We are headed deeper into the forest with the darkest days ahead. On my walk this chilly fall morning, my breath along with the dog’s meets the cold and hangs suspended mid-air. It won’t be long before the trees shed the rest of their leaves. Untended, growing wild along the roadside, the last deep red apples cling to their branches as if for dear life.
All of spring, summer and now well into autumn has been spent living with an unwelcome and untamed coronavirus that continues to disrupt nearly every aspect of our society. Infections are rising in this, our third wave of COVID-19 in Pierce County. Wishing otherwise won’t make it go away.
The pandemic has broken vital connections. We miss the random encounters, the unexpected conversations, the joy of gathering. We’ve missed those opportunities at Key Pen Parks; the KP Livable Community Fair, comedy nights and the Winter Warm-up Craft Fair, all held at the KP Civic Center; the annual Logging Show that benefits KPCS Food Bank and Senior Center; the time-honored Memorial and Labor Day dances at the Longbranch Improvement Club; the Two Waters Art Walk in Key Center, and the grand KP Farm Tour — all traditions put on hold.
Other traditions suffer too.
My sister phoned the other day to make holiday plans. I just couldn’t bring myself to say the words I needed to say: “We’re staying home, within our safe bubble.” It breaks my heart that I haven’t seen my sister and family since last Christmas. And probably won’t see them this one.
It’s not easy. Nothing feels easy in this season, this pandemic, this onslaught of political vitriol. How many times have I gone back to the car to get the mask that I know I need to wear? The cold weather means fewer gatherings with friends socially distanced outside. Zoom meetings, yuck. And don’t even mention haircuts.
We’re all suffering from pandemic fatigue. And, like I said, we’re in for another long stretch of isolation.
But what’s always there, ready to give hope, is the amazing community spirit and energy of the Key Peninsula. People out here take care of each other.
They volunteer at the food banks, they drive seniors to the doctor, they collect funds to pay for a funeral. They make sure kids have backpacks filled with food; they find resources for families and children struggling to make ends meet. They live down the road from you, and even if you don’t know their name, they seem to be ready to give what they can to help you and all the people around you.
This very newspaper is made possible by those kinds of people. Volunteers who are driven to make a good paper, a better story, a more interesting photo. And they do it for the love of the result: a newspaper the community can depend on for connection.
I can’t count how many times people have rushed up to thank me for introducing them to some part or aspect of the KP they didn’t know existed. Last year, I received a call from a reader on the East Coast who summers on the KP and subscribes to keep her eye on what’s going on here. She read the profile we published of Mary Mazur and wanted to meet her since they share a love of Chinese history. It was the same article our good friend Ted Ralston wrote and earned him a posthumous statewide award. Who knew how long a reach our newspaper has?
Every year, we enter a competition with other local papers conducted by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association. This year, our staff earned 14 awards, including best-in-state feature writing and photography.
The awards confirm the value and appreciation readers give the paper. Last year, readers donated a record amount that ensured our continued success this year. But where it really paid off was in our ability to continue working uninterrupted in a crisis of epic proportions, continuing to publish with more pages, more color and more news about our community coping with crisis.
That kind of connection and support is more important now than ever before. Independent local newspapers are struggling. Many have gone out of business or been gobbled up and homogenized by conglomerates. But our advertisers maintained their support for us and our independent, nonprofit model in the most uncertain of times, and our donors continued to give.
Now we’re asking for your support again.
Thanks to a consortium of foundations that recognize the vital role and value of local journalism, we are pleased that NewsMatch — a national matching-gift campaign — will again multiply the generosity of contributions to KP News beginning this month.
These are hard times and they affect each of us differently. But know that you are not alone and we really can do together what we could not achieve alone. Remember the compassion that feels so good goes both directions. Be gentle, be kind and keep the faith.