By Christine Chronis
I grew up in Wisconsin, lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, and eventually moved to New York City. But for the last 38 years, I have divided my time between “away” and a home “here” in Bernard. My relationship with Maine is the longest-running I’ve had with any of the states. My husband, who died 19 years ago, felt a deep connection to this island, perhaps because it reminded him of the Greek Island of Karpathos from which he emigrated. My children, now 36 and 33, learned to appreciate the beauty of the natural world here and continue to be tethered to this neck of the woods. For 10 years, I wrote a weekly, year-round cooking column for this newspaper and The Bar Harbor Times. The column focused on cooking and cooks on MDI, and through it, and other community activities, I made many acquaintances and friends who have enriched my life.
In mid-March, amidst a constant barrage of warnings from WHO and the CDC that I was an individual at high risk for the coronavirus, I made the decision to transition to my home in Maine. Usually, I arrive in mid-May. I knew that my early arrival might be met with understandable apprehension at best, hostility at worst. I knew that my traveling from a highly-infected area might pose a risk to others. But I couldn’t figure out a way to keep myself safe in an apartment building with over 200 residents, let alone a borough of New York City whose population exceeds that of the entire state of Maine. I made what efforts I could to mitigate the risk of travel. I isolated myself inside my apartment for 10 days before leaving, and went outside only for distanced walks. I monitored myself for symptoms. Instead of flying, I had my son, an EMT and self-appointed virus control officer, drive me up in a rental car; we made only one stop along the way. I arrived on March 19, and I haven’t been out of my house since except to walk in my driveway or drive through Seawall. And I don’t intend to be out and about going forward, except in severely limited instances. I am as committed to protecting the safety of my friends and neighbors here as I am to protecting my own. Those efforts are, after all, one and the same.
But this is all prologue. What I really want to do in this letter is express, from the bottom, middle and top of my heart, my gratitude to my local friends and neighbors here who have greeted my arrival with compassion and support. One friend, who is immunosuppressed, calls regularly and wants to know what she can do for me; another hastened to tell me to ignore what I might be reading about local resentment on Facebook and in the papers – that this is not the majority sentiment, he’s glad I’m here, wants me to be safe. I received an email from a friend who hadn’t heard I’d already arrived offering me his vacant cabin plus grocery delivery if I needed to come up early, before my house was opened. My local nurse practitioner of many years calls to see what I need; my PT calls and texts just to chat. The amazing human being who has taken care of me, my family, my house, my garden for the past 28 years has made herself available to me and drops off what I need on my porch. We talk from a safe distance. And many others have welcomed me warmly. You know who you are. I can’t thank you enough for your concern and expressions of friendship. You have more than made up for all the background noise.
I did not come to MDI, as the writer of one Letter to the Editor of The Islander wrote, “to hide among you.” I came to live my daily life, contribute what I can to, and connect with, the fabric of a community that I have been an extraordinarily lucky member of for decades. A community that I love. A community that, apparently, loves me back.
Christine Chronis has been making her home away from home in Bernard, Maine for the last 38 years.