By Hannah Reimann
October 22, 2020
The eagles have flown to warmer climes to hunt, the pogies are no longer splashing in the cove, a delightful loon with his spotted coat has been visiting for the past week and the leaves of the deciduous trees and bushes are changing color every day. The heron is back at low tide this morning, the crows are calling from the spruces, five ducks swim together as the water comes up after they’ve waddled in the mud. But it’s not the busy, summery playfield of hunters and mates visiting and revisiting. I miss the phoca vitulina, my beloved harbor seals. I only see one occasionally now at the highest, calmest tides.
Living in Maine for three months has provided a contrast to the city unlike I’ve even known, due mostly to COVID-19 and how it’s changed the planet for us all. My bond to nature has grown ever stronger this fall, sometimes for the better and, often, with hours of countryside work, unexpected for this city dweller. I hate killing creatures, but I’ve had to poison the mice before they become a colony. At dawn, I sometimes hear the last scratching and scrambling of a rodent running across the wooden floor for dear life. My wood stove is stoked morning and evening and I find myself carrying in countless loads of firewood from the shed to heat the house. Now the shed is empty and my friends, Addison and Jeff, are helping me out because they have huge seasoned piles of logs to last all winter. Without them I would be very cold.
On the topic of coronavirus, we remain at zero infection and zero death on this island. Free drive-in flu shots were given at the medical center and I lined up at 8am one morning with a dozen other cars. A couple of weeks ago, it became known that a member of the ferry crew got a cold and had to be tested for COVID-19. Three boats were canceled as everyone on the island waited with baited breath for the test results. Most people have more than one job here and there was no handy replacement for the sick ferry worker. Dinner reservations were canceled. Everyone stayed in more than usual. With 1200 year-round residents, even a small outbreak could bankrupt the island. Street talk took over: he tested positive! No, negative. Wait, no one actually knows yet. Ah, thank God, the test was negative.
I had my sights set on a pre-owned Volvo for sale on the mainland that Jeff found for me, the only car under $5000 on the market anywhere with car factories not doing much these days and the demand for used vehicles at an all-time high. I had to keep calling the dealer to tell him the ferry wasn’t running and I couldn’t leave the island. Luckily, he held the car for me and I quickly bought it two days later. I remain resistant to public transportation and wonder if I’ll be willing to take the subway when I get back to the city in November.
One day ago a Waldo county church outbreak was linked to 42 COVID-19 cases, similar to a wedding over the summer in Millinocket. A prison worker was infected. There are only around 6000 cases reported and 146 deaths in the state, but will Maine weather the winter all right? I always remember Bill Gates saying that 100 cases was all that was needed in any community for this beast to stay around for years.
By Spring, we’ll have another picture of the world and the pandemic. I cannot know exactly when I’ll be back at my island cottage. I continue to find this life of spontaneity and planless-ness astonishing. For a few minutes I see that we can all be like the seal, the heron, the mink and the loon, the way we were born to be, living in the moment. I’ll make it a point to remember them during the New York winter this year while I’m watching CNN and monitoring what is safe. I am ever grateful to these animals, their splendid habitat and to my friends, all of which have outshone COVID-19 like nothing else for me.