For three glorious days this past week, my husband and I were on the Eastern Shore–Chincoteague Island–with my sister and her husband. We felt far from the flames on the west coast and grateful for the clean spaciousness of the sea and sky that were alive with sandpipers, gulls, terns, geese, and pelicans.The ease of biking on flat land from our condo to the beach also felt like a fling of freedom. But we were never far from reminders of the pandemic.
As we looked for places to lunch, we spotted restaurants with signs reading, “permanently closed.” When we rented bikes, stopped for ice cream or lunch, everyone was masked and keeping their social distance. The tour pontoon boat we rented held only six passengers–three benches of two, which allowed us to feel fairly safe, especially with the strong air flow. The captain of the boat surprised us with his tale of this year’s pony auction. Instead of the many thousands that usually cram into their small village to watch the pony swim and live auction, the 95th swim was cancelled, but the auction was still held virtually online. To everyone’s amazement, the online auction earned the island fire company $100,000 dollars more than it usually does in a live auction.
While we were there, an e-mail from a Chinese friend reminded us of the larger world. She told us the protocols for parents taking their children to college: They are only allowed inside campus if they apply in advance and show their “health code.” Students from high risk areas in China have to show test results before entering campus. She further wrote that with the strict contact tracing in place, “China is comparatively safe now.” She then lamented: “Coronavirus changed lives of people, destroyed friendships between countries, and human beings have paid huge costs for fighting against it.” With her I “wish we could win the fight against the virus as soon as possible.”
On our last morning walking along the beach, I was watching the sanderlings scurry smoothly over the wet sand when I noticed one with a slight bob. The tiny bird was running as fast as the others with only one foot, the other little black leg held against its body like a useless appendage. I was transfixed by this show of fortitude and grace. It was a reminder that even when I feel like important pieces of life have been cut off during the pandemic, each day can be lived gracefully with what remains.