Andrew Buckley: A Quiet Season

The wind was coming from the direction of the ball field, or at least where you could normally make out the lights a mile and a half away at night. Up on this roof that I have been climbing up on since I was six, the treetops of the zelkova and the mountain ashes and the Bartlett pear trees I had planted as mere twigs swayed and swooshed their new green leaves in the breeze.

Sunset over the Oyster Pond was coming on, turning the white topsides and trims of the fiberglass boats peachy-gold as they swayed on their moorings.

It’s been quiet. Quietest spring that I can remember since high school graduation in the mid '80s. Mid June always comes on lushly green, having held back so very much for us here throughout the preceding months of calendar spring. And yet the grass seems already a bit dry from lack of rain and we are now looking at a hotter-than-average summer. Traditional Cape Cod lawns, unirrigated and unfertilized, will not need as many visits from our mowers.

And it will be quiet, relatively. We’ve all driven through downtown, seen a diminished level of foot traffic on Main Street. I have yet to be unable to find a parking space, should I need one. I don’t need one.

Of course, out on the water things are different. They are always different in the spring. Taking the boat out means finding a channel that became familiar last summer, where the eelgrass may have grown in or disappeared, or productive fishing spot now… gone. That’s certainly the case around the southeast corner of town. I am not even sure it makes sense to put the sailboat in the water if I can’t get out of Stage Harbor.

Although the ocean cares not for global pandemics. Except that there may be more fish around for not being harvested so heavily in April and May.

Once the Mako is in the water, we can test that proposition.

And that seems to be the best treatment I can come up with for these times. More time out in nature, out in the sunshine, cleaning up my father’s yard or my own, and the very best — getting out on the water.

There’s only so much we can do otherwise these days. While Massachusetts’ reopening phases progress with a degree of predictability, we’re not there yet. Not where we would normally be for the first week of summer coming on. Because of that, we may not be at all this year.

I find myself explaining to friends from other states how different things are. With travel halted, visas were halted for J1 and H2B workers from overseas. With takeout only at first, and now outdoor seating only, there’s little way to plan otherwise. And with evictions halted and rentals limited to no less than a month up until June 8, the local rental housing situation really did seem a throwback to decades ago. We are having to rely so much more on ourselves.

The talk seems to be about a second wave coming in the fall, but that is not where my mind is. Rather, I think about what happens when the Payroll Protection Act funds run out that have been allowing small businesses to keep employees on the payroll. That’s happening soon. What if they held an economy and nobody came?

The same goes for all the people collecting unemployment. The extra $600 in their checks ends the last week of July. Then what? There could be no job to return to. Millions and millions who had never collected before will be shut off and be looking for work all at once.

An inability to pay mortgages and rents will no doubt hit hard in August and September. That’s a hell of a thing to think about, when those are the months we here, with our seasonal economy, are usually flush with cash. Nest eggs to hold us through the lean months of the winter.

That’s a pretty dire picture, but I don’t think I am exaggerating. Having lived through lean, lean times, this one is in a totally different class. It is hitting at the very worst time for our little corner of the world where we make our livings May to September.

Perhaps the only good thing about this break in routine is that it allows us to reassess, realize our priorities, maybe plan a few contingencies. Not just for steps to take in response to a second or third wave of COVID. But what exactly should we be doing with our lives when things get very, very quiet.