Two weeks ago the cut was opened in the Tisbury Great Pond. In this time-honored Island ritual, brackish pond water rushes out to meet cold ocean currents, lowering the water level in the pond, bringing it fresh salinity and boosting its fragile ecosystem. Bait fish are swept into the opening, attracting bigger fish from the ocean side. Word about the opening goes around quietly among bass fishermen, who flock to the spot, casting hand-tied flies and saltwater lures into the currents.

And so it was this year. Clad in their insulated waders, reeling in dozens of small bass and releasing them back into the ocean, the fishermen formed a living tableau that was reassuringly familiar at a time when it seems nothing is normal.

True, it was November. Leaves are down, frost has settled over Island fields and gardens, mostly put to bed now for the winter, but mild weather has lingered.

Consider it a gift from nature in this fraught year of the pandemic. Islanders who have been isolating for months, mostly unable to see family and friends in the name of staying safe, have relished the extra time outdoors in the Vineyard’s unspoiled natural world for long walks, late-season swimming, kayaking, gardening, early bay scalloping — and of course fishing.

And after a summer drought that left fields and lawns parched and brown, the landscape has turned lush and green again thanks to soaking autumn rains. Early this week there were thunderstorms and a brief tornado warning as a quick-moving storm flashed across the Vineyard Sound.

Thanksgiving is today.

The Vineyard is busy in the traditional Thanksgiving weekend way, but almost everything except nature itself has been colored by the pandemic.

Steamship Authority numbers reported by the Gazette this week showed that holiday visitors came earlier and were staying longer. State and local public health officials strongly advised against travel and large gatherings, and it is hoped that visitors that did arrive are heeding the latter. There are clear guidelines and potential fines, but most importantly there is a shared responsibility to keep everyone safe from the pandemic, which respects no economic, social and cultural boundaries.

Despite large crowds all summer, the Vineyard somehow managed to keep case numbers low, but now that has changed. Mirroring the state and the country at large, an alarming case surge has been under way for the past three weeks. The watchword is community spread.

With some of the infection traced to the booming construction industry, public health officials and selectmen this week swiftly adopted strict new rules for job sites. Op-eds written in Portuguese and English appear on the Gazette Commentary Page in today’s edition, urging everyone to take precautions and treat the issue seriously. The harrowing experience of Steve Bernier, the stalwart owner of Cronig’s Markets, who is thankfully back on the Island after being airlifted with pneumonia to a Boston hospital, is a cautionary tale for all: everyone is at risk.

On the Vineyard, the longest lines this week were not at the grocery stores and ferry terminal but at Test MV, the testing site at the regional high school that has been up and running since June. By mid-week record numbers of tests were being logged. The Island owes a special debt of gratitude to Quest Diagnostics and its CEO Steve Ruskowski and his wife Deb Ruskowski, a public health nurse, who spearheaded the move to set up the testing center last spring. There are many others to thank, including Island Health Care, the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, the Martha’s Vineyard Bank and not least the six town health agents who have worked tirelessly and around the clock to track cases and provide timely information to the public.

Testing alone is no guarantee of safety. Wear masks. Avoid crowds. Wash your hands.

Back at the Tisbury Great Pond, the cut was still open this week but closing fast. Next week December begins. Sunsets are just after 4 p.m.; the winter solstice is three weeks away. A final page turns in the 2020 calendar.

There is more dark winter ahead, but in the distance we can see a little light.

The Gazette sends out warmest wishes to all its readers near and far for a happy Thanksgiving.

Please stay safe.