Through Our Lens: Normal isn’t how we roll

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  • Moderator Robert Floyd, right, conducts the postponed annual Southampton Town Meeting in right field of the Labrie Field baseball diamond Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ana Reyes, right, sells vegetables grown at the Nuestras Raices gardens in South Holyoke to customers Richard Torres, left, Anna Gonsalves and Minerva Ortiz, all of Holyoke, at the Holyoke Farmers Market in Veterans Memorial Park on Thursday, Aug. 13. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Bridge Street School parent Gessell Morgan and her three children, fourth grader Saida Perez, left, 9, preschooler Angel Rodriguez, 4, and third grader Sasha Rodriguez, 8, play in Lampron Park on Wednesday, Aug. 12. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Pedestrians abide by the face mask order beside bold new signs Aug. 14 in downtown Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • James Fitzgibbons of Amherst pitches to Northampton during a Sandy Koufax game, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020 at Ziomek Field in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Chase Corbeil,14, left, and his brother Carter, 12, fish Thursday for brook trout on a beaver pond off North West Road in Westhampton. “With the quarantine, there's nothing else to do,” Carter said. When asked what they did with them when they caught one, Carter replied, “Throw ’em back.” STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Photographer
Published: 8/22/2020 2:47:43 PM

Five months into this pandemic (is there any other?) and life continues to churn on — in some ways resembling, more or less, a little of the life we knew before March. It’s a bit premature, but I’m almost ready to drop the “new” from the “new normal.” It’s just not new anymore. Yesterday I read a tweet to the effect of, “I can’t wait for the times to be ‘precedented’ again.” A word I won’t contest, though it lodges like a thorn in the side of my spell check.

Last week I happened upon a line of people waiting to buy fresh vegetables at the farmers market in Holyoke’s Veterans Memorial Park. The market, in at least its 40th year, had just opened for the afternoon and there was a momentary backup at the first booth, which featured produce from the gardens of Nuestras Raices in South Holyoke.

Market manager Sydney Howard stood near the roped entrance, guiding first-time visitors to the requisite hand sanitizer and briefing them on social distancing rules and the one-way traffic — the apparent culprits behind the temporary queue. In less than 20 minutes, the line had disappeared and, except for the ubiquitous masks, the scene returned to a kind of “normal.”

On Saturday I photographed my second plein-air Town Meeting of the season as Southampton held its annual body politic out in right field of the town’s newest baseball diamond. In consideration of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state has dropped to 50 the minimum number of residents required for a quorum, but civic duty and beautiful weather easily drew double that number to Labrie Field.

The meeting had been postponed twice from its original date of May 5, and, knowing that only an outdoor venue would provide enough space to accommodate social distancing, Town Meeting moderator Robert Floyd pushed for a date in late August. “We usually get some cool Canadian air around the 18th,” he told me after the event.

His gamble paid off with a clear, crisp morning — but also a persistent northerly breeze. As an occasional dust devil rose up between first and second base, Floyd conducted the town’s business from a stage that consisted simply of an open trailer backed onto the right field line.

The winds, amplified through microphones unaccustomed to them, caused a few hiccups in the proceedings but, with what Floyd termed a “team effort,” the body approved all 18 articles presented for consideration in what may stand as a record for brevity: just over an hour and a half.

When I moved to the Valley, eons ago, one of the most popular bumper stickers read, “Why  Be Normal?” — usually affixed upside-down. Little did we know that it could, and would, be a nod to the times, not just the people.

Kevin Gutting can be reached at kgutting@gazettenet.com.


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