In March of 2020, many who typically come to the island during the summer and shoulder months retreated to the Vineyard and joined the year- round residents to escape the density of northeast cities. That gave us some confidence that we could possibly hide from the virus until there was a preventive vaccine.

Business activities on the mainland were either shut down or moved to Zoom, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams and other online conferencing platforms. We walked around the Chop, ordered take out, organized a few gatherings for bubbles and expanded our reading lists. Virus testing at the high school was a source of comfort as we enjoyed the seclusion of the Vineyard in a way like never before.

The summer of 2020 was a shell of itself. Vacation bookings were cancelled or deferred for a year. Seasonal hires for local businesses were mostly nonexistent. Indicative of most organizations and institutions that typically host public events, Union Chapel cancelled all live services and streamed Sunday programs. Social and business activities were severely truncated.

2021 was a year where there was a sense that the two injections of the vaccine would provide the prophylactic to block the virus entirely. As time went on, medical experts informed us that catching the Delta virus could not be prevented altogether but hospitalization and death could be significantly reduced with the shots. Governor Charlie Baker lifted all Covid protocols by Memorial Day and many businesses had the best summer they have ever had. May felt like June, June felt like July, July felt like August and August was overwhelming! Proprietors and staff were exhausted but the firehose of sales and patrons was a welcome salve for businesses on the brink. As the late weeks of summer looked to an early fall, infection numbers began inching up and some businesses required masks as a condition of entrance.

But the game really changed in the fourth quarter. Our two vaccines must now be augmented by a booster shot. And those with all three shots began to catch the virus in alarming numbers. The so-called breakthrough patients are no longer exceptions but are becoming the rule. Winter spikes exacerbated by holiday gatherings are framing the new year like no other we have seen. Virus test sites saw long lines and self-testing kits were swiped off shelves like water before a hurricane.

New Year’s Eve of 2021 was not all celebration, champagne and excitement about 2022. We are exposed to the Omicron variation that is expanding very rapidly. We are nervous about our national politics, with voter suppression laws racing through local legislations. Jan. 6 is the anniversary of an attempt to overthrow our national government.

For us as residents, business owners and non-profit organizations, the Martha’s Vineyard of 2022 is perhaps the most unpredictable as it has been in our history. But I think we are different. We have an active, vibrant town government that is not paying homage to any political party. We have our own civic culture that is caring and nourishing. We work hard to balance growth and preserve our history and our glorious past. We have always had different religious organizations and ethnic groups inextricably bound together as Islanders. We are urban, rural and suburban, co-existing in our shared humanity. We have our own unique identity.

In his new book The Code Breaker, Walter Isaacson opines that our lives have been impacted by three great knowledge revolutions of the 20th century: physics, the digital revolution and now the life science revolution of genetic coding. As I think about the coming months, especially with spring and summer fast approaching, I place my faith in our innovative medical research clusters and our unique Vineyard culture to position us once again to make 2022 a banner year.

Paradise on earth is living the Vineyard experience. Enjoy it as life is fleeting!