Remember how at the end of 2019, we were all saying “2020, that’s gonna be the year, that’s gonna be the year for me.” So far, we’re only a few months in and 2020 is not in fact looking like it’s going to be such an amazing year. It’s hard not to watch things changing so quickly and so abruptly while imagining what things will look like at the other end of this tunnel. I don’t have to recount to any of you how bleak things seem right now on a number of fronts. Even the things that have gotten us through previous crises seem like they’re being taken away. Broadway. March Madness. Disneyland and Disney World. Multiple music festivals, farmer’s markets and even some worship services. While it’s undoubtedly for the best that certain large social gatherings be put on hold as a precautionary measure, it’s always been community that has done the best for personal happiness and well-being. Let’s not downplay how lucky we are that we can still interact in some way with each other over the internet and over the phone. As much as these digital things can sometimes be a distraction, they can also keep us sane.
The Saxapahaw General Store, even before it was called the Saxapahaw General Store, when it was Poppy’s or just “the General Store” before that, was a hub of the village, and it still is. And we, just like every other business in Saxapahaw, are doing everything we can to keep providing that service and that space, even as we know that people are rightly avoiding large groups. But we’re human, and we need other humans. We need those conversations, that closeness, and that eye to eye contact. The people who work at these businesses, they need business, they need jobs, and they need to pay the bills. We’re all hoping for the best outcome, and as little of a shock to economies great and small as possible, but right now, no one really knows. Saturdays in Saxapahaw start in early May, which is just two months from now, is that still going to happen? We certainly hope so. Those hectic summer months are absolutely crucial for Saxapahaw, as are weddings and concerts. Not just directly for businesses like the General Store, the Eddy Pub, Freehand, and the Haw River Ballroom, but to the local farmers, artists, and musicians who provide goods and services to those markets. Of course, I’m not speaking on the behalf of anyone who would have to make that decision, but realistically, it’s not unrealistic right now to imagine a shorter Saturdays in Saxapahaw summer if need be.
Saxapahaw is built around a strong community. When these brick buildings held a mill, that mill was a tight-knit community, and when the mill closed, it took a while, but a new village arose. One that is maybe a bit more diversified and a bit more resilient. In this time of uncertainty, it’s perhaps some comfort that we have this place, where our friends, our co-workers, the farmers who make the food to supply to local stores and restaurants, and local craftspeople and artisans, all are able to come together, even when our physical ability to come together may be somewhat limited. We’re incredibly lucky to be in this place, where if you need someone to fix your pipes, mow your lawn, build some shelves, they’re right around the corner. Need milk, meat, veggies or eggs? We’ve got farmers all around southern Alamance County who just have to drive their truck 10 miles or less down the road to supply the Eddy or the General Store. We’ve got musicians and artists who inspire, keep our spirits up and make the things that provide beauty to life. When Saxapahaw was dominated by the mill, it was dominated by the mill. It was one industry, one main employer whom the entire village revolved around. Now it’s a miniature ecosystem, with gas, groceries, sustainably created crafts, craft beer, entertainment, adventure, dance, art, puppetry, farming, agriculture, herbalism, day-trip tourism, yoga and more, all statistically within just the radius of a few miles. And yet as romantic as that is, Saxapahaw is not in a bubble, even if it feels like it sometimes. The ability of the General Store to get its supplies of gasoline is dependent on many outside national and international affairs. The ability of local farmers to get feed, fertilizer, and machinery depends on long supply chains. The ability for any business to make it through rough spots often depends on the integrity of a banking system that is easy to vilify, but whose importance is hard to ignore.
We don’t know what the rest of 2020 will bring. No one does. Some of us may get sick or know people who do. Some of us may see our incomes decrease, and there may be times that things will be harder to come by, and there is no doubt there will be further confusion and turmoil. But there are also reasons to be joyous. Things will return to normal. This is a tough little town. Right now, the community is more important than ever, even if that means sometimes not being able to sit all at the same table at one time. If you’ve been in the General Store lately, you’ll notice that last statement isn’t just rhetorical— we’ve added separation to the long communal table that runs down the right half of the store. This might slightly reduce the seating, but if that’s what we need to do, it’s what we need to do Plus, it’s also getting warmer, and there’s plenty of amazing outdoor seating.
But this whole thing has not been a plea for more people to visit the Saxapahaw General Store, nor is it meant to discourage. We are already seeing slower weekend crowds, and that’s expected. If we’re all taking precautions that we should be taking, I would hope that there will be days when we might be short-staffed and perhaps see fewer customers, as people take the measures they need to keep themselves and everyone else healthy. Right now, it’s because there’s so much that we don’t know, that so many places have taken extraordinary measures to cancel or postpone major events and to discourage large groups of people. If you feel sick, stay home. If you want to send someone to get some chicken awesome soup from the General Store, that’s great, too. We’ve also got online ordering, I don’t know if you heard. We’ll even bring your kitchen order and groceries out to your car.
It’s also going to be during this period of time that we are able to do what we can for those in need. If you’ve got any food or household supplies that you are able to donate, please contact SAFE Food Pantry. SAFE provides an invaluable service to so many families in southern Alamance County. If you contact them, they’ll let you know what items they need, and how you can donate. These are days of uncertainty, and we don’t have to panic, but we can’t ignore the reality. We have each other, and that right there is going to keep us going, just as sure as the river beside us keeps churning. Love is the antidote for fear.
“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.”
“And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.”
“And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”