Lauren R. Stevens: Home alone but still connected

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WILLIAMSTOWN — I told my family in a recent, regular, Sunday afternoon, COVID-19-era Zoom conference that I felt guilty. I pretty much get to lead my life without major changes, while my children and their families' lives have been disrupted, as have so many others' lives. Fortunately, no one in the immediate family has contracted the virus.

While I miss being with children and grandchildren, most of whom live within 150 miles, with one in the South, we actually communicate now more often and more as a group. How important it is to see someone's face, an opportunity afforded by the computer in a way unimagined in previous emergencies. Or non-emergencies — my seven-year-old grandson read "Goodnight Moon" to me the other evening, holding the pictures up to his screen.

For my North Carolina son to see and be seen by his Massachusetts and New Hampshire relatives is unusual. The internet hookup levels distances, so that one town appears no more removed than another.

Meanwhile, while I live alone, I still get to "meet up" with my colleagues on the Hoosic River Watershed Association board. We're busy with numerous river improvement projects underway and forthcoming, even though the boating, hiking and biking activities we normally lead are curtailed. The Mahican-Mohawk Trail Association held its productive annual meeting a couple of weeks ago, by Zoom of course, sketching out maintenance projects and how to acknowledge more fully the Indians who originally blazed the route.

Williamstown Conservation Commission business continues, including a recent complicated but successful joint meeting with the North Adams ConCom concerning erecting an eight-foot fence at the airport. It seems that wildlife encroach upon (or, better, reclaim) the runway. The western end of the airport lies in Williamstown.

When The Eagle reduced the number of pages in some editions a month or so ago, I was surprised that my Hikes & Walks column and oped column (both every other week) remained in it. I think of myself as a writer. I'm glad I'm still contributing in print, in a minor way.

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Sunday mornings, 60-plus members of the First Congregational Church in Williamstown join on Zoom for a service that includes music, prayers, a sermon, a quiet plea for continued financial support and an opportunity to kibitz, post service, in a form of a virtual coffee hour. And a group of older folks get together online on occasional mornings to share our wisdom, such as it is, on the state of the world.

I don my mask — a daughter made two for me — to shop for groceries more or less in the special early hours dedicated to seniors. I try to curb my habit of handling items I don't necessarily end up buying. I follow the arrows and maintain distance. The last few times just about every item I wanted was in stock.

Hardware store? Pharmacy? Take out meal from local restaurants? Whitney's for seed potatoes? No real problems.

I miss the Williams College students, most of whom are at home and have taken with them the lectures, music, theater and athletic contests I enjoy. I block out of my mind the reduction of similar events scheduled for this summer. I am sad for people who have been ill and their friends. I am sorry for businesses that may not be able to recover — many of which are run by people I've counted on and counted as friends for many years.

I've touched up some paint inside the house and done more cleaning up of the yard than usual. My vegetable garden, delayed by wet weather, is under way.

I get outside more than my outdoors column requires. Getting outside, into the woods, is the path forward.

A writer and environmentalist, Lauren R. Stevens is a regular Eagle contributor.


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