Around the world a lot of people are either ill, waiting to be ill, afraid of being ill, getting over being ill or being gravely ill. Everywhere in our country there is an abundance of panic. A close friend just returned from the grocery store where she said the shelves were stripped of many items and people were clearly acting irrationally.
I am seeking ways to remain as calm as is possible, despite the widespread hysteria. I am not consistently successful! But among the things I am not worried about:
Running out of toilet paper. A new phone book will be delivered any day.
Running out of books to read. I have a pile of books I have never gotten to!
Having no choices of things to watch. Netflix and Amazon could keep me entertained forever.
Being socially isolated. It is spring now and I can walk outside while I am healthy.
Having no one to talk to. My friends are a phone call away.
Having no on-line connections. My readership keeps climbing and I have a group of blogging friends.
For those of you who have a faith life, you will know of the many ways I experience moments of calm through prayer and reading.
Panic disturbs the body and doesn’t help protect us in this crisis. I hope we can continue to help each other calm down. None of us has control over the disease. We can attempt to corral in our own fear and seek rest in these times. Peace friends.
Sadly for the last four years the leader of the United States has been obsessed with keeping people from crossing our southern border. He has asked for billions of dollars to construct a fence such as the section pictured above. Money has come from many sources, and that has left many designated projects unfunded.
But the coronavirus doesn’t care about walls. It also doesn’t care that a nation has turned towards isolationism or nationalism. And now it has crossed around the planet, proving that we fool ourselves to believe that what happens in another part of the world doesn’t concern us.
May we realize that nothing has changed since the immortal words in 1623 of John Donne.
For Whom the Bell Tolls
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
In the mid-1960’s I visited my uncle in New York City and learned about “pay television.” Paying for the service meant he didn’t have to endure ads, but could just enjoy the shows. Sadly, in the intervening years, “pay television” in its earliest form disappeared, replaced by paying for cable service with all the shows now replete with ads. In some areas, such as ours, it is difficult to get any reception without paying for the cable service, so we pay to watch countless ads. Such a deal! (And don’t get me started at being bombarded with ads at the movie theater after paying for an admission ticket!)
Fortunately the old style pay television has been replaced by streaming services such as Netflix. For a monthly fee, we can watch countless shows. Our family shares the service, and we all find shows we like. Sometimes, however, if a child has been watching, the algorithm suggests that I might like another superhero movie!
Netflix reaches millions of homes and is able to produce a great deal of original programming of its own. Most recently I was delighted to watch a documentary series, Babies, which recently premiered here. Through a series of six episodes, I was able to learn all the newest research about babies, including their motor development, sleep patterns, food requirements, and attachment needs.
Why when my babies are full grown and the grandchildren are no longer babies either would I be riveted by the series? Well, first there is the cute factor. Babies from all over the world feature in the films. But mainly I love learning how much more we now know about what goes on in the first year of a baby’s life. I met researchers who carefully explored common ideas, now proved incorrect, about growth and crawling. I loved their dedication to science designed to help parents bring up these complex beings.
My generation of Americans, born just after World War II, has been aging averse as long as I can remember. Only adults as smug as many of us are could come up with the phrase “70 is the new 50.” But as the coronavirus spreads around the world, it becomes clear that thinking doesn’t make it so when it comes to age and disease. In the current health crisis, 70 is not the new 50 at all. In fact, 70 is 5-10 years into the category our Centers for Disease Control consider high risk of complications and death from the virus.
At first I took this caution to refer to people my age with underlying health issues such as diabetes, health struggles and COPD. My doctor disabused me of this belief in a chat I had with him last week. While it is true, he said, that the risk is higher for those with underlying issues, healthy people my age are still at greater risk. Apparently our immune system weakens with age, healthy habits or no.
At church Sunday I found many of my friends also having to adjust to the reality that we are those designated as “elderly,” “old” and “at greater risk.” Our church has recognized the risks and has already altered many time honored practices. In time we may have to stay home.
Sadly, the head of our nation, also one of my generation, has been constantly spewing lies about risks and containment. Because very few U.S. citizens have been tested, our numbers look very low. Once wider testing begins, it will become obvious that any time for containment passed many weeks ago. People without any known exposure are becoming ill across the nation.
I am adjusting to this new reality. I am an older adult. I need to be extra cautious, avoiding going places, scrupulously washing my hands, staying away from anyone with a bug. I would rather be 50, but I am not!
My grandchildren live next door and the weather has warmed up just enough for spring training to begin. While they lack a hoop, they are undeterred in their efforts to perfect their basketball skills. Although they can’t practice shooting, they can endlessly dribble the ball and swoop in to take it from the others. There is a constant thump in my office which overlooks the driveway where they play.
The sound reminds me of the tennis ball hitting our garage door over and again as I tried to improve my swing. I liked the noise, but it had a way of getting on my mother’s nerves as I recall. The door was metal, and I imagine the sound was rather annoying.
It was just warm enough today for the first motorcycle rider to floor his machine on the two straight blocks of our street which lie between two stop signs. Spring approaches for sure when that happens. Fortunately the storm windows block some of the noise. It’s early yet for the lawn mowers and weed whackers, but their loud sounds are soon to arrive.
Winter has been very quiet, with the snow plows only passing after one storm and the snow blowers being tucked away into garages. Spring is signaling its arrival with its seasonal cacophony and I smile a little as my ears adjust.
This Sunday is International Women’s Day about which I know nothing beyond its notation on my calendar. However, it seemed a timely moment to share a memoir I recently finished, Hill Women by Cassie Chambers. Chambers, raised in Eastern Kentucky, in a terrain of hollows and coal mines, tries to show us a glimpse of the strong women who surrounded her as she grew up.
The Appalachian people are often either denigrated or held up as examples of whatever the writer wants to portray. Chambers aimed for a more balanced view. Yes there is poverty, but there is also resourcefulness. Yes, there are few jobs, but people aren’t eager to leave everything they know to find employment. Yes there is much domestic violence, but there is also deep family connection.
Unlike many writers, Chambers returned to Kentucky after law school intent on providing legal services to women from her home country. While she lives in Louisville now, she has been instrumental in changing some laws that adversely affected poor women. One such law required a woman divorcing an abusing husband to pay his legal fees!
I spent a year traveling the back roads of Oregon providing Head Start in home for children too scattered to come to a common classroom. The women holding those families together resembled the ones Chambers chronicles. Fierce, proud, conflicted, dealing with poverty and volatile men, they had no interest in leaving the Oregon woods for the “big city” either.
The book reminded me to hesitate to suggest that people with few employment prospects “simply move.” There is no such thing as a “simple” relocation.
I went to college with some people who were so like Bernie Sanders that I sometimes have to remind myself that I don’t know him personally. I didn’t like their pontificating, rejoicing in Cuba, denouncing the “establishment,” and generally touting themselves as superior to the rest of us poor souls. Needless to say, I am not any more attracted to the 50 year later version running for President, shouting at me with that same zealous attitude. So I was quite relieved to find that across the United States many more people felt that way than I realized. Maybe I won’t have to decide between a socialist and the incumbent in November.
Then, already feeling a little more hopeful, I went outside and found this patch of crocus flowers in full display. (The little sticks are to help my husband find the bulbs later.) If you look around the purple, you will see a variety of brown. Brown has been the dominant color here for months since we had almost no snowfall. Brown trees, brown dirt, and brown dead plants have been the only landscaping here for a long time. The crocus emerging reminds me that there are in fact other colors in nature’s palette!
The sun is out. It is above freezing. The dog is shedding her winter coat. Things are looking up.
Many phrases in common usage irritate me, probably because of the way I think too long about them. One such comes into play when a mother writes she is going on a trip to “make memories” with her children. I think I resist the notion that anything should be undertaken with the purpose of “making memories.” For me that puts distance between the activity and its enjoyment. I often have the same feeling when someone is videotaping for a long time at a kid’s party without pausing to actually enjoy the time.
Above my mother, my grandmother and my great grandmother paused at a picnic to have my grandfather take a picture of them. It’s a lovely moment, one that I am glad that he captured for me to enjoy years later. However, I am sure he didn’t think “let’s go on a picnic to make memories.” Instead he went on a picnic and memories did or didn’t follow.
Genuine memories form in children all the time. I enjoy talking with my grandchildren about times we had in the past. We have traveled, eaten together, made craft projects and just hung out for long boring times. We say back and forth “do you remember?” Sometimes just one of us does, sometimes all of us do. But we live our lives, memories piling up, and no one needs to set out to “make” them happen.
(Maybe a little curmudgeonly today. Less so than what I might have written. It is Super Tuesday in the Democratic Primary season and it has affected my mood. I am trying to forget, not make memories!)
It had been quite a long time since I had been to live theater. For many years one of our children acted and sang professionally, so I was a regular attendee. But yesterday I went with a friend from the gym to see the play Lifespan of a Fact at Theaterworks in Hartford. My first visit to space impressed me. They had recently finished a major overhaul resulting in a welcoming first floor lounge and bar which complements the basement theater. (Climbing down to see the play was easier than climbing back up all those stairs! There was an elevator for those who needed it.)
I purposely avoided reading anything about the play before we went, preferring to be caught up by the dialogue and plot. This proved to be wise, since knowing too much about the play would have blunted my enjoyment. Only three actors exchange lengthy and witty conversations over the 80 minute, no intermission, play. Without giving away any details, the question comes down to fact checking and literary license in a sparring match of words.
While the play premiered on Broadway in 2018, it appears to be very popular in regional theaters such as my own. When it comes to your neck of the woods, I suggest you go see it. Timely without being didactic, the play held my interest and I was glad I was back in front of real actors using a well honed script. Quite a contrast to many political speeches I have had to endure recently!