DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Hope, healing and a spring break

  • Wednesday, April 15, 2020 1:30am
  • Opinion

THE EASTER BONNIE, aka Bonnie Schmidt of Port Angeles, gave her preschoolers little baskets of farewell last week.

On the porch of her Little Rhythms Learning Center, she placed packages of belongings the kids had left behind, plus art supplies and fond notes to each family.

No hugs allowed.

School is over for the rest of the academic year, following Gov. Jay Inslee’s mandate, and parents, children and educators must cope with the loss.

Now and going forward: How can we, as a community, help one another heal?

Schmidt, who manages the Clallam Resilience Project (found on Facebook), took time out of her Easter Sunday to share ideas.

“I do feel like we’re experiencing a level of global trauma,” she said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has rained down distress and uncertainty — yet Schmidt made it clear that modern neuroscience offers hope.

Scientists who study the brain report three powerful resilience-building factors: First, identifying our individual capabilities and sharing them with the world: sewing face masks for first responders, for instance.

Second: Building relationships between youngsters and caring, competent grownups.

“Don’t assume, ‘Oh, Johnny has his grandma,’” and that’s enough, Schmidt said.

The more steadfast people a child has in life, the healthier they become.

Third: Coming together over the things we have in common, such as music.

“As we come out of [the COVID-19 crisis] as a community, it would be amazing to see some celebrations,” where everyone is welcome, Schmidt mused.

That made me think of the Fourth of July parade in Port Angeles, Concerts on the Dock in Port Townsend and other events yet to be created.

Our beloved Juan de Fuca Festival and Centrum summer workshops aren’t there this year.

But with the creative people populating this place, I have faith other gatherings will be born.

Still, Schmidt worries about people struggling with depression, and about children who live in homes where they’re not safe.

So we’ve got to look out for one another. Say: “I’m here if you need to talk.”

Ask for and accept help when it’s offered.

And there are glimmers out there.

“I do feel like our community has been showing up for each other,” Schmidt said.

She’s seen evidence in the teddy bears people put in their front windows, part of a widespread “bear hunt” for kids to spy the comforting creatures — stuffed toys or drawings of bears — around their neighborhoods.

Schmidt has a friend who counted 36 bears within several blocks.

Restaurants are donating to local food banks.

Landlords in Jefferson and Clallam counties are reducing rents.

A local company and a former resident both donated money for Port Book and News to give free books to healthcare workers and to children.

Others contributed funds to Port Angeles’ Poser Yoga studio for free yoga classes for those who can’t afford them right now.

Schmidt, for her part, is caring for her own family by taking them on hikes and bike rides along the Elwha River.

They’ve seen a bear, a bobcat and a lot of sunshine.

“Nature,” she said, “is healing,” itself and us.

Another kind of sign came over the weekend in John Gussman’s video posted on social media. Titled “All Who Wander Are Not Lost,” it’s a black bear ambling along blue Dungeness Bay at low tide. A reverie.

We have a tough path ahead. But the bear, and teachers like Schmidt, remind us this is the time of year to take beach walks, river walks, neighborhood walks.

On my quiet street, you can hear spring calling: Listen to the birdsong in these lengthening days.

I was about to mention that to Schmidt, but she read my mind first.

“I’m so glad we’re heading into more light,” she said.

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Diane Urbani de la Paz, a freelance journalist and former PDN features editor, lives in Port Townsend.

Her column appears in the PDN the first and third Wednesday every month. Her next column will be May 6.

Reach her at [email protected].