I can feel it now. We’re going to find our way back to each other.

There’s so much to a walk. During the pandemic it’s been one of my main pastimes: taking the dog Gizmo for his morning walk, blowing off steam when I’m feeling cooped up, hiking with a friend.

I was lucky enough to do classes for a few years with the dance pioneer and teacher Anna Halprin, who just died at nearly 101 years old. She fostered complex interactions, but always started class simple. Walk around, how does it feel to be on your feet right now, going slowly, or quickly. Who do you see in the room, what’s it like to walk by them?

Of course about 14 months ago, walking culture changed dramatically. Overnight everyone was in masks, giving each other lots of space. A lot. As you might guess about a place that pioneered three-bin recycling, Bay Area citizens were maybe a little proud of how well we were following the new norms. People walking their little dogs would wander into the road to avoid passing you on the sidewalk. We’d often exchange an apologetic little greeting, but what once would have been rude, swerving away to avoid people, was now the norm in my ‘hood. On hikes with my friend Jonathan — “it’s just a few, no ok it’s 7 miles” — even in remote spots hikers went to great lengths to give each other 6, 8, 10 feet. Looking back, we can second-guess ourselves: it seems like it wasn’t much about surfaces, so all that sanitizing might not have been needed, and it turns out outdoors was probably safer than we thought. But we didn’t know, and it felt good to be doing our best to keep each other safe. There was divisive crap, sure, but anyone looking could also see much cooperation and care. We were all lonlier, but I for one was touched by the collective efforts.

A year of avoiding people, though, retrained my brain. When the CDC announced fully vaccinated people can go maskless outdoors, in just about any situation at any distance from others, I felt a thrill. The next morning I set out with Gizmo, mask jammed deep in my pocket, but at the sight of others I chickened out. With practice I got better at it, and started to feel less naked without a mask. It was fun to smile at people. Maybe a week later as Gizmo and I were on our stroll, and two women walking our way, I realized I’d still not passed right by someone on the sidewalk, maskless. I was excited! They looked friendly, and calm. I gave myself little internal pep talks: we’re allowed! the CDC says so! I got closer and closer to them, until at the last minute I dashed around a parked car and walked down the middle of the street. Not yet.

Initially I was discouraged, like when I’m too shy to chat at a party (remember those?). But I’ve decided there’s time. California’s indoor masking rules end June 15, and Dr. Fauci has been kindly reminding me that we can take all the time we need to transition. I’m wrapping my head around what’s coming.

We are an adaptable species, stupid sometimes, but also ready to adjust to new normals. We need each other. By the smiles and increasingly less timid greetings I see out there, I think we humans will walk our way back into company, sadder for our losses, but thankful for those who remain.