The Berkshires navigates concerns over the corona virus (BTW column)

I’ve never dealt with this conundrum before. This rambling website is all about getting out and finding people. And now, with the concern over illness spreading daily, the prevailing wisdom is to stay home, sit quietly, wash your hands. I understand the argument. What is responsible, when all of this is new to us?

In the past few days, my own awareness of this epidemic has gone from distant shores to a mile away. Williams College has cancelled major events for a month, events more than 100 people might come to. I see local organizations wrestling with whether to go on with events planned this week.

I’m finishing a story interview on an unusually warm spring day, standing outside under the bare trees and trying to recognize the one of first songbirds I’ve heard this spring, and the organizers of the event I’m here to cover wonder aloud whether they should postpone it. They are paying close attention to the latest developments and asking, what is fair? And I realize I have the same kind of responsibility to anyone who looks at my calendar. I am, after all, still showing these events to you.

On the one hand, we want to keep our families and friends and ourselves safe, and on the other hand we are not yet at the point of shutting down our daily lives. Around me, I see smaller events going on, carefully and quietly, just as museums are still open, and schools, and the corner co-op market.

So this week, I am thinking about what I can offer you. It’s almost spring. The clocks have gone forward, and the first snowdrops are showing in my backyard. The birding season is stirring into life. If you are looking for some thoughtful company, or the sounds of the first returning redwing blackbirds, we have choices.

And I am newly aware how many. This is not the way I would have chosen to see it — but I see now that people come here from a distance every day. Even in this quiet corner of the mountains, three hours’ drive from a major airport, we have performers and speakers, visiting professors, family and visiting friends.

I don’t yet know how this illness, or the awareness of it, may change the next few weeks. I will be paying attention to the ebb and flow of events. And I wish us all returning health with the returning sun.

By the Way Berkshires is a digital magazine exploring creative life and community — art and performance, food and the outdoors — and I’m writing it for you, with local voices, because I’ve gotten to know this rich part of the world as a writer and journalist, and I want to share it with you.

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