All the Boats in the Harbor

I grew up in the summers on a large island off the coast of Maine. If you are a longtime reader of this blog, you well know this. I grew up on Mount Desert Island, and lived there until about 5 years ago, when I returned to Austin, Texas.

Mount Desert Island (MDI) is a tourism community that attracts 2 million people in a normal summer; our year-round population is a smidge less than 10,000. There are many funny comments from tourists that islanders have to endure, and lately, one has been sticking in my memory.

I can see Bar Harbor in the summer clearly in my mind’s eye. There are pleasure boats, whale boats, lobster boats, and dinghies moored there, bobbing up and down in the water, as the currents and the winds shift. Bar Harbor is an open harbor so really is only used in the summer, due to its lack of protection from winter storms. Tourists often look out into that harbor and see all the boats on their moorings, with the mainland beyond, and ask: “how do they get all the boats to face the same direction?”

Whenever this particular question is uttered, we laugh, albeit inwardly. Of course, it is the water currents, not the mooring, that determine how the boats set in the water.

COVID has now been raging for months: it feels like forever. I remember I said I was going to write here every day, and that never materialized. I have now decided to be more patient and gentle with myself, and write whenever I feel that I can. There are all sorts of below-the-surface water currents at work, causing us all to drift on this invisible tide.

Right now, schools are supposed to open as normal, and there is no plan for teacher or staff protection. The President wants the whole country to re-open, and periodically shrieks about the stock market and the NASDAQ, as if that means anything to 15 million unemployed people. The Texas governor issued a mask order last week, in the midst of a fury of anti-mask propaganda. I canceled my Facebook account yesterday: well, I put it on a 7 day hiatus, but after reading articles like this one, I am fairly certain I am on the path to permanently deleting it next week. I was in a meeting last week and described the feeling of being in the Upside Down, if the Upside Down was made of molasses; it is as if we are in a crazy parallel reality where truth is not valued, science has been relegated to the side lines, and time seems to move very strangely.

I don’t know what else to say except that times feel dark, and strange, and scary, and it is very hot (at least we have air conditioning!). I have been sewing almost obsessively, and watercoloring scenes from my life for a new quilt. I will share some of those when I have a few more ready. Some memories are good, some poignant, some sad; very much like the life they reflect.

I have been emailing with an old boyfriend from 20 years ago, and I think we have been comfort for each other in these strange days. Cody and I seem to not be a consistent comfort to each other, but I read an article about that, too. I feel very grateful for my friends at this time, for my dog Oscar, for my family in England who I can FaceTime with, and for the myriad stories I can engage with on television and in books. I spend a lot of time in contemplation and reflection, thinking about all the stages of my life, and of other’s lives, and how many, definite chapters we all experience. Life marches on despite our existence in the vacuum of COVID-19.

In some ways, this time reminds me of working in the studio in Northeast Harbor very late at night in the winters, when it was so dark outside that I couldn’t see anything beyond a few feet out of the front window, where the lights shone. I remember the blackness of the branches of the trees, the sound of the winter wind, the deep glow of electric light in a sea of winter black. None of us can see where this goes or when it ends, although many of us would like to know.

Despite the looks of the boats in harbors worldwide, there is no one undercurrent pulling us in one direction or another. There is, unfortunately, tension and mis-management, megalomania, fear, the unknown, wishes, rebellion, new ideas, anger, and a bit of hope. I just bought some very bright fabric to make quilts for the many babies that I know are on their way into this crazy world.

Back to sewing. With love, P

Date: 8 July 2020

Worldwide Cases: 12,009,301

Worldwide Deaths: 548,822

Worldwide Mortality Rate: 4.57%

United States Cases: 3,110,000

United States Deaths: 134,000

United States Mortality Rate: 4.30%

A Mid-Year Reflection

My plan to write here,  even just a little bit, each day has fallen apart. My biggest explanation as to why is being sheerly overwhelmed by all that has happened. The United States has the most cases of any country in the world, and the highest number of deaths. Our President, who was woefully inadequate before the pandemic, now has shrouded the White House in miles of fencing and barricades to keep the protestors away from him. Protestors by the thousands are peacefully marching, now, after a week of fire and destruction brought on by three incidences of racist police brutality in a row. We are all expected to “go back to normal” despite the knowledge that the pandemic still boils in our communities, and there is a 19% unemployment rate with little being done to help those people who lost their jobs; these are the same people whose lives are impacted most by police brutality and lower-quality schools that lead to lower-paying jobs.

In other words, it is a hot mess express out there.

I don’t have very many words for it all right now, except that it seems so incredibly sad, but also incredibly predictable, that this would happen in the United States after 40 years of destabilizing social programs and a destructive and addictive dependency on capital development over anything else. We have been out of school since mid-March, and all I hope is that we go back in August. No one seems to have a plan or even a specific idea about how to manage this transition, and my explanation is that schools don’t make money so they are not a priority. Isn’t that it?

My garden is beautiful and I have to look at that as an analogy for these frightening times. I have tended my garden well during the pandemic: literally and figuratively. I have spoken to friends, worked on creative projects, continued with graduate school, begun to work on school work for the fall, and stepped outside each day to plant living things. These are the only spaces of control that I have.

I often wonder about how people felt during the last pandemic. There was no information overload. Perhaps they only knew what was happening in their town or on their street. Perhaps they knew much more? I feel that I know nothing, except that my government has lost the last shreds of authority, accountability and usefulness that they had in early 2020.

There is an election in November. Even NPR is talking about the possibility of the President not accepting the results. What happens then? What will happen this week?

Gods help us.

Date: 8 June 2020

Worldwide Cases: 7,049,649

US Cases: 1,946,144

Worldwide Deaths: 409,821

US Deaths: 116,929

Mortality Rate (Worldwide): 5.81%

Mortality Rate (USA): 6.00%