New ‘normal’ doesn’t have to shake old foundations

As the world deals with repercussions of the coronavirus, Maine is no different, as workers are urged to pack up and set up offices at home, schools are closed and public gatherings canceled. Here in The County we’re dealing with it as well, facing limited contact, empty store shelves and a flurry of disinfecting.


In our BDN family, those of us who can work from home are doing so, staying in touch throughout the day via messaging, email, phone and video chat. 

While fears of the pandemic are very real, and safety should be taken seriously, it’s going to become important to maintain calm and reason through this period of time. Hysteria is not a cure but a hindrance.

In many situations, a healthy sense of humor helps to balance things. Let’s try to think of it from an Aroostook County perspective. 

First of all, we’re in the part of Maine that nobody can get to from “down the-ah.” We’ve been socially isolated forever.

After all, in some periods in deep winter, we are trapped in fishbowls of snowbanks. We don’t see neighbors for weeks. We trade greetings by yelling over heaps of snow at movements we suspect belong to neighbors.  

“Hey, that you, Bob?”

“Yeah, Jimmy. Be seein’ ya in a month or two.”

As far as shortages, we’ve always been resourceful. My aunt and dad said the signs on store shelves limiting purchases reminded them a little of wartime rations. So, bake your own bread. Don’t eat all the chocolate in the house in one day. Save the soap slivers. 

(Although, happily, I don’t think we need to keep wads of gum on the bedpost.)  

Afraid of a TP shortage? I remember once my mother laughed so hard in a restroom when she read this: “Conserve paper. Use both sides.” 

(That doesn’t need to be an option, people. Supplies will resume.)

Then there are some of those folks “from away” who love to tell us how deprived we are way up here. My uncle, ever the kidder, once convinced a telephone company colleague in the South that we used outhouses and traveled by dogsled most of the year.  

So see? We can have fun with our “social limitations” — which could turn out to be a very good thing right now.

Also important to remember: This is not the end of the world. It is a health situation. These measures we are taking are something we can do to help our families and communities.

We are Aroostook County people. We are grateful for small, real things. We are blessed with plenty of fresh air and open spaces. Ice is melting. Spring nears.  Cleaning closets and cupboards could become a great pastime. The sun is still up there. And we will get through this. 

Above all, we need to practice what we always do: help each other out.  Aroostook County Emergency Management Director Darren Woods said it best:  “Let’s not let ourselves forget who we are and how we take care of one another.”

The stores will restock. Do we really need four loaves of bread? How about if we buy one and leave some for someone who might not have any? Let’s call elderly neighbors to make sure they have all they need. We can at least leave something at their door. 

So as you go about your day, remember: We are The County.  We support one another through winter, tragedy, fires and floods. We reach out. And we laugh.

Though I have often thought social media hampers human interaction, it just may be a huge saving grace on two fronts.

As we close ourselves off right now, social media can help us maintain connections to friends, family and our community that are so important. More than ever, those humorous memes, photos of kids and cute animal videos allow us to share some lightness.

And, when we emerge from our isolation, I’ll bet we’ll be so happy to see other people that reconnecting will put social media in its rightful place: as a part of life, not a way of life. 

OK, back to work in my home office. But later I’ll be looking for those funny animal posts!

Paula Brewer is assistant editor for The Star-Herald, Aroostook Republican, Houlton Pioneer Times and St. John Valley Times, plus websites TheCounty.ME and FiddleheadFocus.com. She can be reached at 207-764-4471 or via email at pbrewer@bangordailynews.com.

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