During the early days of the pandemic, our staff walked laps around the grid-like streets surrounding our headquarters in New Suffolk each morning, brainstorming scenarios of what our new quarantined world would look like, what we had to fear and what we couldn’t control, who would get sick and who would recover, how our families would survive and when or if we’d see the most far-flung of our relatives again.

As you likely did, we filled the larder and planted the peas, tried not to fret about the strange disappearance of toilet paper, woke with our chins stiffened with resolve to make the best of each day. 

But occasionally, when doing something simple like taking out the garbage, we’d burst into tears at the realization that our collective free will had been squashed and we were all now subject to the whims of fate. How on earth did this happen here?

As you’re reading this, the seasonal markers of a year of mourning are coming again. Did you notice the ospreys return last March or see the daffodil shoots poke through the thawing soil? Did springtime hit you with a scent of new life or the carnage of the headlines, or maybe with a little bit of both? Our senses are finely tuned to the return of the seasonal markers of a life-changing event. This month is bound to be cathartic and heartrending for many of us. That’s ok.

As we brace for this this solemn anniversary, we also know that there is new life ahead. We had briefly tamed the pandemic last summer, and by the summer ahead, we’re expecting widespread vaccination and to finally whip the community spread of this virus. A lot could still go wrong, but there is hope.

Everyone we know is already champing at the bit for a party, and maybe for a little bit of a chance to show off what we’ve learned in the past year.

The most optimistic among us here have been hoping all year that a new renaissance would emerge from the ashes of this plague, but our modern reality leaves little time to contemplate what such a renaissance would look like.

The artists we know have been going through the most thorough of housecleanings. Deemed non-essential by the government, many have had to prove their worth again to themselves, coming out of the past year mostly with a renewed commitment to their craft and their vision. Other workers deemed non-essential last year have found their callings, though perhaps not a paycheck, in the arts.

We’ve yet to see what these artists will produce, or whether it will find an audience, when we emerge from our caves, blinking in the bright sunlight.

We hope the skills we’ve honed in captivity will bear some fruit in this new world, and these include the skills that make for a good audience. 

For those who have been working around the clock in the past year, keeping loved ones healthy, food stores stocked and our kids learning, we hope you have a chance in the year ahead to take a breath and let a beautiful song or a home-cooked gourmet meal nurture you.

Compassion, self-care, listening and holding the people we love close are things we had trouble finding time for in the before-times. It’s telling that the things we clung to most strongly in the past year were the ones that bring us closer — a family meal, a sunset walk on the beach with your loved ones, or piling the family into an SUV to recreate the nostalgia of a drive-in movie. These things can last, if we take a deep breath before we sprint out the door to resume the lives we’d had.

The Renaissance that began in the 14th Century in Florence, Italy, occurred in the wake of the bloody Middle Ages, which were capped by the Black Plague. The word renaissance is derived from the Italian rinascita, which literally means rebirth.

The advances in the visual arts, science, music and literature that took place during the Renaissance show us a path forward, sharing the values of humanism, resiliency, beauty and appreciation for all that we really have to lose. Hold on to that feeling. It will be fleeting, but it will inform what we chose to do with the days we have left to really live.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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