It is the Friday before the election. Like many of you, I have lately been preoccupied by an event in progress and a result yet to happen.

My day job needs me four days a week, so this is the first day of my weekend. A friend introduced me to the winter Farmers Market in Belfast this morning, and when I got home I decided to clean the fridge before putting things away. Something in there was smelling not quite right.

I propped the door open with a 6-pack and took all the condiments off its narrow shelves. I laid all those skinny bottles on an available square foot of counter and spread the rest of the refrigerator’s contents out on the kitchen floor, testament to the right I have to choose what I eat and the privilege that that offers me so many choices.

I took it all out, the virgin beer and the bread and the oat milk. The tray of deli meats and goat cheeses. The half-finished gallon of organic Maine sunflower oil and the quart of Vermont maple syrup.

I wiped the fridge down with warm water and baking soda and began to put things back, integrating the new purchases with food that had already been there, rotating forward the older stuff. The components for the soup I’ll start tomorrow have been put top shelf, front and center, so as not to be overlooked. The new, fresh greens are wrapped in towels and bagged up in their drawers.

Once the malodorous culprit was found (sardines I didn’t want to eat the moment I opened the can) and the rest of my groceries back in the fridge, I made French toast strips with the Anadama bread bought this morning in Belfast. I typed a few starting paragraphs for this column and then went out to watch the sun slip away for the night.

I was in the car, parked with a view to the open sky somewhere between the setting sun and the moon, taking in the latter body’s crisp horizon, the ragged edge of its expanding whiteness, the ancient marks on its surface of its passage in this universe. And then I decided to turn on the radio.

I used to listen to the radio all the time when the kids were home to be cared for and my income was a supplement that came from writing, editing, and activism, rather than the result of a fixed number of hours spent in a shared and often public setting. When evening started to roll around, I would tune to WERU, if I wasn’t already on, for interesting perspectives and a shot of world news before shifting over to Maine Things Considered (at that time a daily half-hour news show produced right here in Vacationland), the national news, and more interesting perspectives.

Somewhere along the line radio became less of my landscape in general. On the news side, well… between humanity’s unapologetic willingness to hurt one another and the overwhelming growth of ways to absorb information, the last decade or two have been a bombardment. People lob ideas at one another fast and furious, generally without questioning where and how they land, often turning their unconsidered actions into poorly made incendiaries that explode in the hands of their creators. We pass rumors on as though we had witnessed them ourselves.

But today I wanted to check in on the world of human engagement, at least a bit.

The news was about the governor’s race in Georgia, a rematch between incumbent Brian Kemp and former Georgia Representative Stacey Abrams, who opposed Kemp eight years ago.

Two years ago at this time, I was wrapping up a couple of seasons volunteering for Bernie Sanders. All that spring and summer, I had weekly phone appointments, called coaching calls, in which I gave support to volunteers who were organizing events and outreach for the senator’s presidential campaign. The 30 or so people on my list were in Ohio and Georgia. I gave them the benefit of my knowledge of the nomination system; they taught me what the lives of other committed activists were like.

They were students, of course, but also EMTs and municipal bus drivers, shop clerks, office workers and teachers. Our weekly one-on-ones were windows into the concerns and points of view of people both just like me and totally different.

So when I heard about Abrams and Kemp, when I heard their own recorded voices express their priorities as the time for voting continues to pass, it caught my attention.

By now, it is possible that you and I know who won this rematch. I will have looked through the window that opened for me in 2020 to try to see how this last election went for the volunteers I worked with then.

A lot of people have been saying that the elections held on Nov. 8 represent the line between civil engagement and anarchy, between a society that works and the ever-splintering factionalization of people so fierce in their independence that they refuse to accept any responsibility for, or even polite engagement with, those with whom they disagree, between the sacred and the profane.

Perhaps we have just piled new agendas on top of the half-finished ideas already in our legislative process; maybe we will have figured out where the bad smell has been coming from, wiped down the shelves, moved the stuff that is still useful to the front, and made room for things that are fresh and nourishing.

Whatever brought people to the polls last Tuesday, or whatever kept them away, we have crossed that boundary now. We are all in a new place, somewhere between “get over it” and “care intensely” and if we are still here today and free to act it is time to do both; move past the stories that have us judging one another, take a moment to reset, and start again the human experiment.

The story we tell is often the story we become. Whether it is a divine force that put us here or a random spark somewhere beyond that brilliant moon, we’ve got some potential to live up to and it’s time to stop wasting it.

Shlomit Auciello is an award-winning writer, photographer, and human ecologist who has lived in Midcoast Maine since 1988. Letter From Away has appeared online and in print, on and off since 1992, and is published here on a weekly basis.