For weeks now life has seemed strange, surreal, not grounded. This must be what suspended animation feels like. The days are automatic — eating, TV, books, Uno with my 14-year-old daughter, conversations with my husband.

These days, the occasional trip to Cronig’s and the post office gets my adrenaline going. As I don my pandemic outfit of gloves, mask and raincoat, the rush is akin to taking a day trip to New York city. And there are high points, when I think this is not so bad, we can do this.

The nights are harder. I lie awake, on and off, and feel as if my chest has a great weight on it. In those first few seconds of waking, I am confused. And then I remember. I remember that I haven’t seen my Connecticut kids and grandkids in almost eight weeks. I used to visit them every two to three weeks to make the rounds, to touch the faces of my older kids and all the young grandkids, especially the babies.

Eight-year-old Henry is worried about me. “I hope gram doesn’t die because she is really funny,” he said the other day.

I guess that is a pretty good thing to be remembered for. He knows me well and he won’t forget me. But June-bug and little Mila are not even toddlers.

In those first moments of wakefulness, I remember that oldest daughter Lizzie lives at Columbia University in New York city, where she and her young family are buttoned up tight but surrounded by a death zone.

I remember that my youngest son Alex, an ER doctor in Tampa, enters the Covid abyss every day. I think of the other kids trying to keep their families safe. But the thought that leaves me breathless is that I might not live to see 64. The 60s may be the new 40s, but now I am counted as the elderly and vulnerable. The target is on my back if I take the wrong breath.

So after a bad night, I shake it off, turn on the coffee and get to work on my new wartime duty: making face masks. My face masks are pretty cool. This is because I was planning a new quilt creation to pass the time while we wait to move into a house that is still just a foundation. I had amassed all these wonderful batiks and designer cottons that were destined for quilt greatness. There are piles of different colors, soft cottons, interesting designs — no discount fabrics in this quilt. The plan had been to make an Island quilt, complete with sand and sun and sails and fish. It would have ocean blues, kayaks and quaint shop signs like Back Door Donuts, Menemsha Fish House and Larsen’s. I was ready to go.

But then people started getting sick. Then they began to die.

Out of all this horror came the call for masks and other life-saving protection. It dawned on me that my sewing skills, albeit very basic, would be well-served by joining this war effort. And so I set to work. I called the fabric shop back home to give me a tutorial on my high tech computerized sewing machine whose many features and attributes were completely wasted on me. I borrowed a rotary cutter and cutting board from the head of the Island Quilter’s Guild, cut quilt cloth into rectangles, cut filter paper for added protection, and purchased all the quarter-inch elastic that was available at Granite and online. (Hint, wider elastic doesn’t stretch as far as narrower elastic so if a few of my mask recipients have painful and flattened noses, please text me).

Then came the list. I first made masks for the Connecticut people — all my kids, grandkids, friends, neighbors, those that we had left behind to retire here last year. Then I sewed for the California sisters and cousins, the Idaho nieces, the estranged brother in Texas. I sewed to make amends to the people in my life that I had lost touch with, sewed for the long distant son and his girlfriend and baby in the Philippines, sewed for old babysitters. I sewed for Dr. Alex and six of his resident friends. I sewed for the elderly, sewed for Meals on Wheels volunteers, sewed for anyone who asked. I was completely obsessed as my supply of quilt fabric shrunk and the list grew longer. Any money saved on eating at home was spent on material and postal charges.

I became part of a larger group of Island mask makers. We compared mask patterns. We shared elastic and fabric. When one received the 100 yards that she had ordered online, she would give 20 yards to a seamstress in need. We social distanced at the high school parking lot and the post office to exchange masks and materials. When mask making got to be overwhelming with too many backed up orders, we would refer the request to someone who wasn’t so busy.

Bottom line, we knew that people were afraid and our masks made them less afraid.

Our masks are free of charge but many gave a few dollars to replenish our supplies. Others paid in kind, including farm fresh eggs and essential oils. One day I received a request from a young mother. She asked for masks for herself, her husband and two small children. I delivered the finished masks to her driveway. As I got out of my car, a tall, young man stepped out of his truck. He was dressed in fishing gear and held the biggest fish that I had ever seen. It had to be three to four feet long.

“That’s the biggest fish I have ever seen,” I said as I tossed the masks in a baggy to his wife.

He grinned.

“Do you like bass?” his wife asked.

I wasn’t sure if I liked bass or not but it sounded good. “Sure,” I said.

That night I cooked those two gorgeous bass filets, sprinkled with spices and lemon garlic butter. Each bite radiated hard work, good will, sunshine, great vibes and hope. It was the best antidote for my nighttime fears.

Linda Pearce Prestley lives in West Tisbury.