Another Memorial Day weekend has come and gone but this one was different. All the memorial flags still snapped in the stiff breeze, but this year, there were no parades, no bands, no vendors or lemonade stands, no gentlemen and ladies in graceful colonial costumes strolling through the town leaving us to wonder which century we were inhabiting. There were no angry patriots marching down High Street, their cries of “To the river!” echoing off the facades of the old brick houses to stoke their anger over new taxes on imported British tea. There were no happy crowds of slightly sunburned visitors lining the waterfront to watch our little schooner Sultana, disguised in British colors, bravely firing her cannons at the colonists coming to board her and to throw her cargo overboard, along (these litigious days) with a few red-coated mannequins. No evening bluegrass music or fireworks to cap off the celebration.
Instead, it was eerily quiet in town. The wee wife and I spent most of the weekend in the garden, not drinking tea, mind you, but doing the back-breaking work that gardens demand of their keepers: mowing, raking, pruning, planting, weeding, edging, mulching. By Monday evening, we were sore and bone-weary but pleased and proud of the revived look of our little plot out back. We even found time to practice socially distant dining with dear friends who live on a beautiful farm a few miles out of town. Dinner was served on separate picnic tables set out on a lawn overlooking the pond, each one lit by a hurricane lamp, looking for all the world like fireflies under a dynamic summer sky. Such a peaceful image…
But then we saw the pictures of crowded beaches and boardwalks, packed restaurants and bars with unmasked patrons out to celebrate the beginning of another summer. Trust me: I understand the impulse. It has been a long and stressful spring and like weary gardeners, we’re all exhausted by this dreadful contagion and the economic disaster it has wrought. But I’m sadly convinced that it’s not over. Not yet. The world is still spinning and until a vaccine is found and manufactured, we are all still in the grip of this hideous pandemic.
So now there is another new and deep divide among us. There are those who say, “Enough! I’m sick of this! I need to work to support my family and anyway, I’m an American; you can’t tell me what to do!” And there are those who say, “I’m worried; I’m still going to wear a mask, stay home, and respect social boundaries, not because I’m afraid of you, but because I don’t want to risk infecting you with anything I might be carrying.” One looks at the other and thinks, “What an idiot!” Sad; how very, very sad.
It would be easy to wish or hope this virus away: it’s getting warmer, it will disappear, life will go on as it always has. But please think again. This is not the time to relax; medically or economically, we cannot afford a resurgence of the coronavirus. Like good gardeners, please keep doing the hard work it takes to make this sick world whole and beautiful again. This is indeed a time of great hardship for all of us, for some more than others. We may not all be in the same boat, but we are all enduring the same storm.
Please: take a moment to remember all the ones who have died and all those who cared for them, whatever the battle. Be safe.
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with a home in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com