In his lengthy poem, A Servant to Servants, renowned poet Robert Frost penned the classic line “…the best way out is always through.” It’s a line appropriate for us today, as is the theme of the poem, which examines loneliness and a rural woman’s struggle with illness while living on the shores of a 5-mile-long lake “…Like a deep piece of some old running river, Cut short off at both ends. It lies five miles, Straight away through the mountain notch.”

Many in Wallowa County are forging a safe pathway through COVID-19 for the rest of us. We thank them all, from hospital and clinic staffs who have crafted detailed plans for coping with any worsening conditions, to pastors who have made Easter and other services accessible to their flocks, to the legion of mask-crafters providing some degree of protection to the community. (Please, when you go get groceries, wear a mask. You may not be protecting yourself but you are protecting others. ) Most recently formed: Wallowa County CAN, a group of more than 150 volunteers who, at the bidding of a doctor, nurse, or other provider, will run errands, bring food, pick up prescriptions, change pipe and perform other tasks to help the sick, the needy, and the shut-in.

We can’t go around COVID-19, its requirements for isolation, and consequent economic deprivation. There is no clicking our ruby slippers together to magically return home. (Of course most of us are already spending too much time there already…) We cannot, we must not, take what seems the easy, but premature road back to normal, as if “normal” will ever truly return. We must go through the ordeals that are set before us—continued isolation, a slow reemergence of gatherings, and eventually, a reawakening of the economy and resurrection of jobs. Physicians and epidemiologists, many of whom have dealt with epidemics and pandemics before, assure us that if we drop our guard now, if we embrace one another too soon, we risk a virulent return of SARS-CoV-2 and its illness, in what may be a more severe outbreak than the first go-round.

Many of our early summer rituals, including Mountain High Broncs and Bulls, have or will be sidelined this year. Whether we are able to celebrate the 4th of July at the Lake, and whether the 75th Annual Chief Joseph Days Rodeo is turned out from the chute and into the arena, remain to be seen. But we are more likely to get there by going through.

As difficult as it is, we have to stay the course of isolation and changed business practices. That doesn’t mean full retreat, though. Especially now, support businesses that offer takeout meals and other drive-by business. And when the lights come on each Monday night at 8:20 p.m. at your school’s stadium, let out a cheer, and turn on your porch light, because both of those will help guide our way along the best way out: through.

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