A Buffalo Summer, 2020…

A Buffalo Summer, 2020…

About a year ago, I published a post about Summer in Buffalo. And the other day, I got to thinking that everything is changed now. We live in a whole new world and I was thinking that post would probably be useless and outdated today.

Last summer the world seemed so full of promise! We all seemed so innocent before Covid-19. But now, with social distancing and stress levels through the roof for a lot of people, who would want to read a post about summer in Buffalo now?

In the spirit of nostalgia, I decided to take a look back and re-read it. And guess what? It applies, just as much now as it did a year ago. Possibly even more so! I have to admit, I was pretty surprised! So, I’ve decided to write it again including updates for social distancing, because we can still enjoy our Buffalo summers. There are still lots of choices for things to do and places to go! All the choices will help with stress relief, and who among us couldn’t use a little stress relief right about now?!

Our Great Location

I know it’s the kind of thing that we, as Buffalonians, rarely think about but take a moment right now to think about where we live.

Buffalo is located at the convergence of three great bodies of water.  Lake Erie, the Buffalo River, and the Niagara River. Now I could go into a long story about Buffalo’s history and how these three affected the city and its growth, and normally I would.  But today I’m going in a completely different direction.

View out into the Buffalo River, Lake Erie and Niagara River from The Hatch (Erie Basin Marina)

You see, I have long believed that when human beings are near bodies of water, it helps to calm our souls.  Whether it’s in a boat on a lake, sitting at the edge of a pond in an Adirondack chair reading a book, laying on a beach, or biking a river path, being near the water just seems to make us feel better.  It’s one of the ultimate stress relievers in my book.  

Lake Erie has traditionally been my go-to place whenever things get tough.  Being near the lake calms me and helps me to think things through.

Erie Basin Marina. Old Main Lighthouse, built in 1833 (oldest structure on Buffalo’s waterfront).

Studies Show…

And it’s not just me.  It’s been widely studied and accepted for quite some time now that being out in nature reduces stress, which induces a whole host of health benefits, but only recently have these studies included ‘blue’ spaces.  Most of the studies are taking place in the UK and are showing that people who live near water are generally healthier than those who don’t. And it doesn’t have to be water in nature. The studies have progressed to man-made water features such as fountains and the like.  All have produced good health benefits.*

Fourth of July, 2019. Tall Ships in Buffalo!

So living here in Buffalo is good for our health.  That is, if we take advantage of our water resources.

So how can we take advantage of these benefits while social distancing? To put it simply, it’s easy. All we need to do is get out there. If you’re worried about too many people in one place, no worries. Pick a place where there are fewer people. And there are places where there aren’t throngs of people, making social distancing easy.

Where to Go?

Canalside and the Skyway.

There are so many things we can enjoy for free (or close to it) on Buffalo’s waterfront.  The most obvious are Canalside, Erie Basin Marina, and the Outer Harbor. All free and located right in the heart of downtown.  All you have to do is go there and walk, bike, or just sit and relax. Watch the sunset. Did you know that Buffalo is one of the very few inland cities in the country that enjoys sunsets over water?  So many people west of Buffalo would love to see a sunset over a lake whenever they feel like it!   We’re spoiled by our amazing sunsets!

Just a bit south of the city – Photo credit: Martha Emiliani

How many of you reading this right now have never been to Erie Basin Marina for a sunset?  If you haven’t, you need to put it on your list of things to do this summer! If you’re worried about social distancing, try to avoid weekends. Plenty of room. Bring a chair, relax, and watch the day gently slip away. You’ll be glad you did.

Aboard the Grand Lady on Lake Erie

To the North…

There are of course, other less obvious places with great waterfront benefits as well.  

North of the city there’s Isleview Park/Niawanda Park in Tonawanda. These two have gotten quite busy during Covid-19 as well. But there’s plenty of room to spread out, we just have to be willing to roll with it and adjust.

The two parks are connected and both are awesome for picnics and fabulous views of the Niagara River and Grand Island. Did you know that Grand Island is the largest island on a river in the world? It is! 

There is also a bike path that begins in Isleview that travels the Niagara River past the Peace Bridge and moves right into Canalside and beyond the city to the Outer Harbor! This trail is over 21 miles long and has several parking spots along the way.  Pick one and cover as much ground as you like. You don’t have to bike, you can walk it too. And just about the whole time, you’ll enjoy the amazing river or lake views. All the while, relieving stress and reaping those health benefits we talked about.

Isleview Park – Photo Credit: Unknown

In the City…

There are several parks to enjoy on the waterfront as well.  In the city are Front Park, Riverside Park, Broderick Park, and Riverfest Park. All are free and all are great spots for picnics, walks, bike rides, etc. Soon there will also be Ralph Wilson Jr. Centennial Park where LaSalle Park used to be. Can’t wait to see it when it’s complete! The initial designs look amazing!

View from the bike path on Unity Island heading towards Broderick Park

To the South…

Travel just south of the city, and there are a series of absolutely stunning beaches! If you aren’t from Buffalo, you’ve got to be thinking, “Beaches? In Buffalo?” Yes. Beaches in Buffalo. Gorgeous ones too! Gallagher Beach, Woodlawn Beach, Hamburg Beach, Wendt Beach Park, and Bennett Beach are all fantastic choices.  

I went to Hamburg Beach the other day. It’s run by the Town of Hamburg, and parking was $10 for non-residents of Hamburg (free for residents). There are lifeguards on duty, paddleboard and kayak rentals, and a sweet little snack bar too. The view alone (not to mention the stress reduction) is well worth the price of parking if you’re not a resident.

Pack a lunch and make a day of it at any one of these beaches. If you have kids, they’ll love you for it! If you don’t, you’ll love you for it!

Hamburg Beach

Also, there are other places near water not on Buffalos’ waterfront.  How about Delaware Park’s Hoyt Lake? There’s plenty of room for social distancing there. Or the Japanese Garden behind the Buffalo History Museum? Very, very peaceful spot.

At the Japanese Garden on the lake side of the History Museum

View from The Terrace on Hoyt Lake

Downtown…

If you work or live downtown and are looking for the calming influence of water but maybe don’t have time to get to the waterfront, head over to Fountain Plaza on Main Street for a little relaxation. Or to the fountain sculpture in front of One M & T Plaza.   Both are very easily accessible and remember that man-made water features work just as well to reduce stress and will give you the same health benefits that lakes or rivers will.

This is the fountain at One M&T Plaza. It was designed by Harry Bertoia, an Italian born American Artist.

My Impressions for Summer, 2020

These are just a few ideas to get you out and taking full advantage of the area we live in, so rich in natural ‘blue’ spaces, and the summer sun.  Walk, run, bike, hike, rollerblade, longboard, paddleboard, kayak. Whatever makes you happy and gets you out near or on the water is a good thing. We owe it to ourselves. Especially now, when self-care is so important. Whether you are recovering from the virus, trying to avoid getting it, or have developed antibodies, taking great care of ourselves is one of the things that has hit home for a lot of us during this crisis.

I’d also like to add, that as a person who is always out and about and always has been, I’ve been noticing how Buffalonians have stepped up in the past few months. This summer, I see so many more people out doing their thing in the city, on the waterfront, at our parks, etc. than I ever have before. Parents are taking more time with their kids, and kids with their parents (it goes both ways). People are out in nature like never before, and this makes for a happier, healthier city!

No matter who you are, the Buffalo River, Lake Erie, and the Niagara River are easily accessible to all of us.  Get out and enjoy the stress relief and the health benefits your city is offering you! Summer, 2020 is still full of promise! But our priorities are different and in a lot of ways, better than they were before Covid-19! We got this Buffalo!

I wish all of you good health and peace this summer.

*The Guardian

**All the photos in this post are mine, unless otherwise noted.

‘Social Distancing’ & COVID-19 in Buffalo and Beyond

‘Social Distancing’ & COVID-19 in Buffalo and Beyond

These are trying times. No doubt about it. For most of us, COVID-19 is the most life altering event that has ever happened to us. In Buffalo, we are used to weathering a snowstorm for several days, but we are definitely not used to social distancing for a month or more. With this crisis just about every corner of our lives is affected. There is a lot of information out there on the technical end of COVID-19, so I want to talk about how to handle social distancing for extended periods of time.

If you had asked me two months ago what ‘social distancing’ meant, I could have guessed, but now we all know what it means.

Definition of Social Distancing according to merriam-webster.com:

the practice of maintaining a greater than usual physical distance from other people or of avoiding direct contact with people or objects in public places during the outbreak of a contagious disease in order to minimize exposure and reduce the transmission of infection

There are so many things to think about. How safe is my workplace? Should I go to the store? Heck, should I hug my granddaughter when she skins her knee? Not to mention will I get sick, and if I do, what if I’ve already infected someone else? And so on.

There are a lot of unknowns right now.

Look, all we can do is follow the rules as best we can, keep our hands clean and off our faces, and act responsibly.

And make a plan.

A Plan for Social Distancing?

A plan for what you ask? A plan to get through the next few months, under the new rules. And the latest news says it could be August! When I heard that, I thought “There’s no way I can binge watch Madam Secretary while eating take out and junk food, until August!”. Our minds are just not set up that way. Not to mention our bodies. We need to have a purpose. It’s the way we’re wired. Having a plan will help to give you purpose.

So, I suggest sitting down and taking a close look at the next two months. Okay, I’m being a bit optimistic here but, hey, it could be over by mid-May. That’s part of it. We just don’t know. Trust me though, this will make you feel more in control.

Open up your google calendar, or your planner or whatever you use to keep track of your life. Delete or cross off future stuff that you’re sure will no longer happen. This might be tough, but try to think of it as giving yourself a clean slate and starting fresh.

Make a List

Then make a list of all the things you’ve been meaning to get done, but for whatever reason, you just haven’t. Add all the things you can think of that you’d like to do. Anything at all.

Now, go back and cross off all the things on your list that involve more than 10 people and /or international travel. Smart aleck. Your list has to have allowable things on it!

Here’s what my list looks like so far:

  • Wash windows -they’re so dirty from winter! (Who am I kidding, this one is for Tim – I can’t wash a window to save my life.)
  • Learn how to play that board game we bought to play with our grandchildren!
  • Paint the living room, including the trim
  • Stain and paint the bench I bought back in December!
  • Create a scavenger hunt for our grandchildren – I saw this idea online, and it looks easy!
  • Read some of the eight books that are sitting in my kindle library unread.
  • Finally get the spare room in shape for guests – it’s so close!
  • Keep walking!
  • Clean and reorganize my office, including…ugh…filing!
  • Meditate and pray to reduce stress
  • Complete one of those online Organize Your Home type things. By this I mean I’m going to google ‘How to Clean and Organize My Home in 4 Weeks‘. I’ll see what comes up and pick one that works for me. These typically involve one or two small tasks each day, and by the end of the 4 weeks, your space will be cleaner and you’ll feel more organized.

Make your list whatever you want it to be. It doesn’t have to be all work. Could be all fun things. Include personal things too. Or simple things. Like walk around the block with the kids. Or family game night, date night in, or family bike rides. Spend time with the people you love most, if possible.

Time to Make It Happen

Once you feel like you’re finished with your list, go through it and write out how you’re going to implement each item. For instance, on my calendar for tomorrow evening, it says ‘buy paint for living room’. That works for me. If reminders like that stress you, implement your list your way. Only you know what works for you.

When you start checking things off your list, you’ll feel good about keeping busy and getting things done. Don’t get me wrong, binge watching Netflix has it’s place. I just want to avoid waking up in August thinking, ‘Geez, what did I do with all that spare time?’

What Else?

I should add too, that when you do family game night or whatever, order out from your favorite locally owned restaurant. Do it as often as you can. They’re struggling right now and if you have the ability to help, please do.

Reach out too. There may be someone you can help. Now, I’m not suggesting you put yourself in harms way. Keep to the rules of social distancing. But maybe offer to cook a meal or send over a pizza to lighten the load for a single parent trying to juggle work with having the kids home from school. If you have an elderly neighbor, check in on them. See that they’re okay, offer to shop for something they need. Basically, be a Buffalonian. Be kind and generous.

You can see we use UNO a lot, but the other two, we don’t even know how to play. Yet.

Now keep in mind, these are just ideas. Looks like we may have a long road ahead of us with this thing. So give some or all of these a try. Be creative. Having a plan will help to mentally get you through it. It’ll give you that purpose I mentioned earlier. You’ll feel in control, and you’ll have things to do.

And when we are able to socialize again, we’ll be ready to relax and enjoy whatever festival Buffalo will be celebrating! Because you know we’ll be celebrating! And we can enjoy it even more knowing that we did our best to take good care of ourselves and our families!

Resources for Parents During Social Distancing

Need some inspiration? Here are a few resources for parents whose kids are home:

These don’t work for you? Google ‘parent resources during COVID-19’. There are tons of resources out there. Hopefully, one will work for what you need.

Last But Certainly Not Least

To all who are sick, or have loved ones who are sick, our thoughts and prayers are with you.

For all who are working in hospitals, clinics, and in other medical capacities, putting yourselves in harm’s way to help treat and save our loved ones, thank you sincerely for all that you are doing.

To everyone else working in essential jobs, from grocery store staff members, to truck drivers delivering the goods we need, to the county workers tracking contacts, and everyone else in between, thank you from the bottom of our collective hearts for all that you are doing.

As a wise co-worker used to say, we’re all in this together. And that, Buffalo, is how we’ll get through it. Stay healthy my friends.

*Lead photo credit to FOX59 in Indiannapolis

Note: As you can see I’ve put aside for this week my series on amazing women in Buffalo who are making history. I’ll pick that up again when it feels right.

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