It’s been more than 100 days since coronavirus came to town. One hundred and six days, exactly, since Friday, March 13th, when I last stood before a classroom full of students. I remember the buzz in the air – the fear, the disbelief, the concern, the uncertainty. We thought we were going to be having classes online for only a couple of weeks. I remember washing my hands until my skin was dry and chapped that day, because, back then, we thought that contact was the primary mode of transmission.
I would have been a lot more freaked out if I knew it could float through the air on someone’s exhale – someone who didn’t appear infected.
I think that there is always a brief moment, when the world begins to lurch in a new direction, when we all try to deny what we’re feeling – when we try to deny that everything is off kilter. A few weeks ago, I gathered with a group of women from Homeward Bound via Zoom for a community yoga class. At some point, in a balance pose, I remembered the disequilibrium I felt crossing the Drake Passage in a storm. The initial rise in ocean swell came on slowly. So slowly, it was hard to tell anything was changing, except for the stirrings in my stomach.
Crossing the Drake Passage aboard the MV Ushuaia in a storm in January 2019. Photo from a video filmed by Lesley Sefcik. I think, for many of us, life right now feels somewhat like being on a ship in a storm.
Day 4 of Serious Social Distancing: It’s March in Colorado, which means the weather is up and down. The Poudre Learning Center in Greeley, CO was a great place to stay away from people.
Let’s get right to the point: Life is quite different today, for a lot of us, than it was a couple of weeks ago. And the uncertainty that hangs in the air about the coming weeks (months?) is gnawing at you. Maybe you felt it coming. I know I did. I felt cranky all through early March. The news of coronavirus filtered through into my subconscious – still third-page news, but it was there, and something didn’t feel right.
That was the time before the time when everything changed.
A ring of giants at Henry Cowell.
I recently found myself walking on the toes of giants. It’s possible to lose your balance when you gaze up to look at them. They sway, drawing circles in the sky, even without wind. I’ve missed these trees.
When I wake up to see tendrils of fog hanging from the streetlight, or rain-wet roads, I know we have arrived unequivocally in autumn. Apparently, September used to hold potential for the first snowfall as well, but that hasn’t happened in the past decade. These wetter mornings tend to punctuate strings of sunny blue autumn days – the kind of days that inspire you to plant bulbs and buy pumpkin-spice flavored things.
I had a longing to see the aspens this year. Leaf peeping is all the rage in September in the Rockies. In fact, it’s so much of a rage, that I have avoided going up into the mountains – especially into Rocky Mountain National Park – for years.
There is a Japanese term, shinrin-yoku, which basically means ‘forest-bathing’. This is the idea that a forest holds healing properties, and you can take advantage of that by ‘breathing it in.’ In South Korea, they’ve adopted this idea on a national level, and are moving toward establishing ‘healing forests’ through the country, as an antidote to city living. This is running through my mind as I hike the ridge above Fort Collins, ‘breathing in’ a small grove of beetle-killed trees. Do damaged forests have the same effect?
It’s June 1st, 2017. My mom died three years ago on this day. And while I contemplated a grey tangle of branches, the POTUS was pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord.
Since I moved to Colorado more than 12 years ago, the pine bark beetle has transformed the landscape of the Rockies. Warmer winters have allowed the infestation to spread through most of Colorado.
A little story in honor of an old friend…
This place is called Inch. It’s a long white strand of sand, bordered on one side by a wide strip of tall grass, and other other, by the wild Atlantic. When we arrive, the ocean is discharging a fury that grew over a thousand blue miles of wind and waves. The beach is completely deserted. We are tired from cycling into the damp wind, but exhilarated by the ride. We lock our bikes to a chainlink fence and knock on the door of the dilapidated, rusty trailer home at the edge of the beach. There are a few other farm homes scattered down the road, but it’s not really a beach day, and there’s no one in sight.
Beach at Inch along the Dingle Peninsula – much more populated than I remember it. My own photos are much too faded to share here. [Photo by Pedelecs (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons]
The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates suggested that the arc of the moral universe rather “bends toward chaos” in his appearance on the Daily Show in 2015.
So which is it? Does the universe bend toward justice or chaos?
Carl Sagan wrote about the importance of understanding science (the habit of rational thought) in preserving our democracy, and said that “if we don’t practice these tough habits of thought, we cannot hope to solve the truly serious problems that face us – and we risk becoming a nation of suckers, a world of suckers, up for grabs by the next charlatan who saunters along” (from The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, 1996).
I was hoping for a photo here that would appear a bit scarier…But maybe these clownish jack-o-lanterns are perfectly appropriate.
A little over one year ago I began my very first (long-awaited) sabbatical as a university professor – four months ago today I arrived in Ecuador. I get lots of well-meaning people saying things like ‘Time must be whizzing by for you,’ and ‘I can’t believe you’ve been away X amount of time – I’m sure you can’t either!’ I nod and smile and laugh (or do the equivalent in FB and email). This sense of time escaping us is something we all share. But the truth is, this has absolutely been the longest year of my entire life.
One year ago today, my Mom left this Earth.
Sunset in Hawaii – Photo by Marilyn Shellito