Sunlight sparkled off the water as it sluiced down my paddle. My canoe was cutting a path to a favorite spot in Bellingham Bay. I could hear the distant call of seabirds in the crisp salty air. Slowly, I felt my heart ease, the tension leached out of my shoulder and my breaths became deeper, fuller. My worries and fears all faded away as my attention turned to the harbor seals lounging on the rooks and a line of cormorants silhouetted against the sky. As always, our ocean brought me a much-needed measure of peace.
As you may know, my state of Washington has been on high alert, as COVID-19 has swept through our cities and communities. It has completely restricted travel and gatherings—something that is part of my work to protect the Arctic—especially during spring, which is Ocean Conservancy’s planning season.
This year, together with all Ocean Conservancy staff, I am working from home in an effort to flatten the curve. I am acutely aware of my privilege. So many—from healthcare workers to grocery staff and delivery people—are serving on the frontlines of this pandemic. Thousands are losing their jobs and unemployment numbers are hitting record highs.
My thoughts are also with communities in the Arctic. They are particularly at risk during this global pandemic. A surge in COVID-19 cases would quickly overwhelm limited healthcare facilities. Many Tribes and villages are taking proactive action and have travel bans in place, and the State of Alaska has now forbidden travel between communities in the state. The move to teleworking also reveals the technological divide as many of our tribal partners do not have adequate connectivity outside the office to work.
I am grateful to be able to continue my work to protect the ocean we all love. I am fortunate to be able to live by the water. When it feels like nothing is the same or normal right now, we can find strength, calm and peace in our ocean.
It may be a while before you can find yourself out on the water or breathing that salty air. Take heart, stay strong and remember it will be waiting for you.