This year has presented enormous challenges. Stay-at-home orders, online schooling, empty grocery store shelves, cancellations of events and gatherings – they all impacted people differently, but nobody was unaffected. Added to this were periods of air choked with smoke from wildfires near and far. On top of everything was the flow of national news about racial and social injustice, nearly unimaginable political events and even extreme hurricanes. I know this is not what I expected one year ago tonight on New Year’s Eve 2019.
Despite this, we were lucky here in Carpinteria. Unlike recent years, we were free from fires and floods. We were able to break up stay-at-home time with walks in our neighborhoods, along our beach, on the bluffs, around the salt marsh or up the Franklin Trail. Our weather allowed us to spend time outdoors, even through December. We even had fresh local produce available to us year-round.
But our luck only takes us so far. This year’s events required more of us, and our community responded with remarkable resilience and creativity. Restaurants converted to take-out and delivery remarkably quickly and with support from the city to set up the necessary traffic and parking controls. When supermarket shelves were empty in April, Delgado’s offered curbside pickup of the basics they could get a hold of such as eggs, rice, beans, vegetables and even bleach and toilet paper. Local distribution of food by Foodbank of Santa Barbara County shifted into high gear.
In a remarkable display of grassroots community-minded action, by the first week of April a set of Arbol Verde neighbors calling themselves Neighbor-to-Neighbor had made an amazing 3,000 cloth masks they distributed first to local homeless, then to essential workers. There is no way to tell for sure, but it is reasonable to believe this action was an important factor in keeping the Covid-19 case rate relatively low in our area (so far).
Other community members helped keep our spirits up as the year progressed. One local bagpiper played every evening at sunset. As summer turned to fall, the Carpinteria Arts Center provided us a creative outlet with “Mask-Up Carp Chalk Art” over Labor Day Weekend. Then as Christmas approached, a neighborhood Santa danced on his roof each evening.
But there is one community-wide effort that is a uniquely Carpinteria display? Or maybe it is better called an activity? Event? The Carp Caterpillar!
In July, a few creative people painted 89 rocks and placed them in a row along Linden Avenue as an invitation for anyone interested to contribute to this public art display. Many rocks were decorated with inspirational thoughts, and people were invited to take one if it was especially meaningful to them, as long as they left a new one (or more) to help the caterpillar grow. Within a couple months, the caterpillar grew to over 1,000 rocks and stretched for blocks along Linden.
As I think about the Carp Caterpillar’s growth, I can’t help but see it symbolizing our Carpinteria community. We are made up of a bunch of individuals of different sizes, shapes and colors. Many are locals, but our community includes visitors (who also have painted and contributed rocks to the Carp Caterpillar). Each member has a place and contributes to the whole. Some leave, others are added in. Everyone is part of the community.
Now on New Year’s Eve, we look ahead to 2021. While the Covid-19 vaccine is beginning to be administered, the pandemic is spreading at a faster rate than ever before – new cases, hospitalizations and deaths, both nationwide and in California. New variants of the coronavirus have been identified in Britain and South Africa. What will 2021 look like?
Nobody knows how events will unfold nationwide or across the world. But I can say with complete confidence that what happens right here is up to us.
Yes, we are tired of all the impacts and precautions. We want schools and businesses open. We want to attend public events. We want others to see us when we smile at them. We want to be able to give a friend a hug.
We can do these things the soonest if we recommit to the public health measures we know all too well by now: avoiding gatherings, maintaining physical distance, wearing a mask and washing hands.
While there’s a lot we cannot control, this is one area where the outcome is up to us. When we look back at 2021 next New Year’s Eve, I hope we can continue to take pride in what we achieved, think about the Carp Caterpillar, and say, “Carp Rocks!”