Woog’s World: Things I never thought I’d see
I’ve lived in Westport my whole life. I’ve seen a lot of things, some of which I never thought I’d see.
I’ve seen a plan to turn Cockenoe Island into a nuclear power plant - and then I saw the town buy it instead. (We still own it.) I’ve seen townspeople enraged because a video game parlor was coming - and then I saw the owner chain himself to the front steps of Town Hall. (The parlor, Arnie’s Place, was fine, and lives on in the memories of every kid who ever went there.)
I’ve seen, in the words of John Fogerty, hurricanes, lightning and rivers overflowing. But - until the past couple of months - I’ve never seen what I see now.
I’ve never seen every beach in town closed. Officials are not kidding: Earth movers block the Compo entrance, exit, even the Uber dropoff point. On the other hand, I’ve never seen so many Westporters at Sherwood Island. We’ve suddenly discovered the wonders of the 238-acre state park, smack in the middle of our coastline. Its beach and wooded trails are balms for our worried souls. And its 9/11 Memorial offers proof that in the darkest of times, we persevere.
I’ve never seen the streets so empty. In the middle of what would normally be the busiest parts of the day - that is, all the time - you could roll a bowling ball down the Post Road, and not hit anyone. On the other hand, I’ve never seen so many people walking, jogging and riding bikes. Alone, as couples or with families, Westporters have rediscovered the joys of the most basic types of exercise. It’s hard to imagine a silver lining in the coronavirus cloud, but one is that it struck at the beginning of spring. As we stroll along the sidewalks and side streets of town - enjoying fresh air, discovering parts of Westport we never knew existed - we are able, for once, to take time to really see the incredible beauty that surrounds us everywhere we look.
I’ve never seen so many people wearing masks in public. Actually, until last month, I never saw anyone wearing a mask. Now I worry I’m becoming desensitized to that odd, scary sight. When our eyes meet - because that is all we see of each other these days — there is an element of fear. “Will this person make me sick?” we wonder. On the other hand, our eyes convey sympathy, concern, and a shared sense of community. We cannot smile, so we express our emotions with neighbors, friends and strangers the only way we can. “We’re all in this together,” we say without words. For once, that is something every Westporter can agree on. (For once too, we’re making eye contact with clerks at CVS, checkout folks at Fresh Market, and all the other once-invisible “essential workers” we always took for granted.)
I’ve never seen so many people isolated for so long. This is a town that always did things together. We love going to parties, fundraisers, library and Senior Center and school events. Now we are hunkered down at home, with our computers, Netflix and distance learning as our most faithful companions. On the other hand, I’ve never seen such an outpouring of volunteerism. Old and young, retirees and parents working from home, natives and newcomers - so many people are doing so many good things. Sewing masks, running errands, donating food and funds, painting inspirational messages on rocks - everyone, it seems, has found a way to make the current crisis just a little more bearable. It’s a wonderful example of how a community comes together, even as it seems we are all apart.
I’ve never seen restaurants close as quickly as some have. Our dining scene is devastated. A town that lived on (or at least for) its stomachs has been upended. On the other hand, I’ve never seen restaurants pivot as quickly as many have. They’ve adapted to curbside pickup and delivery. They’ve figured out a way to stay open, and feed the town. And Westporters have responded. We’re calling in orders, supporting the places that supported us, and doing our best to ensure that when this plague passes, we can once again enjoy the simple pleasures of dining out.
I’ve never seen Westport so sad. As busy as Westport was, there was always a fun, go-go spirit in the air. That’s vanished. On the other hand, I’ve never seen Westport knit more tightly. Outside, families sit in chairs on their front lawns, facing neighbors on theirs. Inside, kids are learning to cook, playing with siblings, and carrying on real conversations with parents.
Everywhere, in this horrible time, we are seeing things we never thought we’d see. And - something else I never thought I’d see — we are seeing them all through fresh, wide, newly opened eyes.
Dan Woog is a Westport writer, and his “Woog's World” appears each Friday. He can be reached at email@example.com. His personal blog is danwoog06880.com.