Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Pandemic Diaries Year 2 Weeks #1 & #2

16 March 2021

My friends at Public Works in Linwood, New Jersey, sent a photo of the park sign and updated landscaping, and I thought I should add the photo in here.  And then my sister-in-law J took some photos and sent them as well.

The sign is looking great for having spent the winter out in the park!  So happy to see it held up to the snow and rain they had in the northern regions of the US.  Not that New Jersey has anything like the snow that some states encountered, but they certainly saw more snow and ice than we did here in Florida!

I'm hoping that Public Works added in an azalea or two as we discussed last autumn, especially if they can find more in that pretty pink I used for outlining the letters.  I can't quite see exactly what those two small bushes in front of the sign are, but that really would make the letters pop even more!

We should be back in Linwood in May, so I'll definitely need to go see how it looks!

29 March 2021

There really isn't much going on.  We've had our vaccines, and supposedly have as much immunity as can be expected at this time.  But given the viral caseload here, as well as the rampant partying during spring break, it doesn't seem very safe to be going out into areas with a lot of people.  We don't live close enough to family or friends to go visiting, and neither of us really wants to go shopping.  

So we find things to do at home.  I finished a large afghan, and have started painting again.  There are online art workshops, always interesting.  We both enjoy our e-readers, and Richard is continuing with his physical therapy.  

My therapy continues to be spending time at the dock, just watching the water and the birds.  I keep hoping to spot an alligator - at a distance, of course.

Spring is here, though, and some birds are heading south or west for breeding season.  Others nest here in Florida, though I don't think I've seen any chicks yet.

It does seem as if parts of the country are opening up, as are various regions in the world.  Which has me thinking about travelling again.  Especially since we both are fully vaccinated.

But then, I think about the statistics we're hearing - something like the ten richest and/or most developed (or industrialized) nations have purchased something like 75% of the available vaccines currently.  How fair is that?  We aren't even half the world's population, those ten nations added together - how can we buy three-quarters of the vaccines available, leaving barely one-quarter of the currently manufactured vaccines for the rest of the world?

If we travel, how ethical or moral is it, knowing that I'm basically privileged to have had the vaccine only by the accident of being born in the US?  Won't I be flaunting that privilege in front of people who are doing their best to survive year 2 of this pandemic?  What kind of "global citizen" would I be then?

And is it even safe for travel yet?  There are different variants with this constantly-mutating Covid virus, some much more contagious than the original virus.  How safe would it be if someone caught one of those variants?  What are the chances of bringing that back to the US?  And will our current vaccines even protect us from these variants?  How long does the vaccine immunity last, anyway?

I know that many developing countries depend on tourist and traveller dollars (and other currencies) for their economy, that small businesses worldwide are going under due to the lack of travel.  But TRAVEL is what turned a small viral outbreak into this worldwide pandemic!  Trust me, I understand wanderlust, that ever curious need to see new places, explore new cultures.  But that's how this virus spread from nation to nation and continent to continent - through tourists, travellers, and people visiting family.  We humans spread the virus through our travel.

So not only am I questioning whether travel would be moral or ethical, I'm also questioning whether travel right now would even be smart.  

Seems kind of like a big no.

The Center for Disease Control is still asking US citizens to not travel, especially not to travel overseas.  It still isn't safe - for us, for our families, for our neighbors, for our nations. 


So when our lease on our Florida house is up, we'll drive back to New Jersey.  We'll attend two socially-distanced and masked minimal family events that were postponed from last fall and winter.  And we'll eventually drive ourselves across the country, back to our home base in Washington state, for our usual medical check ups and renewal of prescriptions.  All that older people stuff.


Until then, we'll continue to enjoy the warming weather and the flowers.  The local and migrating birds.  The amusing trapeze artist squirrels living in the trees around this house.  The high and low tides at the dock.  The single giant leaf floating in the pool.  Even the occasional gale that blows through, or the ever-changing skies.


It isn't optimal.  It isn't our first choice of what we'd really like to do.  Not even our second choice.


But at this point in time, it's the safest choice.  Which seems like the smartest choice.


And thus, it becomes the only choice.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Pandemic Diaries Week #51 & Week #52

5 March 2021


Well this is exciting!  Today is one of those almost-warm sunny days that happen in late winter to early spring, so after checking the mail I wandered on down to the dock.  It was pretty wild and windy, the tide was fairly high, and there were various birds in the distance or flying around, but nothing close by.


So I sat on the dock bench and drank my tea, just enjoying the sun and nature, hearing the occasional plop of a fish jumping in the water.  And watching an osprey flying around, hoping to catch one of those fish.

Eventually, I decided to head back to the house, leaving the dock and walking to the pool area.  


And there, flying overhead, was a bird I've never seen before, but I knew exactly what it was since I'd looked this one up previously - it was a wood stork!!!  Really large bird, about the size of a great blue heron, with those long lazy flaps of those huge wings, long neck stretched out, long legs trailing behind.  Beautiful snow white with jet black feathers edging the underside of the wings, a very dark beak and dark legs.  I couldn't see the top of the head, since this bird was flying over me - but wow, what a thrill!!!


It's always exciting to see and identify a new bird!  No, I'm not keeping a life list, nor am I trying to see every single bird species in the world.  I just like to see them, and have a clue what I'm looking at - it helps to know what they are, rather than "some random big white bird with black edges."  


So yes, my first wood stork!  



Note - photos are from online.  I took a few photos, but the bird was flying away from me, and I wasn't quite as quick with the camera as I might have been had I known this stork was in the neighborhood!



13 March 2021


I went down to the dock to watch the birds, the sunset, and have some time to just be.  To enjoy the peace and quiet and beauty of nature, and all that.


The tide was coming in, and good sized fish were jumping.  Herons and egrets were flying overhead, singly or in couples or in some larger squadrons.  


And then, in the gathering lavender light, as the sun was setting and the gold and green marsh was settling into darkness, a huge pink bird came swooping down along our creek, right in front of the dock!  OMIGOSH!!!  A roseate spoonbill, one of the prettiest birds ever, a rosy cool pink, the slow leisurely flap of those huge wings almost the size of a great blue heron!!!

I was so surprised to see this gorgeous bird right here, right in front of me, I forgot to turn the camera on for photos.  The spoonbill flew southward over the landward side of the swamp, and settled in for the night somewhere in the reeds and grasses.

So yes, all these photos of roseate spoonbills are from the internet.

But wow, what a gift from the universe, this incredible pink bird flying nearly close enough to touch, sauntering along the intracoastal and spending the night nearby.  I have a roseate spoonbill neighbor for the night!

14 March 2021

This is the end of our first year of the pandemic.  Weird, isn't it?  I keep thinking about Giovanni Boccaccio, who wrote The Decameron during a Black Death epidemic in Europe during the late Medieval period (1348-1350).  (The epidemic killed between 25% to 50% of the population of Europe at the time.  Many scholars believe the changes caused by this outbreak of the plague led to the development of the Renaissance era.)  


Or Samuel Pepys, who kept a diary of the 1660s outbreak of the Black Death, a repeating pandemic that continued off and on into the 1800s.  William Shakespeare was an infant in the 1593 plague in England; his parents locked themselves and the baby Will in their cottage after having lost two other children to the bubonic plague.  And the adult Shakespeare allegedly wrote three of his tragedies:  "MacBeth," "King Lear," and "Antony and Cleopatra" during later outbreaks of the plague.  He stayed in London during these epidemics, self-isolating, and wrote what some critics believe are his greatest works.  It is rather notable that Shakespeare wrote during the plague outbreaks, but not about them.


Visual artists chronicled various diseases and plagues, ranging from the pestilence mentioned in the story of Exodus and illustrated in the Passover Haggadah, to Renaissance artists painting the triumph of death during plague periods, to more modern artists like Egon Schiele and Edvard Munch while recuperating from the so-called Spanish Influenza.  Sometimes Death in the form of a skeleton or hooded figure lingers in the background of the painting, sometimes the subject of the portrait died of the plague.  Sometimes a saint comes to save an entire city.  And in the self-portraits, the artists painted themselves almost faceless - one of many ill, one of many dead, the facelessness reminding us that while nameless or unknown to us, each death affects each of us, and should be mourned.

During our current pandemic, artists around the world are using public art to portray life during the Covid era, as well as to educate people about safety measures like masking and distancing.  This is my favorite article with images:



There's also music created during pandemic times as well - a hymn dating back to the 1400s refers to the bubonic plague (composer John Cooke); in 1723 during another outbreak, Bach composed his Cantata No. 25,  titled "There is Nothing Healthy in My Body."  Stravinsky survived the Spanish flu in 1920, and he revised his Firebird Suite after his recuperation.  Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, and Bartok all survived the Spanish flu era (only Prokofiev did not fall ill with the influenza), and created compositions that reflect that experience. 


We've all seen the videos of people singing or playing musical instruments from their balconies in northern Italian towns during their lockdowns - the music is beautiful and haunting, a reminder of the horrendous death toll as well as the need for solace during such a time.  And the need for beauty and creativity, even while mourning.  (Historical records show that the citizens of Milan did the same thing in 1576 during another epidemic lockdown!)

It all make me wonder about creativity during a pandemic.  I'm painting more, and doing a ton of crochet projects.  My sister has started painting with acrylics, and suddenly is having a painting fest.  My fiber artist friends are busy quilting or weaving or whatever.  Artists are offering online workshops, musicians are posting online concerts.  


And cooking!  Cooking is a wonderful creative outlet - look at how many people have taken up baking, especially bread and sourdough.  How many people are cooking up a frenzy with all this extra time at home? 

So why do we all feel a need to be creative?  Sure, part of it is to fill the hours we used to spend outside our homes, doing whatever we did - walking, shopping, spending time with friends, exercising at the gym, even commuting to work.  During this pandemic, especially when there are shutdowns or lockdowns to try to stop the spread of Covid, we really do need to find things to do at home.  We suddenly have what feels like extra time.

But I also think there is something very life-affirming about creating art, whatever art form we express ourselves in and through.  The products we create say "I am here, I am alive!"  Just as we create life through procreation, we talk about giving birth to a major work of art.  We affirm that we are alive, living, thinking, caring, creative human beings.


We humans are just so susceptible and fragile.  But our creations - visual art, writing, music, architecture, etc. - live on long after we're gone.

Not that I believe my little blog of the pandemic diaries will live on after my eventual demise.  

But there is still that very human desire to create in the face of adversity.

And perhaps our acts of creation are also our way of defying Death, keeping that hooded skeletal figure at bay.  As long as I think and I create, I can say I AM ALIVE.  


And you, Death, you haven't gotten me yet.