A Tree in the Shade | Inside Yankee

On the importance of finding a place to rest in troubled times.

By Mel Allen

Oct 06 2020

Mel Allen
Mel Allen

I wish I could begin this way: We’ve made it through this terrible time. Now more than ever, we have a new reason to celebrate the holiday season. But I cannot. Not yet. And even when that day arrives, how bittersweet will the relief and joy be, when many tens of thousands of Americans have suffered and died, along with countless others far from our shores.

We’ve come through a year in which nothing is as it was before. And now, the holidays await. Our instinct is to gather together, to bring friends and family close around table and hearth. But even that is on hold right now. It is a lot of stuff to carry around day after day. At times it gets too heavy, and we want to feel light again.

When historians look back at this year, they will write about how we confronted long-held mythologies and traditions. Four hundred years ago, the Mayflower sailed into Plymouth Harbor. We were taught in elementary school about the first Thanksgiving; we knew the Pilgrims as heroic first settlers. They were brave, they did suffer, they did endure—but Justin Shatwell’s “Do the Pilgrims Still Matter?” asks us to consider new perspectives on 1620, when white settlers and indigenous peoples inhabited the same land, and examine how that era resonates today. And in this moment, Maine photographer Séan Alonzo Harris asks us to see with renewed empathy the people of color whose humanity he honors with his work [“Invisible No More”].

The magazine you are holding in your hands will not magically change these trying days. But for a few hours, at least, it can be that shaded tree on the trail we’re hiking, a place where we catch a breath before setting out again. Inside, you will meet Santas who are not only jolly but also careful with a child’s trust [“When Santas Get Together”]. You can visit Kennebunkport, Maine, during its Christmas Prelude, one of the best holiday events in the country [“Christmas on the Maine Coast”], or walk down cobblestone streets on Nantucket [“Weekend Away”]. You’ll find iconic regional foods that can double as gifts, delivered right to your doorstep [“The 2020 Yankee Food Awards”], and food editor Amy Traverso’s recipes for “A New New England Thanksgiving.”

One day soon, I know I will begin like this: We are back on the trail. Let’s go see everyone we have missed. It doesn’t matter when it is, it will be like our first Christmas. Until then, we will keep finding stories that matter, to make you reflect or smile, maybe both. Places to rest before pushing on.

Mel Allen

To catch up on Mel Allen’s biweekly “Letter from Dublin,” go to