Ray is the Publisher Emeritus for Appen Media and the Herald newspapers.

So, with what we all have just been through, and are going through, I feel fairly safe in saying that this past few months — this year — has been brutal — exhausting, frustrating, debilitating, and just plain hard.

“To sleep, perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub.”

One thing I have realized is how difficult it is to step back and really process what you have been going through. And we’re all different. Christina and I, for example, operate our daily lives in a semi-controlled state of chaos with very little closure and a minimum amount of planning. Actually, she is very organized and does plan, but I am not and don’t. Ask me what I’m doing 60 minutes from now and I may be able to tell you. But ask me about tomorrow or next week or, heaven forbid, a few months from now, no way.

So, one might think that if that is how you live, then surely you must be OK with all this stuff that is going on — the pandemic, the economy, the politics, the anger, the whole enchilada. The answer is “no, we’re not.”

No, who can be unaffected by “life” as it is today? That point was driven home to me a couple days ago — big time.

Christina and I spend as much time as we can in Florida where we have — since 1999 — an old house on a barrier island. The island is almost 5 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico. There is no bridge, no stores, no paved roads, no HOAs, no law enforcement, no restaurants or grocery stores, nothing but beach, a few friends, good books, and quiet. You get to it by boat or plane, and out there, life revolves around tides and weather. So, because of circumstance, people who live out there — even part time — must be self-sufficient, and aware. You have to be like that because if you aren’t, bad things can happen — like hurricanes, for example.

If you don’t pay attention to hurricanes and you stay on the island too long while a hurricane is advancing, you can die. It’s really a big deal and a reality. So, right now a hurricane is coming. It looks like it is maybe a day and a half out. I am not happy with this storm, and we are leaving in the morning. It worries me, even though at this moment, it is fairly far away and no one knows the track it will take — but the projected one goes almost right over the island.

So, our neighbor Jonas and Mildred arrived today. Mildred is, I think, a third-generation islander; her grandparents built the cottage that is next door to us and where Mildred and her siblings and their spouses come to get away. She is married to Jonas who used to run a plantation in South Georgia/north Florida. He hunts. He fishes. He knows things and how to work with his hands. That is, he is a really smart guy and very capable. So, when we ran into each other at the harbor dock, I asked him if he was worried about the storm. He replied, “what storm.” What storm…

Jonas doesn’t come to the island and not know that a hurricane is out there headed this way. That just doesn’t happen, but it did. And that, I will suggest, is what I mean when I say that it is really hard to process what all this chaos of the past moths has done to us. It makes us numb. It makes many of us stupid. Especially me. And Jonas too.

The very fabric of our lives has sort of just evaporated, slowly, into the ether. Our sensibilities have made us hard of hearing and we don’t see so well these days — because we’re so distracted, so assaulted, so overwhelmed by circumstance. And most of the time, we don’t even realize it.

So, you’re heading out on a barrier island 5 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico and you don’t know that there is a hurricane about 48 hours away? That’s bad, really bad. We need to figure this mess out and get back to life that is sustainable and knowable and that we can touch, feel and be in the present with again.

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