Harriet Bernstein — sheltering (and dancing) in place in West Tisbury

Harriet Bernstein took to Zoom to keep moving and keep connected.

It started out as a month of Sundays. Kind of a treat. Nothing to do, nowhere to go, no one to be. I’d been a bit further into my social self before the pandemic, looking to buy an eyeliner rather than wistfully collecting driftwood and shells. This sudden change was a good correction. It was like Sundays of my youth, when all stores were closed, people went to church, and slow was the message.

But as a dancer, endless sitting at home worried the heck out of my hamstrings. I figured out how to work Zoom, and Zoomed a modern dance class with Naomi in New York City. We love her September classes at the Yard, and always wish she could keep us in shape the rest of the year. Now she was in my living room indefinitely, several times a week.

We got our modern dance improv group going on Zoom, after a bit of a rocky start. I managed the music, and mixed it up with Paul Winter and Jay Ungar and jazz. We even danced to James Taylor and Isaac once.

Then my Anusara yoga teacher from Connecticut, now 81, figured out Zoom. And after 20 years of missing her class that had so balanced my body, mind, and spirit, she too was right there in my house a few days a week. I thought, Gee, what a silver lining this is.

The Insight meditation teachers, Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield, advised “embodiment” for how to deal with the isolation. Breathe. Feel your breath. Yoga is all about embodiment. I was good.

I walked on deserted roads — the rattle of cars, trucks, and semis barreling up-Island absent. The Island’s paved arteries all empty like that will stay with me forever — the quiet was deafening, the smell was delicious. Nature seemed to be having a palpably great time.

I took a chance on a modern dance technique called GaGa one afternoon with a young gal in Texas with a light rain falling in her backyard. There were five of us on her Zoom, but who was looking at the screen? The idea was to fill up the cavity of your body with happy, and get your mind out of the way. I whirled around my house, my yard, like a balloon letting out air! Now this was interesting!

The West Coast provided all sorts of ecstatic dance, kind of what you think. I saved Saturday afternoons for their group dance, where the music starts out slow and eventually gets faster and everyone just moves however they want. Very California.

I filled up that first winter with firelight, weekly phone calls, checking in and being checked in on, my Proust group, Hebrew Center services, and online cooking classes with our Vineyard’s Jan Buhrman. Jan gave me a path to good soup, and kept me off the couch.

Then came a hint of spring, and a mad dash into my yard. I even started a garden, and worked out there till dusk many nights. This was followed by beach season, and beach dates socializing at sun-filled distances. With the hectic schedules of our usual summer gone, my friends were available for beach dates all summer long. Another silver lining.

By December, my body slowed down with the weight of time, and a real schedule started to take place. My attraction to dance classes melted into Qi Gong classes. I do its gentle twists and energy work several times a week.

Many people tell me they worry about their friends, like me, who are “alone.” I always suggest they worry about those cooped up with the politically antagonistic, and to keep in mind the current rise in domestic abuse. I worry about the hurt children.

Me, I am safe and happy, enjoying my own good company, with endless opportunity, through Zoom and otherwise, lucky to have friends and family far and near who check in regularly. I am grateful to be reunited with my more Vineyard wardrobe of old flannel shirts, sweatpants, and battered boots, to say nothing of seeing anew the exquisite sky and trees and beach and ocean waves at my fingertips that I’d all but begun to take for granted.