It has now been at least a week or more that I have woken up in my bed and for some number of seconds or even minutes not thought of COVID-19. I cherish those moments.
The morning light through my bedroom window has been beautiful just before 8 a.m. and when I open my eyes I don’t move, even to glimpse at the nearest screen, so I can just lie there. But these days it always comes back to coronavirus. I have to will myself up and out of the house and at some point I read about the worsening crisis on my phone sitting on the bus before the latest casualties are tallied for the day.
Give me all of that rain we had this year in exchange for these beautiful toxic mornings and I will gladly hustle through the cold back to my house every day to crawl under covers and practice social distancing from everyone.
Every day there are more cases. When I read the latest report from Public Health – Seattle & King County about the growing number of them I feel more and more unnerved. My heart sinks microscopically, further with each new story. I am not going to show anyone that this upsets me. And I am not going to talk about the embarrassing bewilderment I feel turning my eyes to look through the window and seeing that Vashon looks fine. Normal. I feel silly about this. It must be happening everywhere else but here. I forgot to use the hand sanitizer in my backpack when I got off of the bus.
Last week, I was working on an article about the impact that COVID-19 had begun to have on the island. I spoke to a lot of folks who said at the time that for the most part, little to nothing had changed for them. Simultaneously, I received a (welcomed) deluge of emails about canceled events and closed spaces. In a seeming instant, Vashon got much smaller. It felt surreal.
I wrote about restaurants for the paper again this week. You can’t take a good photo of someone carrying a to-go box to their car. So I stopped looking at the facades of restaurants in town, waiting for the people ordering takeout to get their food and come out to their cars. Instead, I waited for the moment when the sun was out and there was no one around to cross the 4 way stop. But that’s when I realized I already had my snapshot: I wrote it for the paper last week, that afternoon of near-normalcy here, at least in my eyes. I found myself just standing in the center of town and there was no one. I hadn’t washed my hands in an hour.
I have to move out of my apartment this week. I haven’t lived on the island long enough to say I’m from here but I am going to be here. And sitting on my floor, desperately trying to work out a plan for how I am going to pack and move large boxes full of things I bought at Granny’s, has made me think about my life on the island as I’ve lived it so far. A global pandemic is a bad time to realize you haven’t made enough effort to get to know the place you call home when most of it is locked down. But now I’m taking notice, at the times of day when the roar of traffic on the highway is usually loudest, of the place where we live.
A place I know where neighbors celebrate and support each other, populated by many whose jobs are to literally make the world better. I know these stories because I read about them in our pages or write about them myself in all moods — they are the light through the window, beautiful at the right time for even just one fraction of a day. Thank you all, readers, friends and critics, for the inspiring work that you do here, and for sharing your stories with us — especially now. I feel stronger for living in this community where even behind closed doors I know something wonderful is always in progress. I’ll see you out there.
Paul Rowley is a reporter for The Beachcomber.