It’s the quietest week of the year on the Vineyard. February is always subdued. Seasonal residents are still in warm sunny places. This week the schools are closed and families who can take advantage of the “down-time” scoop up the kids and head “off the rock” for a few days of family time together - even with the various Covid restrictions. So - no school busses and virtually no traffic at all. A time to pause.
Last year at this time, we had just celebrated Purim with all the fun and joy that attends the holiday. It is hard to believe that was the last time the community was together face to face. Within days of that celebration the island was in lock down. The streets, normally quiet anyway in February and March, had the eerie feeling that came with some of the scenes in the long ago movie “On The Beach” - - no
I was in the midst of rehab post knee surgery. In the Physical Therapy department at the hospital staff and patients kept asking many unanswered questions. Have you heard….? What does this mean for us here on an island? Will we be protected by the waters around us? Can we finish the recommended course of PT? And then abruptly, all services were closed down except for emergency interventions.
And we plunged into unknown territory - uncertain about how to protect ourselves. Masks? No masks? Wear protective gloves everywhere? Disinfect grocery store purchases before bringing them into the house? What about safety when traveling in a car with someone else? Stock up on toilet paper? Hand sanitizer? Grocery store shelves were unaccustomedly empty of many basics. Finding flour and sugar became a challenge. The meat eaters among us veered toward vegetarianism as the meat and poultry departments struggled to meet the demand when food supply chains were interrupted.
Our college age grandchildren were summoned home when their spring semester was just getting underway. Students around the country struggled and continue to struggle with remote learning and the precious continuity of their education, regardless of their ages, has been seriously and detrimentally disrupted.
And here we are, one year later. Various earlier anxieties have been augmented by questions about when the vaccines will be universally available. The unheard of speed in the development of vaccines is offset by production and distribution challenges. Questionable equitable distribution, long waits for appointments, mistrust of the vaccines themselves all keep the fear levels high.
A new administration is gradually taking hold in Washington. The news from Dr. Fauci is cautionary, but generally hopeful. We understand more about transmission and we know better what effective precautions to take to protect ourselves. Running routine errands seems less fraught with the earlier fears. Conversations drift in a subdued but celebratory direction as people compare experiences with getting the vaccine.
The past year has witnessed so much tragedy and violence, sickness and death, divisiveness and destruction - and yet, here we are, hopefully headed toward wholeness and well being on so many levels - medically, socially, politically. I like to think that humankind is wrestling with how to live out an expanded consciousness now. What will we do with the greater clarity of awareness about the terrible racial inequities fully exposed by the pandemic? How will we build trust in our political systems in the midst of the ongoing anger and violence that color relationships in both houses of congress post insurrection?
Our local PBS channel has been running a quote from James Baldwin: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” That seems to be where we stand - - challenged to face into all that has been revealed of our violence, our darkness, our mistrust, our unwillingness to sacrifice, our lack of regard for one another in the midst of crisis…
Perhaps hope lies in the awareness that the pandemic has cast a spotlight on all our brokenness - and when light shines in the darkness, the darkness cannot overcome it. A quiet week on the Vineyard. Time to pause and reflect.