The humidity this morning in the Shenandoah Valley is 47 percent, which Accuweather says is “ideal.” Are they freaking nuts? Get me back to Key West, give me 20 points more and I might agree.
Ranger Ed and I have been off-island for a week, visiting family scattered from Atlanta to Charlottesville, VA. There are two recurring conversations: Holy weather gods, I miss the comfort of Key West’s humidity in which I do not need bottles of lotion to compensate for the desiccating dryness; and “are we ever going to get back to normal where people aren’t hellbent on arguing?”
I can’t do a thing about the weather, but that second question? Yeah, I can do something about it and getting out from under the comforting Key West bubble helped put some of this rage in perspective.
For all our growing veneer of cosmopolitan sophistication, Key West remains the siren song that calls to and keeps close those drawn to its isolation, its laid-back libertarian culture with its One Human Family motto and its penchant for accepting pretty much anyone so long as they’re not jerks. We live under its bubble — and our visitors pack the place looking for a few days of its protection. Bubbles make us feel safe though they are notorious for warping our sense of how things are on the outside.
Take Covid time. Key West’s toughest Covid restrictions were an easy do. There was never a day I couldn’t sit on the porch and chat with my neighbors across the street. Never a day I couldn’t walk to the beach. Heck, even local business, home delivery stuff got to the door in minutes. We chafed and fretted but, crikey, my friends, we had it easy. Our mainland friends and families couldn’t wait for a respite under the bubble that Key West takes for granted.
Even inside our island bubble we are at an historical juncture as the world we knew and the world to come are dissonant, disconnected. It makes us uneasy, irritable, too willing to push back, unwilling to look for the possibilities and instead fixating on our differences. I love that masks are becoming an option for safety and not a position statement. I keep mine handy for when I feel the need, but I’ve stopped freaking out at every imagined infraction.
Outside the Key West bubble
It’s been a tough decade with the kinds of unraveling that leave us betwixt and between, unsure of our values, our judgement, our abilities to live in harmony. Covid escalated, then exacerbated the unraveling. Perhaps it’s time we treat each other gently, offering a respite from clanging differences.
If we do not, we walk an inexorable, danger-fraught path. We took the first steps toward this unraveling in the late 1960s and ’70s when young baby boomers first flexed their “me first” might and stopped a war, murdered civil rights leaders, burned down universities and cities and blew up businesses.
Our mantra was “don’t trust anyone over 30” and over the following decades we dismantled the very institutions — from family structures and charitable organizations to big businesses and cultural values — that allowed us the freedom to tear them down.
Over the next six decades, baby boomers powered the roller coaster, and while the litany is long, we tore down whatever stood in our collective paths to “get mine.” We brought the Fair Voting Rights Act of 1965 to today’s political districts that take away many of those rights. We twisted the Second Amendment into an excuse to arm our neighborhoods in case folks feel they’re being invaded. All in the name of “I’m right; you’re wrong; get out of my face.”
We are today spoiling for a confrontation. We need real people, like you and me, to remember that gentle and kind are actions of power.
These are my reminders. Help yourself to them or jot down your own:
• Do unto others as you would have them do unto you
• Accept the possibility that what you know and how you perceive things is not right — and be open to change
• Say “I’ll do it” even when you are tired and would rather play or let someone else do it
• Explore the wonders and possibilities of unknown places, ideas, people and things, even when they are scary
• Know when to speak and when to be silent
We cannot fix the big things, but we can treat each other gently. And that will begin to reweave the fabric of our lives. With or without a mask. With or without the Key West bubble.