Monday, July 27

  I sit on the porch of a cupola-topped house on the New Jersey shore, scanning the horizon. The waters of the Atlantic shimmer in the distance, as close as a center fielder’s throw to home. A sailboat lazes by.

   The thermometer reads 90, and it’s climbing. In this weather, if I buy a cone down the street at the local ice-cream emporium, I have to either slurp it up immediately or run back to the house’s air conditioning before the cone decomposes onto the sidewalk.  

   A few years ago, when the temperature reached 0 degrees in January in New England, I swore I would never again complain about the heat. These past years, winter and summer crowd into spring and fall, robbing those seasons of the mild temperatures in which I rejoice. Extremes. That’s the world we live in now. Extremes of temperature, extremes of stock-market volatility, and most painful, extremes of opinion. 

   This may be the summer of our discontent, to misquote Shakespeare. I am a hugger, but no longer. Now, on my walks about town, I dodge and weave to avoid humans. I wear gloves to get my ice cream cone. I keep my mask at the ready, clutched in my right hand or, in moments of safe-feeling, stuffed in an easily accessible pocket.   

   Although here in this tiny Victorian enclave at the Jersey shore, where the flags sway in the breeze like a summer dress, where the hydrangeas are in their full throes of glory, and where, except for Covid-denier Nancy up the block, folks avoid talk of the nation’s politics, a fragile peace holds. We distance. We wear masks. We mark off our real estate on the beach using kid’s plastic shovels or flip flops or little American flags.  

   I know I am lucky to be able to take a vacation this year, even if vacation feels enormously different. In the past, I have taken so much for granted in this life. But today, I am grateful, for drinkable water that pours from the faucet, for sanitary living conditions, for a safe bed. For a roof over my head, a refrigerator filled with food. Toilet paper. The ability to distance. A family I love ardently and, lately, desperately.    

     My question to you this day is: what have you learned about yourself in these days of protest and the pandemic? 

    Write a little note about that, 15 minutes worth. More if you wish. When you are done, read it aloud to yourself.  If you are a Candlelight Writing Workshops participant, send it to me. I’d like to read it. 

   Be well. Stay safe. Read a variety of news outlets to get a fuller picture. 

   Stay away from the unreliable and less careful among us. 

   And consider Teddy Roosevelt’s advice: 

   “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

— Jane