At the dawn of 2020, a bright year with a good economy and ample promise lay ahead. A giddy army of snow visitors flocked to the Mountain Communities. They came to sled, laugh, throw snowballs and make snow angels.
For those who are fortunate enough to live here, acts of art, music and mischief were stitched together by the sound of children playing together. Schools staged sports events.
Then Joan Barker’s brand new 2020 was interrupted with a bang. Two bangs, actually. Her grandchildren were terrified. The twin explosions rocked her Frazier Park cottage. The family discovered high winds had brought down two trees on Barker’s roof. That was followed by a snowstorm. When it was over, Barker and her neighbors began the long process of digging out their vehicles, shoveling their driveways, putting on chains and trying to get to the hardware store to find supplies to begin making repairs.
In February, a horrifying bus shooting occurred as a Greyhound passed through Lebec on the Interstate 5. Passengers tackled the man with a gun and pushed him out to the side of the road. The driver closed the doors and proceeded to Grapevine, where Denny’s closed down to focus kindness on the traumatized passengers.
An attack by a wolf dog on a neighbor in Frazier Park led to a mysterious link to Lockwood Valley and eventually to a tragic murder in Bakersfield.
But sports events, building a new Mount Pinos Fire Safe Council, a Leap Year Baby Birthday party and the Mountain Youth Photo Contest lit our imaginations. No one imagined the challenges just ahead that would confront the entire planet.
The Covid Catastrophe
In March, life was changed seemingly overnight by a microscopic virus that swept across the globe, bringing national economies to their knees. The surge of infections closed down California schools and businesses.
Suddenly everyone knew what “PPE” means. Personal Protective Equipment was scarce. We all felt vulnerable. Wiping every surface we touch with antiseptic fluids, disinfectant and hand sanitizer became normal.
We all learned that school lunches were keeping many kids from hunger, and food anxiety began growing quickly. Districts began sending vans of food to school bus stops.
Social distancing and mask wearing became essential.
Businesses where people congregate had to close.
The urge to greet our pals with a hug became an awkward memory. Toe taps and elbow bumps substituted for handshakes. Online learning and Zoom meetings became stand-ins for public life. Talk of front porch decontamination stations and Typhoid Mary “silent carriers” captured our concerns.
“The Masked Scrappers” (members of quilt and lacemakers’ guilds from Pine Mountain and beyond) shared patterns for sewing face masks for nurses who couldn’t get PPE from their own hospitals. Suddenly the smiles of our friends were edited from our lives. Oceans of hand sanitizer turned our skin to sandpaper.
By April, a bipartisan task force from Harvard issued “A Road Map to Pandemic Resilience” to bring back the economy through universal testing, tracing and supported isolation (for those testing positive, to help them recover). But federal leadership to implement the plan did not emerge.
By May, anxiety grew about how to honor our high school graduates who could not gather in a traditional ceremony. Teachers, parents and administrators got creative. Drive-by birthday parties gave way to drive-by graduations filled with costumes, flags, balloons, music.
Kindness and Creativity Are Our Superpowers
Together we discovered that kindness is a superpower.
Kindness and creativity transform our lives in times of stress. Together, people learned to do the impossible. We’ve lost friends and loved ones this year.
Through it all, people have transformed fear into expressions of caring, even in times of social distancing. The year of 2020 has been a challenge to reach deep into ourselves to discover our powers of resilience. These pages are a map to some of what we’ve learned as a community.
Wishing you a brilliant 2021, The Mountain Enterprise Team
This is part of the January 1, 2021 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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