This letter was written in what would have been, a few months ago, an unlikely place — my garage.
The garage evokes memories for me, mostly of being sent there in exile during my teen years when my noisy guitar practice got on my mother’s nerves. Otherwise, it was where I stored the lawn mower — mowing then being a dreaded task, which is odd for something that involves a peaceful stroll around the yard. Time brings new perspectives. I now have an electric mower, and tending the lawn offers respite from other considerations.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, I sensed that we might be hunkering down, so I took on an overdue task: cleaning the garage and restoring it to functionality.
I made a half-hearted effort to use the newly accessible workbench as a place to launch a new hobby: woodworking. Other than botching a few basswood gnomes and birdhouses, I didn’t get far. Duty called and a familiar balance was quickly restored. Work and family became stabilizing elements under the disordered existence we were now calling the “new reality” — as if the old one was as interchangeable as a bit on a Dremel.
To speak of putting the May/June issue together as a challenge would be an insult to many people: health care workers, grocery store clerks, teachers, mail carriers, the unemployed. The list goes on. While I was forced to adapt to unusual circumstances, at least I could do so from the tranquility of the garage, and modify my environment to suit my tastes.
Since I have no idea what challenges we’ll be facing as a community tomorrow, next week, or when this issue hits the stands, I’m submitting it as a time capsule written for some future historian or curiosity seeker wondering what life was like during the springtime pandemic of 2020.
Here is the view from the “editor’s desk,” which for this issue was the stump of an ash tree salvaged from a storm last year and a plastic Adirondack chair I sat on next to a wall of mounted rakes, whackers, clippers and tampers. As you can see, Kevin Harkins (wearing a mask and gloves) stopped by to take pictures of me at work. Take a look and note the harpoon.
Sometimes you don’t have to force yourself to count your blessings. They arise unearned. These days in isolation have given me (Give me? How long will this last?) more time to spend with my baby, toddler and wife. Hours normally spent in commuting have been put to constructive use.
Never have I enjoyed taking out the garbage so much, and savored the experience with such deliberation. I have replaced light bulbs, fixed railings, refurbished pliers. I have raccoon-proofed our trash. These are small projects, none of which would give me Instagram influencer status or put me in line to host a home repair show on PBS. But they were overdue, and all undertaken only when focused on home and not those places ever elsewhere, always calling.
Likewise, at my other home — mvm — there have been changes. As a team, we published resource guides, business directories, updates and requests for assistance. We found new ways of getting news out using our website and social media platforms. We tried to do our part to support those in need. We asked ourselves again and again: What can we do to help? Where can we shine a light?
Some future scholar will look back at the records of our collective response to this crisis and search within for meaningful clues. Who were we? How did we react in the face of turmoil? What went through our heads as we began to ask the Big Questions that take on considerable importance amid the whirlwind of profound changes?
The process is just beginning. We are listeners first, and storytellers after. And it was here in the garage that I listened in silence, uncertain about the future, but faithful in the message — that we would strive to represent the voices of the Valley through the crisis, and into whatever new world lies beyond.
Contact Doug at email@example.com