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New Englanders are known for a steely, stiff upper lip attitude. A friend from the south who lived in Providence for a time says the only thing colder than winter in New England are the people.

We’ve been through a lot in our ancient part of America. Harkening back to the seventeenth century, we’ve survived wars, depressions, recessions, blizzards, hurricanes. We’ve long lived by our wits; we have rocky soil and no oil or dear minerals underground. We’re traders and workers.

Now this. There is altruism; the doctors, nurses, EMTs and police and firefighters who put their lives on the line to protect us. The volunteers making sure the poor get fed, the elderly have telephone companionship, the teachers coaxing children to learn in new ways.

Then there are the rest of us, doing the best we can even as the news brings us more grim tidings; the daily rush of numbers infected and dead.

At Tony’s Seafood in Seekonk, the cod and salmon fillets, the scallops and swordfish, the shrimp and clams, are laid out on ice, awaiting the stove. Matt Pare, one of the shop’s managers, says it has been a time of change. The store is now delivering to homes and at the curbside. The port in New Bedford is open. Business is off; restaurants are not buying much fish these days.

Yet, customers are ”ecstatic” to find the store open, says Pare, as he prepares another batch of baked stuffed shrimp. 

Across the border in Rhode Island, Larry Russolino at the Barrington Butchery pulls an order of chicken breasts from his cooler. Business has been brisk, he says, despite the strict social distancing rules. Just one customer at a time is allowed in the County Road store. After a customer swipes a credit card, Russolino swipes the plastic cash with disinfectant.

The line outside swells, but so far customers are patient. There is none of the packed frenzy of some supermarkets, which prompted Gov. Gina Raimondo to threaten state police stops at groceries that don’t enforce social distancing. 

At the smaller shops, there’s a shrugged shoulders, we gotta get through this response. People are grateful for life’s simple majesties. John Tomassi and his wife Amy are glad they can leaven their anxiety about their two children, both recent college graduates who live in New York City. For now, they are both home with them overlooking One Hundred Acre Cove.

Adam Resmini, a personal injury lawyer says he’s still working, much of it from home. “People still sue each other,” he quips. He says being home has given him the gift of more time with his boys aged two and five.

The roads are empty; the bicycle paths filled with hikers and bikers. Gas is cheap but there’s nowhere to go, an East Providence gas station worker jokes ruefully as he wipes down the rarely used pump handles.

Then there are those who stick with spring routine. Last Thursday, under a warming sun, Jeff Rose and Bernie Stack were clearing the garden in front of the Baptist Church in Warren. Shovel in hand, Stack says he and Rose have been busy readying the grounds for Easter services.

This congregation dates to 1764. “In times like this ya gotta have hope,” says Stack.

It’s the season of renewal:  Easter, Passover and baseball. That time when New Englanders shed their hibernation and arise to the elixir of the outdoors. We don’t know yet how or when crowds will be able to hear the thwack of a bat at Fenway Park and McCoy Stadium this year. But we can see the daffodils, opening their arms to the sun. The spread of green is hushing the brown of winter. And already, birdsong is spilling through open bedroom windows.

Scott MacKay’s commentary can be heard every Monday morning at 6:45 and 8:45 and at 5:44 in the afternoon. You can also follow his political reporting and analysis at our web site at the public’s radio dot org.