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Dear Pine Plains 3.13.2020

Dear Pine Plains,

The many events I had in the line-up to post for this weekend have dissolved before my eyes as concerns and mandates about the coronavirus have come down from County and State Government. Our Office of Emergency Management in Dutchess County is a thorough, deliberative body of people whose main focus is on your safety and well-being. The Town relies on them to give guidance in what to say to our community and how to manage events. The spread of this unknown virus is something to handle knowledgeably, with a modicum of hysteria. In particular, it is important not to politicize it; to take it very seriously, to listen to the advice of those on the front lines of the fight against this disease, and to take the measures they recommend without becoming frightened. Fear makes us say mean things to each other. This is no time for that.

I have thought about 9/11 a lot during the last 36 hours. At least during that time, we had gatherings: music, plays, church events went on and they were important to our emotional survival. We were not quarantined in our homes but out in our communities looking for solace, looking to help. I think that is basic human instinct of the best kind, yet now we are prevented from even that as we are told to stay home, go nowhere, touch no one. Many of our kids are grieving the postponement of sports events and the high school play, on which they worked long hours and had high hopes. And their parents grieve for them. What to do?

Maybe the answer is in finding ways to be in touch that are new to us. In taking advantage of the time together by playing board games, reading, watching movies, learning something new. Digging in the back yard, in this glorious weather. Getting our hands into soil. Play your own music. Call old friends on the telephone, whom you haven’t spoken to in years. Read the Town of Pine Plains website!!

I am working on a new play about the Berlin Olympics at a theatre out in New Jersey, and staying in the guest house of a senior living center called Heath Village. It is an amazing place. The housing is single-story duplexes and triplexes mainly, scattered along a hill joined by walking trails through old pines. They have a pool and tennis court, and the architecture is sort of modern farmhouse. The best part: they have a pre-school on the property which uses volunteers from the residences on their Board and in their classrooms. I confess I wish this for our area. I think it would be awesome. They have numerous financial packages for residents, so that the income level is mixed, and are now building a real nursing care facility nearby. It employs many people. And it is a beautiful place. I am taking pictures…

Town Hall is open, the Town Board is working hard to choose an engineer for our upcoming Sewer Feasibility Study, the Durst Organization is home working on their application for the new development, and the air has cleared for the first time in decades in Beijing, China because no one is driving much. There are good outcomes to this moment in history.

Maybe the best advice for the coming weeks until the virus subsides—which most scientists believe it will, at least for this year—is to call before leaving the house to attend something. Small gatherings will go on. The history lecture at the Library on March 20th is cancelled. But the corned beef dinner at the Presbyterian church is still on. Get on Facebook—you can do it!—and read the Town of Pine Plains page for updates on the virus and ways of keeping it out of your life. Don’t think it won’t touch you—it will. We are all vulnerable to it, as are the people we love. Take it seriously, listen to the science, and stay informed. That is the best way to avoid both the virus and its accompanying panic.

Stay in touch, Pine Plains!

Darrah Cloud