What We Owe the Dead

 

I’ve heard a lot of people saying that they’ve stopped listening to
or reading the news, that they don’t need to know how many fell ill or died from COVID-19 in the last day or the last hour. Sometimes one of the people I hear saying that is me. And that’s all right. We all have to to do what we can to take care of ourselves — though there are so many many many people now whose circumstances will prevent them from getting what they need.

So I do step back from the television and ignore the headlines that flash across the screen of my phone. I put down the New Yorker and pick up Lord Peter Wimsey. I owe it to myself and to my family, to the nurses and doctors at the hospitals, to society in general, to stay as sane and healthy as I can.

 

But then I start thinking about what we owe the dead.

 

I don’t know any of them — yet. I can’t imagine that I’ll get through this time of coronavirus and sorrow and incomprehensible loss and criminal stupidity without knowing someone who gets ill from the virus, someone who dies — without, perhaps, falling ill or dying myself.

But whether I ever know anyone who contracts COVID-19 doesn’t matter.

 

 

 

While this pandemic rages, while it takes lives and destroys the health, happiness, and fortunes of thousands, of millions, of (for a while) most of us, let us witness all we can stand to witness. Let’s those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to do so, take our breaks and catch our breaths, and then, if we can, let us witness as much as we can take in. Let us learn and remember names of strangers who have died without the solace of their loved ones, of the families left to gasp and mourn. Let us remember the dead in the aggregate, the inevitable deaths and the ones that could have been prevented if more people in our government had given a damn. Let’s write letters and journals and blogs to record the losses, the emotions, the unforgivable neglect by government officials, the kindnesses of neighbours, the teachers driving through neighbourhoods to cheer the students who can’t see them at school, the sacrifices of first responders, of doctors, nurses, postal carriers, store clerks, delivery folks, volunteers — of anyone who gave more than could be expected or should have been asked.

Let’s make it personal.

Let us note too, the almost eerie benefits, the way the earth has
seized this interminable moment to clear the air, to calm the crust. Let us remember the resurgence of birds and the quieter days that didn’t grate along our nerves. Let’s give thanks for the cessation of robo-calls and phone solicitations.

 

And when we figure out how to live with this virus, when we have a vaccine and cure, we should remember all we can and share what we remember, for no one of us will remember it all.

We are bound to hear. And that, my friends, is what I think we owe the dead.

Inktober 2019, Day Twenty-seven: Oh My Stars!

Inktober Prompt: Coat
GoldspotPrompt: Outbreak

27 October, 2019

Dear Bridget,

My thoughts have been swirling so that I have been roused from my bed these several nights. I have bundled myself up against the chill of the darkling hours and gone to sit on my balcony to watch the Orionids. With the collar of my jacket turned up, I have watched the falling stars coat the sky with movement, one startling wonder after another, then returned to bed to dream of the woods, the pond, and the sense of dragon.

Last night ~ this early morning really ~ perhaps I dozed while star-gazing, but it seemed to me that there was an outbreak of brilliant meteors and that, in one of those elongated flashes of time, they coalesced into the same semblance of a dragon that the sunset casts upon the pond in my dream. The dragon-stars’ head was pointed toward your house, and all the meteors streamed in that direction so that the dragon seemed to fly.

I must have dreamt it; there was nothing in the morning papers about the occurrence.

I write this before the post has had a chance to bring a note from you, but I wanted to jot it down before the rational light off day could persuade me the vision was mere nonsense springing from the fevered brain of

Your
Hannah

#30Inks30Days 6 April, 2020

#30Inks30Days
Diamine Shimmertastic Golden Ivy

I’m still stuck on the story. It may be a lost cause.

#30Inks30Days 5 April, 2020

Organics Studio Limited Edition Jazz Hands 

Sorry about the disruption to the story. Maybe tomorrow my brain will come back.

Adventures Outside the House During Our Time of Isolation

Yesterday I ventured forth farther a-field than I have for three weeks. I had an health appointment and my son agreed to take me so I wouldn’t have to take the bus (I don’t drive). I thought I would be excited to leave the house, but in truth I was mostly nervous. I looked up how to make a mask from a bandana and hair bands:

You can find instructions on how to make your own COVID-19 fashion statement here. I had a hard time getting the elastic bands to stay looped over my ears, so when I got home, I strung three together, before slipping the bandana through the end two, to allow the elastic to go around my head. I haven’t tried wearing it outside as I walk around yet, but I have high hopes it will stay in place a little better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the way in, there were some cars, but many stretches of the road were almost empty.

We passed my favourite pond. There were two grey herons on it, a bird I hadn’t seen there before. I hope they’re nesting. Someone pointed out to me that the birds have been loving the quieter days and the cleaner air, and since then I have noticed that there are indeed more birds around than we’ve had for a while.

 

      After my appointment, we had a couple errands to run, one on the pedestrian mall. It was stunning to see how empty it was. The homeless folk had gathered primarily in one area, but most were keeping several yards apart from each other and talking about the pandemic.

I was surprised by how many restaurants were not limiting themselves to take out or curbside pick-up. Quite a number were open for business as more-or-less usual. THIS IS WHY WE NEED A NATIONAL SHUT-DOWN, PEOPLE. We can’t count on folks to stay away from each other if it isn’t mandated as a necessity.

There were few shoppers around; many of them were wearing scarves or masks. We looked like a small convention of highway robbers.

Because I’ve been cooped up at home, my son and I took the scenic route home. We saw trees just coming out of dormancy, still all bones, but not for long.*

There were some mountains, too.

Honestly, I feel as if the world has undergone such a cataclysm that I wasn’t sure the Rockies would still be there. It’s like living in one of those SciFi movies in which most of the population has been swept away by a plague and everyone is afraid of everyone else, but it’s not a movie.

Be careful out there, folks.

________________________

* Winter trees remind me of the first and last verses of Theodore Roethke’s poem, “I Knew A Woman”:

I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,
When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them;   
Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one:   
The shapes a bright container can contain!
Of her choice virtues only gods should speak,
Or English poets who grew up on Greek
(I’d have them sing in chorus, cheek to cheek).
………………………………
Let seed be grass, and grass turn into hay:   
I’m martyr to a motion not my own;
What’s freedom for? To know eternity.
I swear she cast a shadow white as stone.   
But who would count eternity in days?
These old bones live to learn her wanton ways:   
(I measure time by how a body sways).
(https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43331/i-knew-a-woman)

 

The Peach Chronicles, Part II

Well, I am sure everyone had a sleepless night, worrying about the peach tree. I am pleased to offer a bit of good news: I think the lights may have worked! Take a look:

 

Not only do most of the blossoms that were there before seem to be there still, but there are even some new ones:

The foreseeable future offers some dips down to freezing temps, but no hard freezes. But then there’s the rest of April, squirrels (who literally will take one bite of a peach and then throw it as far as they can), bugs, birds…
Kinehora, all!

Inktober 2019, Day Twenty-four: An Eerie Coincidence…

Inktober Prompt: Dizzy
GoldspotPrompt: Ghost

24 October, 2019

Bridget,

These coincidences are almost too many to believe, queer and eerie ~ we shall have a neologism: queerie ~ but perhaps that is just how the world works.

Dr. Torres found the volume in a book store ~ I should like to know which one! ~ as she was driving here to open her new practice? Do you believe this account, Bridie? It makes me a little dizzy in those parts of my brain struggling to maintain a link to logic.

And to find out that you, or your family, are part of local legend and you never knew! I was aware that your mother was another Bridget, but, like you, I had no idea that your family always had a Bridie in every generation of the family tree. All this you learnt from the introduction! Do any of the legends in the book hold clues as to what is happening now?

It saddens me that your father is not improving any longer. How often what we see in others reflects back to us; how aching it must be to have your father look through you as if you were a ghost. In my little world, you are the reality that is

Most substantial,
Hannah

#30Inks30Days: 1 April, 2020

 

1 April, 2020

And just in time, for those of us who need something else to do while practicing social distancing, comes another #30Inks30Days! (Thanks to Tom Oddo of Ink Journal for coming up with this challenge.) Here’s my first day’s inking:

Today’s Ink is Robert Oster Australian Opal Grey. It’s very much the colours of the clouds that will bring the rain and snow that will endanger my peach blossoms (see my previous post).

While We Wait

I’m not the Pollyanna type: my approach to life is more Pessimists are never disappointed. BUT — desperate times, desperate measures. So while we wait for this fearful virus to relent, I have been trying to remind myself that there are still some soul-lifting aspects to life. So I have been out with my camera*, taking photos of sunsets:

 

 

 

 

   

I have been tracking the moon:

             

and watching for the flowers to add colour to the world:

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

AND — I have been chronicling the emergence of blossoms on our peach tree:

   

 

 

 

Our temperatures are about to drop into the twenties with rain and snow, so I am worried that after Friday, there will be no more blossoms, and no peaches later (though last time we had peaches, the wasps ate more than we did).

Stay tuned. I’ll update the state of the peach tree later. Stay well.

 

_____________

*All the photos, like all the contents of this blog, are copyrighted to me.

COVID Nineteen and Quarantine

Here at my house, we’re in self-quarantine mode. A week ago Saturday, my husband drove up into the mountains to fetch home our son for Spring Break. The next day, Sunday, late in the afternoon, two days AFTER colleges let out for vacation, the Colorado Health Department put out an alert stating that all those in several mountain towns, including our son’s, should NOT LEAVE and, if they had, they should isolate themselves for fourteen days. 

Monday I called the Health Department (and was on hold so long that the battery on one of our handsets gave out) and was told, yes, we all had to stay at home for the fortnight. (Just for the record, the woman with whom I spoke was kind and sensible. She answered all my questions and never rushed me to get off the phone.) So the warning came too late for us, and we’re mostly here at home. My husband and son, as recommended, are getting out for solitary walks and bike rides, both of them careful to stay six feet away from anyone else. My M.E. keeps me closer to home, but we are fortunate enough to have our own backyard and a park across the street.

So far, none of us is showing any signs of the virus, but I suspect it’s only a matter of time before at least one of us comes down with it. I confess the prospect of having a tube put down my throat to breathe for me scares me tremendously. Worse is the idea of someone for whom I care being taken away someplace where I can’t ladle chicken soup down her or his throat.

We’d been having groceries delivered, but now the demand is so high for both delivery and curbside pick up that we haven’t been able to schedule a time to obtain food. We’ll be able to hold out until Saturday when, presumably, we’ll be able to shop for ourselves again.

A lot has been written about the perils of isolation, and I feel some of that. Jenny Lawson wrote

I am a natural introvert so I’ve been training for this for my whole life, but don’t let anyone tell you that this is easy for hermits. Personally, I’m feeling very grateful that Victor and I already work from home and Hailey has been in correspondence high school so this shouldn’t really feel very different for us but honestly it really is and it’s very easy for me to fall back into my agoraphobic tendencies and spiral into a depression or let my anxiety spin me out so remember to take care of yourself and others mentally during this time. 

I’m another introvert, but just knowing that I can’t go places I need or want to go (I’m missing physical therapy and doctors’ appointments, and do you know how long it’s been since I’ve been to the book store? It’s been over three weeks now, people. I expect to get the literary DTs any moment and start talking to large, pink Elizabeth Bennets, Violas, Bagginses, and Peter Grants) makes me feel trapped. I’m finding that sheltering in place isn’t helping my anxiety and depression either.

But for now, what’s harder is the lack of isolation. I’m used to spending most of my time by myself, but now there are these two big guys in my space ALL THE TIME. They act like they live here. The nerve! The gall!

To make matters worse, our house has paper-thin walls and air ducts that carry sound beautifully. So while it’s possible to close a door and not be seen, there is no aural privacy, no way to have a bit of a cry, throw a minor tantrum, conduct a confidential conversation, or indulge in some maniacal laughter without being overheard.

While I could use a few hours of isolation, that’s probably about all I could take. Ultimately, I’m happier with my family here at home, where I am irrationally believing that I’ll be able to ward off this virus with my well-honed Evil Eye. Please don’t disillusion me.