A parade of teachers tours the town Thursday, March 26.
(photo credit: Andy Erselius)
By Jen Sinkler
A couple nights back, I sat for a spell on the south side of the town square—the side without so much as stop signs, a sort-it-out situation that does—on a dedicated bench in the gentle rain. When I looked up, I saw streaks coming from the sky, and to the left, strands of multicolored lights twinkling from the apartment windows above the hardware store. It was quiet; maybe no more than any other evening at that hour, but probably it was. Being socially spacious is picking up speed, and necessarily, as the coronavirus case count and consequences do, too.
It’s easy, luxurious, even—however unwise—to feel a sense of insulation from what is happening thus far still elsewhere in the world. Lovely beyond measure to stroll, to hike, learn the different sounds a red-winged blackbird makes—at least three I’ve counted so far—to walk in the wind and experience space in a way city-dwellers can’t currently afford. Teddy bears wave from front windows or from their perches at the mouths of driveways, and Thursday, a parade of teachers made loops, a long line of cars linked together, honking and waving at students. Me, too. I wave back, sitting on my stoop the way I plan to all spring, summer.
This combination of space and connection inherent to small-town life is what drew me back, drew me in. Many of the rhythms I’m still learning, or relearning, with the help of those who have lived here long or always. At the Iowa caucuses last month, for instance, watching Bridget Miller move was an exercise in organizing, and Deep River resident Susan Stevenson stayed after to describe to me the patterns and pulses of the thing through the years.
On the topic of organizing, I saw a viral Facebook post from mayor Jacki Bolen providing details about what to do and where to go if and when the worst arrives, plus a dynamic document from new city council member River Webb housing logistics of schedule changes and adjustments local businesses have made, and how to support, still. So much works because of the ways people work together.
My friend Baja, the programs director of climate resilience for The Urban Sustainability Directors Network, recently wrote an article for Reuters called “How Resilience Hubs in Cities Could Help Coronavirus Response,” and what struck me about her suggestions were how closely they mirror the ways smaller communities operate, when they operate healthfully: in short, as locally as possible, as often as possible. Communicate, cooperate, coordinate.
Whatever we can do for each other, even from a distance, will make us better together, pulling together from wherever we are.
Jen Sinkler is a longtime writer, editor, and personal trainer based in Montezuma. Find her most everyplace @JenSinkler.