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ON THE SCENE: Staying happier in the new year

Price Chopper employees Ashton Winch, Tyler Lautenschuetz, Antonia Asa Thomas, William Vaillancourt, Emily Schwartz and John Trummer pose with their face masks. (Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

Wishing someone a “happy new year” feels a bit odd, to say the least, during a pandemic and its resulting economic crisis.

It’s made worse by a government incapable of providing relief to individuals and state, county and local governments, and, through them, first responders, teachers, doctors, nurses and others risking their health in support of others.

While the great news is that two COVID-19 vaccines have been approved and are being sent out, it will be several months, perhaps into the fall, before enough people get inoculated to create herd immunity. During that time, the number of COVID deaths could double; scary when one thinks already more Americans have died of COVID than were killed in battle during World War II.

Also, the challenges posed by climate change keep increasing; our recent Christmas rain and flooding but one of many indicators of how a warming planet is disrupting our lives and hurting our economy here in the North Country.

There are actions that we can take that will improve our individual and communal resilience. Study after study has demonstrated the value of getting out in nature and exercise. Good news is that there is a myriad of free or low-cost means of taking advantage of the great outdoors.

Rev. John Yonkovig (Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

Like many, I start my day with a 3- to 5-mile walk. Where I go depends on where I am. If in Placid, I love walking around Mirror Lake. Even so, I like to make it a bit more interesting by adding in various derivations. I often start near the tennis courts at Peacock Park and head north. Instead of just continuing along the lake, sometimes I bear right up the drive toward the golf house and swing left behind the old Lake Placid Club tennis courts. At the end, I usually go left, back toward the lake. Sometimes I take a right that eventually leads to Northwood Road. Once there, I go left back to the lake.

Continuing along, I stay walking along the lake until I get just past the Lake Placid Marina. There I take a right on Harbor Lane and an immediate left on Victor Herbert, and then another on Stevens Road, usually coming out by the Catholic Church before cutting left to go down to Main Street, taking it back to my car. The nice thing about this walk is that one often sees people one knows; the deviations add length and some hills to get the heart beating a bit more.

In Keene, I like the Hulls Falls Grist Mills Lane loop at the lower end and walking out to Marcy Field as well. In Keene Valley, various walks include the Valley Trail, Mulligan’s Mile and spikes off to the Garden or to the tailhead to Spread Eagle looping back to Beede Lane. Hiking up Baxter or Spread Eagle is very reachable from my home, as are Rooster Comb and Hopkins if I have a bit more time.

In the wintertime, skating on the Cascade Lakes, snowshoeing just about anywhere, cross-country skiing along the Jackrabbit Trail, or out at Henry’s Woods and John Brown Farm are great easy escapes.

Another great activity for improving one’s resiliency is volunteering. The needs are significant. For 20 years, I served on the board of Creative Healing Connections, which provides healing retreats for women living with cancer and other chronic diseases and for military and veteran women. Now I am very involved with the Keene Valley Congregational Church serving on its Mission and Social Action and Creation Justice committees.

I love working with others for a common cause. We have so many worthwhile well-run agencies in our region that need volunteers. Whether it’s an organization like Rotary, Connecting Youth and Community, the Lake Placid Volunteer Ambulance Service volunteer fire departments, the Ecumenical Food Pantry, or so many more, volunteering connects you with engaged, fun, passionate people who make a significant difference in the lives of so many. No matter your situation, you have talents that are needed. Ask any volunteer, and they’ll tell you they have gained much from the experience of helping others.

A third action, related to volunteering, is expressing gratitude. We all have aspects of our life, no matter how challenging or difficult we can be grateful for. I feel gratitude for the teachers, administrators at Keene and Lake Placid Central, North Country School and Northwood School. They have gone out of their way to make our children feel safe, have good healthy meals and learn under these trying circumstances. I am grateful for the staff at our convenience, grocery and hardware stores, pharmacies, gas stations, repair shops and restaurants.

When I visit such businesses and others that have stayed open, I thank the staff and let them know I appreciate their work.

I’m grateful for Laura Holbrook, Shannon Porter and Jennifer Reid at the Keene and Lake Placid transfer stations along with the people who plow our roads, bring fuel to our homes, my colleagues who write, design, print and publish the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and Lake Placid News and staff at the state Olympic Regional Development Authority who are right back at making snow and grooming our ski trails. While there are many things in life I could complain about, I find there is way more to be grateful for. Recognizing gratitude provides me hope and fills me with energy.

A fourth action is maintaining good relations. COVID has placed enormous difficulties on relationships. As an example, a challenge for me is my partner is Canadian. We’ve been separated for eight months. To help counter the impact of separation, we connect by FaceTime nearly every day. Friendships are also strained as we have to radically reduce the number of people we see in person. Key is maintaining a small group that’s part of my bubble; we all are careful to protect each other’s health. Making an extra effort to make sure my friends and family feel heard, loved and valued matters; that and maintaining a sense of humor.

I also miss attending events at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts, Palace Theatre and at other venues. I have found that my participation with my church community through Zoom and thinking deeply about the teachings as expressed in particular by the Rev. John Sampson at the Keene Valley Congregational Church and the Rev. John Yonkovig at St. Agnes has helped guide me through these turbulent times. I can’t thank them enough.

While I can provide other examples of actions that help me, I’d like to know what enables you to stay happy, hopeful and build resilience. I encourage you to write letters to the editor. Let us and the other readers of the Lake Placid News know who and what matters to you. Tell us what you’ve discovered that works for you.

And while you are doing that, think of one thing that bugs you, an irritant that gets in the way of your happiness, and write it down on a piece of paper. Then burn it, be it with a match, candle or in your fireplace. You’ll immediately feel immensely better.