43) Lockdown 19: St. Simons Island, Georgia, USA

This report is by Richard Hathaway. Richard was my boyfriend during high school at Lexington High (Massachusetts). He was the sports editor and I was the editor of our high school newspaper. We’ve gone our separate ways but have maintained our friendship over the years. Richard and his wife live in a special place. Here is his report:

St. Simons is a barrier island and resort community, 70 miles south of Savannah, that has an upper middle class population of 15,000. In 2004 the G-8 meeting was held on Sea Island, a high-end resort just off St. Simons and 3 miles from our house.

On Wednesday, March 11th we had choir rehearsal but by Sunday, the 15th, church was cancelled. The next day our 25-year-old daughter, Camille, living in Cambridge, MA, called to say that her office was closing and she was coming south for warmth and company while she worked from “home.” Little did she know she’d end up spending seven weeks with us. She and I took some wonderful bike rides including on a special trail through the marsh on our barrier island neighbor, Jekyll Island until she took a spill and sprained her ankle.

Marsh trail on Jekyll Island

In mid-March resorts closed, other business activity diminished, and automobile traffic slowed to a trickle. Unflattering news coverage caused our county commissioners to close our beaches on the 21st. Then Governor Kemp issued a Shelter in Place order effective April 3 at the same time that he reopened all Georgia beaches to walkers and bikers only (no sitting), to the consternation of the County Commissioners, but to the delight of most everyone else.

The first two weeks of April, with most everything except for supermarkets and drug stores shut down, was like vacation for most people. We had perfect weather and everyone in the neighborhood seemed to be out walking or riding their bikes with their kids while keeping a safe distance. It was a party atmosphere.

Our county of 85,000 has only had about 97 cases of the Covid virus so far and most people are very casual about wearing masks or not, although we keep our distance. At low tide I frequently ride my bike on the beach with a friend when the firm sand is 50-100 yards wide. The beaches fully reopened three weeks ago and there’s been a surge of people out because we are, after all, a resort community.

The beach at St. Simons Island.

Most professionals are still working from home and even teachers are on-line every morning with those students who are interested in continuing to learn, which is about half I am told. The extra unemployment benefit of $600 per week has taken the immediate edge off many unemployed peoples’ collective worry but that will end in July. I think everyone is hoping that we will be back to some semblance of normal by then.

My books clubs now have Zoom meetings once a month and our choir meets virtually once a week to chat. Our choir director arranged for any of us willing to individually sing and record our voices for a hymn that were then combined into a surprisingly pleasing chorus used for our on-line church “service” this past Sunday. This required us to listen through headphones to a piano and our voice part, and record our unaccompanied voice onto another device. Let’s just say that there were a lot of “takes” to have a decent version of my voice over those three verses.

Some people are extremely careful about mingling: one family I know put their daughter in a two week quarantine in a rented apartment when she came back from flying around the states at the end of March. Another sanitizes his groceries after his wife goes shopping, since he is more immune compromised than she is, and never visits anyone. We had friends over for the first time in two and a half months last night when we played a board game and we’re planning a modest party in the middle of June to mark an accumulation of birthdays.

Virtual graduation in a small Georgia town.

I had to travel through some small towns last week and took this picture of a unique graduation celebration/announcement. It’s sad to lose these vital rituals like graduation. Our outdoor Memorial Day event, Taps at Twilight, was also cancelled this year which is a deeply meaningful community event. Last year the speaker was outstanding and quoted Eleanor Roosevelt’s Wartime Prayer.

Dear Lord,

Lest I continue
My complacent way,
Help me to remember that somewhere,
Somehow out there
A man died for me today.
As long as there be war,
I then must
Ask and answer
Am I worth dying for?

My wife and I are very lucky, hunkered down in a beautiful place, living in a decent house, having a full belly, a successful daughter and friends nearby. Our house lot, 35 yards square, is a Garden of Eden with fig and citrus trees; flowering shrubs like gardenias and hydrangeas; herbs and flowers to cut. Sitting in our back yard you can hardly see any other houses through the wall of green as we listen to the birds and watch the bees and butterflies.

The Hathaway’s back garden.

Yet I am worried about our collective future, not just in potential infections and death, but in the financial health of our citizens and nations. With loss of income and so much debt accumulating around the world, it will be difficult for many people, businesses, and nations to meet their obligations.

There will be personal and business bankruptcies, sovereign debt crises and high unemployment. Those countries that heavily depend on tourism like Italy and Greece will be crushed. Many nations will have to cut the programs we have all come to expect like education and social services. Some American states are already telling their colleges and universities that they will have to cut expenses by 25% and the arts, especially the performing arts, will be decimated for years to come.

We all are the lucky ones who have our income streams and assets and who have lived good lives. It is we who will be called upon to use our wisdom and resources to alleviate the tsunami of suffering that I believe is coming.

4 thoughts on “43) Lockdown 19: St. Simons Island, Georgia, USA

  1. Thank you for this thoughtful post. I am always curious to find out how different localities are dealing with the stay at home order. Rick’s final comments on what this may mean for the future are food for thought. All of us need to be asking ourselves what we will need to do, what changes we may decide to make in our lives, or have to make, in light of this catastrophe that we barely feel today, even as we are engulfed by it.

    • Hello Winifred! So nice to hear from you after almost 50 years. Did I understand that you and your husband are inveterate travelers, doing Airbnb’s all around the world? I am envious. If you ever come this way please let us know and we can arrange for a meet up. If you’ve never been, Savannah is a beautiful city, worth at least a few days stay. Best, Rick

  2. Joyce, thanks again for curating these posts from friends.
    Richard, great post. My wife was born in Brunswick and her family moved to Jekyll Island when the state opened it up. She and I were married in Faith Chapel on Jekyll and visited her parents there for 30 years. Her mother, Lorraine Dusenbury was the first woman to chair the Glynn County Commission. It is a lovely place we are hoping to get back there this fall, but for now that seems a long shot.

    • Hello John, thank you for your kind comments. How wonderful that you know the area and that your wife’s parents were among the first to live on Jekyll after the state took it over. And you were married in Faith Chapel where my wife dreams our daughter will marry (with a reception at Crane Cottage of course). Wow, small planet.

      Where do you live now? When you do get down here please give a call ahead and we can plan to have lunch or dinner together. My cell is 912-258-5883. Best, Richard.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s