Every once in awhile April Fools’ Day falls on a Wednesday, the day the newspaper publishes each week. In the past, I’ve always looked forward to these rare years, to take a break from journalistic integrity and the relentless pursuit of truth and write an outlandish column that, until the date registers, leads readers to believe that they have been thrust into a Wild Western dystopian reality. Well. No need for that this year, I suppose!
On Monday mornings I’ve been known to wake up and say half-jokingly to myself, “Back to the grind!”
“The grind” is, of course, the life formally known as “normal life,” which consisted of the morning rush to get everyone out the door in the morning, bustling days at the office with my colleagues, a few idle moments chatting with other parents in tight clusters as we waited for kids to finish sports and school activities, and occasional dinner parties with friends and other families: all moments I now look back at with great fondness. I suspect I’m not alone in missing “the grind” with an intensity I might not have predicted.
Other than big over-arching concerns about elderly friends and family members and the long-term effects of the coronavirus on society and the economy, my gripes now are such privileged complaints that they don’t bear mentioning. We are lucky: I’m working from home, we have fresh air around us, and mountain views on the horizon. The garden is melting out, the bluebirds are nesting, and it won’t be long before arrowleaf balsamroot will carpet the hills.
But still. There’s a lot I miss about the grind. I miss impromptu encounters with other residents in the street, in our libraries, at trailheads. I miss standing shoulder-to-shoulder in line at the bakeries and sitting side-by-side on park benches. I miss greeting friends with big hugs. And I miss the Methow Valley’s usual climate of welcome acceptance.
A few weeks ago, our family canceled our spring break plans because we didn’t want to tax the resources of the small southern California community where we were planning to climb and camp, so I’ve been sanctimoniously judgmental of the opportunistic recreationalists who are doing to the Methow Valley what I chose not to do to Joshua Tree. I don’t, however, classify our part-time residents in this group.
Methow Valley part-timers are community members here, not interlopers descending to deplete our reserves of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. In addition to being tax-payers, many part-time residents are registered voters here. They are volunteers and board members for the organizations that advance the arts, recreation, social services, education, literacy, and environmental stewardship in our community; their generosity keeps our non-profits afloat.
When full-timers evacuate the valley for smoke and fire, or when we have medical appointments or planes to catch in big cities, these part-timers open up their primary homes to shelter us. When Methow Valley people or places are in trouble, part-timers are some of the first to answer the call for help.
Recently I’ve heard some stories about part-timers getting hassled for being here, and these stories make me wonder about our collective ability to weather not just this coronavirus storm, but all the future ones that we will inevitably face as a community. Obviously we don’t want to literally stand together right now, but figuratively, we absolutely need to do so.