Local writer Christopher Solomon recently published an opinion piece in the New York Times titled, “In My Mountain Town, We’re Preparing for Dark Times,” published Oct. 17.
In the beautifully written essay, Chris accurately portrays the big coronavirus question on all our minds — how to stay connected safely during the dark cold months of winter. I usually welcome fall and winter — I love the changing of the seasons and crisp cold air. But this year feels different, we’re all acting differently — staying outside longer, lingering in each other’s company before heading indoors. Chris’ piece taps into that feeling: “The wistfulness of the season is stronger, and the pace of the days feels more urgent.”
Several friends made outdoor spaces more livable in preparation for winter gatherings. Roofs, comfortable seating and either fire pits or propane patio heaters were added to outdoor spaces. Warm beverages are brought out with trays of cookies. To be completely honest, I am really enjoying the outdoor visits in the sun with my hands wrapped around warm mugs. As humans have always done, we will find a way to adapt and commune safely together, I have no doubt. On a positive note, this virus has given everyone an excellent excuse to get outside. Fresh air and sunshine are good for the soul and the body.
In stark contrast, another New York Times article was published the same week about another town where I used to live. “Out of Control: When Schools Opened in a Virus Hot Spot,” published Oct. 18. This town is experiencing steep coronavirus spikes centering from a high school. Parents insisted that the school open without masks, and the majority of the community refused to wear masks. The virus spread at the school, and then was carried home to families. The local hospital is overwhelmed.
In other communities where mask compliance is near 100%, children do attend schools while wearing masks and the virus spread is markedly minimal: “Surprising Results in Initial Virus Testing in N.Y.C. Schools,” published Oct. 19.
I used to live near the Utah high school mentioned in the New York Times article. There were days when the air was so polluted the local news and radio stations issued “unhealthy air” warnings and recommended people stay indoors. On those days I climbed above the smog, up the 11,000-foot Lone Peak behind our home. The city below was completely obscured beneath a blackish sludge. A nearby stream was so polluted by mine tailings that nothing lived in the water, and nothing grew from the soil. From my back porch, I could see a dead mountain in the Oquirrh range. The peaks were sliced off by the world’s largest open-pit mine, and the mountainside lay bare — the poisoned soil grew no trees, no grasses, supported no life.
Growth and expansion are not a threat to our “way of life” in the Methow Valley. The real threat is not having a plan in place for regulated building, responsible stewardship, land use, and a recognition of real impacts to the health of a community. When voting for candidates this year, consider their position on the protection of clean air, water and healthy soil. Without these basic resources, there is no “way of life.” Take it from someone who woke up to a dead mountain, poisoned water and unbreathable air every day for years.
And in a parting love note from me to you: Friends, wear a mask. The science and data support mask use as the key to stopping the spread of the coronavirus.