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Jenifer’s Journal: Article of faith

Faith does not make things easy — it makes them possible. — Anonymous

Strictly speaking, this should be called a “Column of Faith,” I suppose, but faith, as in belief, conviction and/or the lack of it, is precisely what it’s about.

I’m writing this five days before this infernal mid-term election, and I seem to have misplaced my faith along with, more and more frequently, my sense of humor. Democracy is not a partisan thing, or shouldn’t be. It’s a bright but arduous path in the wilderness and confusion of collective human existence.

If you choose this path, the only debate is how best to tread it and rightly, there’s all kinds of robust debates to be had about that. There’s meant to be, and, in the wake of those debates, free and fair elections and, if called for, the peaceful transfer of power. The sole purpose of all of this being to pave the road toward greater democracy, greater freedom and greater equality.

I’m beginning to lose faith that this democracy, so flawed, yet so transformational, based as it is on the eternal truth that all humans are created equal, is itself not eternal, but, without constant care and protection, too vulnerable, too frail to withstand the unchecked threats from within. 

Whew! With all that unchecked angst going on, it’s no wonder the beginning of November almost slipped by without my noticing. It’s like the way the leaves turn on the Island. By mid-September every autumn, New England is getting rave reviews about its foliage, while Island trees have only grudgingly begun to rust.

Mid-October passes here and, though our rock usually manages a couple of pockets of red and orange, only those cute little trees near the Heights Post Office and a similar flaming line-up at Gardiner’s Bay are making a real commitment to the season. It’s not until, well, now, around Halloween, just when I’ve begun to despair of the Island ever having an autumn at all, that the magic happens, and my faith in fall is restored.

Speaking of Halloween, that’s another magical “restorative” — that special Smith Street brand that brings together a whole congregation of heart-twisting ghosts, and witches and generations of parents and grands all happily strolling, skipping and sashaying up and down a ribbon of a Norman Rockwell America that maybe isn’t completely lost after all.

It (and the fact that Veterans Day is upcoming) puts me in mind of its spring sister, the Island’s Memorial Day Parade which, along with the nation, has been recovering from COVID and perhaps may even welcome back the Shelter Island School marching band in 2023. 

Oh, I hope so, because even pared down to bare bones, rain or shine, that modest march through the heart of our little town, with the flags and the firetrucks and the little kids holding their ears against the crack of the rifles, even the memory of it the year it didn’t happen brings me to tears.

I seem to be gaining some hopeful momentum here because I realize that in the past several weeks, as I’ve shared here more than once, I’ve been wrestling with what direction to take with this ornery but wonderful old house of mine.

Fight or flight? I remain locked in an exhausting debate between my heart, my budget and what passes for my common sense, so I still don’t know, but I have discovered that whatever I decide, I’ve got some terrific people to help me.

Not just any people, but former students, all grown up and smart, and articulate and tremendously knowledgeable in their fields. I’ve been fortunate to keep in occasional touch with several of my “kids” and not only take pride in their many accomplishments but in the estimable adults they’ve become. These three young men (for whom, it must be said, English was not their most favorite subject), live and work on Shelter Island and recently have been there when I’ve needed their imagination, professionalism and expertise in areas ranging from landscaping to power-washing, to plumbing.

It’s hard not to feel a surge of hope for the future when I can see first-hand what a wonderful group of young Islanders are trying to build their adult lives right here in their hometown. By the time this column appears, the community will have had its say on plans for the affordable housing so needed by young life-builders — I hope we will have voted wisely.

In spite of all the restoration of faith going on here, regardless of the election, let me mention a more practical application of it: Faith in the flu shot and the latest iteration of booster I’m scheduled to get at CVS, Mattituck tomorrow, just so Father Peter won’t accuse me of being too “metaphysical.”