By Ashley Lodato

It seems like the Highway 20 construction in Winthrop is either complete or nearing completion, and we’re about to return to normal traffic patterns, where sometimes you have to wait for as many as five or even six cars before you can pull out of a parking area. Imagine!

The Washington State Department of Transportation seems to have done a great job on the road; the shiny new black surfaces fairly gleam. Of course, quite a number of people with absolutely no background or training in highway repair were able to identify how they would have improved the efficiency of the process immeasurably; it surely is a both a blessing and a curse to be a master of pretty much everything. At least now we can stop complaining about the potholes, right?

I have a tiny bit of regret that we didn’t institute a formal plan of handing out cookies and cold drinks to the flaggers and the workers as we passed them daily. Instead of dishing out our outrage and indignation at the delays we suffered, we could have served up chocolate and knock-knock jokes as we waited in line.

After all, the road work resulted in some benefits beyond the newly smoothed roadways. Many people who work downtown but live on the east side of the Winthrop bridge report parking at the Town Trailhead and walking across the Spring Creek Bridge to and from work. People stopped and greeted each other, caught up on each other’s lives, and enjoyed the views of the peaks in the distance, still capped with snow. It was a moment to clear one’s mind before the work day ahead, and a way to process the day’s events after a long day in the office.

Hearing about this brief period of meaningful morning and evening communal interaction reminded me of the “passegiatta,” an evening promenade that takes place each day between about 5 and 7 p.m. in virtually every Italian city. As the day turns to dusk, Italians take to the street to stroll arm-in-arm, greeting friends and neighbors, unwinding, reconnecting, rejuvenating. Everyone — residents, guests, visitors — is folded into the community during the passegiatta; it’s the ultimate reinforcement of one’s sense of belonging to a place, even when one barely speaks the language and is mostly there to gaze at swarthy Italian men.

It reminded me a little of that time during the Carlton Complex Fire when we lost power for eight days, before Verizon and generators enabled us to retreat to the solitude of our homes. We gathered at the Barn, downtown, in driveways around the valley. We spread news, we shared resources, we asked for help and we offered it. Then, as now, hardship unites us.


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