the little ones.

Upstairs in my home office, I’m getting prepared for a Philomath School Board meeting, reviewing the agenda and packet to be able to better follow discussions of the evening. It’s my own form of “zooming” and I’m ready to retire this app from my laptop.

In all honesty, video-conferencing platforms such as Zoom and GoToMeeting have been an effective tool to keep up with our governmental entities. I’ve also used Zoom for interviews and other private virtual gatherings.

But I miss being around people and the interaction that goes along with it. Using meetings again as an example, you’d be surprised at how much I can pick up from in-the-room coverage. Body language and facial expressions of those involved can contribute to the atmosphere. Other audience members will have audible and visible reactions to whatever’s being discussed to add another element.

During a 5-minute break, an opportunity to chat with someone at the meeting or get a clarification on something from the city manager or school superintendent becomes possible. Heck, I’ve even overheard other people chatting about something going on in town and end up with a new idea for a story.

On the few occasions when I’ve been able to cover events in person, I have my own burst of energy, more spring in my step, a little more of a positive outlook on the tasks that I need to accomplish. Fresh air is great, of course, but seeing faces — even if they are masked — is a boost.

A few days ago, the Park Advisory Board discussed the possibility of offering its Music in the Park concert series this summer. It’s not a certainty that it will happen, but I immediately wanted to write about it after the meeting had ended. I’ve been to at least one of those every summer since they launched in 2016 and I can’t wait to cover one in the future.

The story about the concert series reminded me of all of the other events we’ve been missing over the past year. Now that the vaccine is circulating, does that mean that infection rates will flatten and certain events will actually take place in the coming months? It’s promising news and perhaps there’s light at the end of the tunnel, but there’s a lot of planning that goes into some of these things — the Frolic & Rodeo quickly comes to mind.

Will it be safe enough to get together for the Classic Car Show? An event like that typically involves a lot of old-timers — people in that vulnerable category — either as participants or onlookers. Could the wine walk happen in late July? If we’re not out of the woods just yet on this virus, organizers would need to carefully plan each step.

Certainly, we’ll be able to all eat chili together in September at the rodeo grounds, right? Trunk-or-Treat in October and Christmas tree-lighting in December, would they be back to “normal?” Will throngs of children be able to collect candy in costume scampering up and down our downtown sidewalks? Will we all be able to circle the tree on the museum lawn and count down together from 10 to the moment of illumination?

Well, there I go daydreaming again. It’s those types of events that played a part in our desire to move here, to bring up our kids in this community. I just scratched the surface on some of the things that we’re used to experiencing each year. I’m sure all of you out there have your own favorites.

For now, I’ll continue to persevere, stay awake and alert during Zoom meetings and wear my mask to limit the spread. I have to believe that there will come a day when we can all be safe around each other again and resume those social activities that bring us together.

(Brad Fuqua is publisher and editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at News@PhilomathNews.com).