Here's What I Think About That



The season of resilience and spirited hope has returned.

Blankets of green moss adorn the trunks of maples, with big leaves unfurled. Early blossoming fruit trees beckon mason bees to wake before it’s too late. An all-male amphibian chorus rises from the pond below as each frog does its best to entice females into a quick underwater dip. A big flock of American robins, and the two or three northern flickers that often tag alongside, appreciate the edible delights hiding under leaves unraked from fall.

The most downright joyous time I’ve had in years came on a photography assignment inside a transitional kindergarten classroom at Evergreen Elementary School last month. Having visited the new school at a ribbon-cutting open house last fall, I’d already been wowed by the building, but this was the first time I’d been inside during class. Most of the students, not all, were unmasked. The kids didn’t care one way or the other. They were all happily learning together.

The biggest challenge of being a photographer at school is to avoid becoming a distraction, but that was no problem in this setting. These eager young children were completely engaged — no fussing, no fidgeting, no wandering or vacant eyes. Students gave their undivided attention to their teacher, Amanda Kennard. They absorbed her instruction and followed the routines she had already established.

What I learned in class that day is that children are resilient. I can’t help but think that cultivating that awareness in them means we should tell them so more often.

The last two years have changed me. At times I felt so miserable I was forced to step away from the rancor to refocus on being present in the moment.

After all the disruption, frustration and suffering the pandemic unleashed, my thoughts return to how fortunate we are that everyone in our extended family, a very politically divided lot, chose to be vaccinated and none of us became ill. Meanwhile, the family and friends of nearly a million dead Americans grieve their losses.

And now over the last five weeks we have watched in horror Vladimir Putin’s war against the sovereign nation of Ukraine.

My Russian friends tell me they don’t want this war any more than the return of the authoritarian Soviet Union. The disinformation, isolation, propaganda and terror are well remembered by all who braved those times.

Fact-based, independent local journalism is the best guard against alternate realities.
Relentless bombing, and the shameless intentional targeting of Ukrainian families gathered in improvised bomb shelters, has made even the most dovish amongst us cry out for our country to do more to save Ukraine from devastation. Yet the threatened use of nuclear weapons must give pause to passion. Our proximity to the Bangor submarine base, JBLM, and nuclear waste stored at Hanford brings the risks into greater focus.

The world is largely united behind Ukraine.

An ornately framed antique mirror hangs in a hallway at the center of our home. Grand in its prime, the silvered mirror is heavily etched by the passage of time. That it survived all these years and countless moves is a testimony to sentiment over function.

I caught my own reflection in it the other day and stopped in my tracks. I ran my fingers over its edges, remembering its origin story.

The mirror once belonged to a doctor and his wife, members of a church in Chicago that helped new immigrants. They befriended my Estonian grandparents and my mother who was still a young child. They fled their homeland in 1944 to escape the Russian annexation of Estonia. They were the lucky ones. They spent four years in Swedish refugee camps, praying all the while for someone to sponsor them to come to the United States.

“We want you to have this mirror for your new home. Whenever you see yourself in it, we want you to remember how brave and strong you are and all the great things you will do with your new lives in America.”

For the first time in two years, there is a small community calendar in this print edition of Key Peninsula News, and we look forward to watching it grow. In-person events are being scheduled and planned with a greater hope than ever that frequent cancellations may become a thing of the past.

One of the best attended and most loved events in these parts is scheduled for Saturday, May 7: the Key Peninsula Livable Community Fair at the KP civic center. For new people and old-timers, this beloved event is where you can meet your neighbors and discover groups and organizations that do indeed make life so much better here.

If we remember nothing else, in the middle of a pandemic that magnified divisions between us, we still build big things together.