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I need to ask you again: are you OK?

Today has been a stressful day in so many ways.

The obvious stressor is that it has been 50 years since the Kent State Massacre. I was 12. I fully understood that our National Guardsmen had opened fire on a peaceful anti-war protest on the campus of Kent State University in Ohio. My parents did not join the chorus of conservative voices shouting, “Those Commie kids deserved it!”. They were thoughtful, quiet. What did it mean when our own military opens fire on our own youth?

I still believe it was a tragic comedy unfolding: young National Guardsmen scarcely older than the students at the University. A frightened soldier pulls a trigger. Chaos ensues. Collateral damage includes students and bystanders not involved in the sit-in. Four young people die. The tragedy is seared into our consciousness and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young commemorate it for eternity: “Four dead in Ohio…”

Nixon was a terrible president.

Novel Coronavirus still hangs over our heads, but we are more divided now than ever. We should be more united. There is so much disinformation out there, on the airwaves and the cables and the WiFi, that you can pick your own truth and support it with references. We’re starting to hate each other and fear each other.

You say: “We need ‘herd immunity'” You think that means that we just let the virus run its course as we live our lives normally, no masks and no quarantine.

I hear: “The weak, the vulnerable, the imunocompromised, the aged, the handicapped – all these are people you are willing to sacrifice to the god of – what? your ‘freedom’?”

You say: “If you feel threatened, just stay home while the rest of us go about business as usual.”

I hear: “So what if your twelve year old grandson wants to go to visit his friends? He’s got underlying health issues, so he can sacrifice his childhood while the rest of us go out and play on swings or ride bikes in the skate park. He can just stay home.”

Words carry so much power. Words create so many images.

I say: “Trust science.”

You hear: “She’s swallowed the Kool-aid and is willing to give up her rights for the sake of ‘safety’ when noone can guarantee safety.”

I say: “There will be a second wave come the end of summer.”

You hear: “She lives in fear. She’s a sheep. She is a follower.”

I say: “Just wear a mask.”

You hear: “She thinks a mask will protect her from the virus. It won’t”

And you’d be right in this case: I don’t wear a mask in public to protect myself from anything. I wear it just in case I am an asymptomatic carrier of the virus. I don’t want to spread this thing.

Have you noticed, no one has suggested coming for our guns during this pandemic? Maybe they have, I haven’t seen any memes to that effect – and memes tell the whole truth, don’t they?

By the by, I researched “herd immunity”. It doesn’t mean what you think it means or what I think it means. Herd immunity (in humans) is reached when there is a viable vaccine and enough people are vaccinated against the virus to not only slow its progress, but to possibly stop it in its tracks. We don’t have herd immunity with the Influenza virus because it continues to morph every year and last year’s vaccine is useless against this year’s strain. Still, we slow down the virus because a certain number of people get the vaccine every year.

We aren’t even close to a vaccine for COVID-19.

On a side note: I am not fully convinced of the viability of vaccines. I’ve never had a flu shot. I never had the MMR shots (because I had both the common measles and Rubella as a child – it wasn’t pleasant). I’ve never been exposed to the Mumps. I had a severe case of Chicken Pox as a child. It was miserable.

Chicken Pox is the only one of those common childhood diseases that has an everlasting effect on the body: you can develop shingles as an adult.

I did have the Polio vaccine. There are scars on my left arm. When I was a child, polio was still common enough to cause serious concern. One of my heroines, Wild Horse Annie (Velma Johnston) came out of polio permanently disfigured. She was one of the lucky ones.

Yes, people survive COVID-19. Some come out of it barely scathed. Others come out like Velma Johnston did: disfigured, missing limbs. And others have permanent damage to internal organs: lungs, kidneys, livers. Their lives will never be the same.

Open the economy. Go for it. You are right: I will stay home for the most part. I will continue to wear a mask. I will defy you in public when you try to shame me for wearing a mask. I will avoid travel (as much as I desire to see even one of my very precious ten grandchildren).

I have no answers. I just want the hate to stop. I want you to honor my decisions to stay home, stay isolated as much as possible. You want to go out, I’ll try to honor that. You want to hug, fine – just don’t hug me. Let’s just please stop with the warring, finger-pointing, and shaming.

I’ll start with me. I’m sorry if I made you feel I was pointing my finger at you. I probably was, and I regret that. I’d like to remain friends, but we obviously can’t discuss this right now. I pray you and yours are safe and none of this comes close to home. Heck, I even hope you are right.

I just doubt it. (I know, I know – the last word. But I wrote this and you can respond – and by responding, have the last word. I grant you that).

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*I’ve always been drawn to May Day. When we were little, public schools had a big May Day celebration where one grade would dance around the May Pole and other grades would do something May-appropriate, like dance around a sombrero (Cinco de Mayo). I loved the May Pole part, especially: the bright colors and the folk dance as the kids (my peers) wove around to create a colorful weave on the pole. I don’t know when that ceased to happen, but I know why: it was deemed a pagan holiday and religious in nature, and since we could no longer celebrate anything remotely religious in public school anymore, the practice went by the wayside.

Picking May flowers from one’s garden and carefully placing a blossom on the neighbor’s doorstep before playing doorbell ditch also fell into disrepute. Virgins donning white dresses became as scarce as sightings of fairies in the backyard.

I suspect the pagan celebration is in my genetic memory somewhere, buried in centuries of Celtic/Nordic/Pict/Viking/Welsh family lines. My Christian faith is also deeply rooted in genetic memories, going back as far as the written history goes back.

*We went grocery shopping today. It was a very stressful experience. I wear a face mask. My husband does not, but he takes all the other precautions. So many other people do not – and do not honor the six foot distancing rule. We had to fight employees for space as well as other customers in the narrow aisles of our local Kroger’s.

There are still empty shelves, yet we continue to have a gross amount of choice in products to purchase. Toilet paper, tissue, paper towels, and disinfectants are still limited, as as certain fresh meat products. The only thing we needed was tissue as we are in the midst of prime allergy season for me.

*Internet has been slow all day. I tried to post on my art website and discovered it is “down”. I need to ditch the host anyway. That means phone calls (which I despise making) to two entities. Adding insult to injury, I tried to post my recent illustrations on my Facebook page. My post failed to load.

*We finally decided to purchase new window coverings for the living/dining room windows. The quote came in far below what we were expecting because they gave us a COVIC-19 discount of 30%. The blinds will be installed just before the first of June and summer weather.

*My hot body has turned into a turnip. I’ve never had a hot body, but now I have a quarantine body. No waist at all.

*My paintings! Goodness, after all that, I still want to share what I painted. I tried to picture the pandemic from two points of view, making fun of each other, but I probably failed because of my own predilection.

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Wally is a Guard on duty during a quarantine protest. I copied the signs from actual signs used during just such a demonstration. They aren’t the brightest slogans and certainly do not make the argument to open up. I get that there a economic reasons, but crying about one’s haircut is not one. Or one’s lost golf season. These are basically signs asking other people to come to work to take care of the protestors who are missing their privileges.

Wally must feel the same because he is giving the universal Spotted Skunk tear gas warning. One step closer, and Wally lets it go.

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Henrietta is how I imagine the “Open Up” crowd views those of us who are resisting. Henrietta is a natural loner. She’s obsessively cleaning.Bleach, baking soda, and white vinegar. Anything disinfectant, even though she lives alone and never goes out. She has everything delivered. She wears nitrile gloves (darn those claws that keep poking out). She tracks the virus and has a list of survival rules on the wall, next to her “Polar Bear of the Month” calendar.

Best of all, Henrietta has scored a World War 1 gas mask that she wears at all times (just in case the delivery guy knocks).

I love how I can’t paint a straight line (can’t draw one, either).

We are crossing into the second of May. I’ll have more thoughts later.

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Anxiety.

I sit in my lawn chair, staring ahead at the “island”. It’s an ovate shape in our yard, a slight mound, where the peonies that came with the house are planted, as well as the other flowers I have added over the years, and the dwarf Hawthorne resides. There is a concrete birdbath, a shepherd’s hook holding a wire grate with sunflower seeds and dried mealworms, two more shepherd’s hooks with windchimes. The Camellia tree (or is i a bush?) lies beyond, the pink blossoms going mushy brown and scattering on the ground, and last year’s leaves turning yellow and sickly, New leaves are pushing outward, but the Camellia looks raggedy. A small green stepladder is off to the right: a board has been screwed to the top and peanuts are placed there as daily offerings to the neighborhood corvids (scrub jay and American crows).

I want the colors to sink into my brain, to leave an imprint I will never forget. I can smell lilacs on the air and apple blossoms. The curry plant (not the same as the herb sold in stores, but the aroma is very much the same), the Spanish lavender, and the wild branched of the rosemary, waft their scents into the air. The oregano has not grown back yet, but the grey-green furry leaves are poking out of the ground. My yellow-and-red tulips have faded; the purple tulips dance gently in the breeze. Blue-and-white blossoms cover the lithodora and small bumblebees buzz excitedly over the blossoms. The peonies are all getting ready to bloom, their leafy plumage ranging from deep red to brilliant green – I am always amazed at the variety of color in the foliage of peonies.

I am not okay. I am stressed. Anxious. Sad.

Twice this week, I have seen a meme purporting that there is already a vaccine for coronavirus. It has been posted by people I know and love who are tired of being in “lockdown”. The attached photo is of a vaccine for canine coronavirus. A click of the mouse and I am looking on a search engine. The only sites that come up are veterinary health sites. The vaccine is real. Dogs get *a* coronavirus. It is an intestinal disease specific to the canines. It does not affect other animals or humans. It is *not* the same as novel (new) coronavirus, which is an upper respiratory disease, affects multiple species (so far, cats ,humans, dogs, and possibly bats) and is SARS-CoV-2 virus.

It’s right there, in plain sight: this is NOT a vaccine for the disease and virus we are fighting.

I have been journaling. That’s not new: I’ve journaled since I was thirteen, more or less. I have a box in the attic full of old journals (I think I burned everything prior to 1980). I can tell you about weather patterns throughout my forty year marriage because I recorded those events as they happened. I know all about mild winters, cold winters, harsh winters, mild summers, rainy summers, and dry summers. I wrote it down. I can go back and look up the patterns, the times we planted gardens, when our children took their first steps.

Now I am writing about a novel virus that is changing our world and I still see people in denial of it’s ability to ravage the human (and cat/dog) body. People who are certain this is a Republican/Democrat war for the office of the President of the United States, regardless of the facts that it has ravaged nearly the entire civilized world. It has killed more people in the USA in three months than died during the 2018-2019 influenza season. It has killed more people in the USA than died in the 30 years we were fighting in Viet Nam.

Those numbers are fluid, but probably within a couple thousand either way. And either way, my statements above are true.

Those numbers do not include the numbers of survivors who will have permanent kidney, liver, or lung damage.

Where I live, the effects of the virus are minimal. We’ve had a total of 7 deaths in a large county, with just over a couple hundred infected.No one knows the true number of infected persons because you can’t get tested unless you are on death’s door or an “essential” employee. And if you do get tested, it will be two weeks before you get the results.

COVID-19 often kills within 10 days.

I am not okay. I am stressed. Anxious. I internalize everything because I am an introvert and HSP. I can’t imagine how my extrovert friends are holding out (the ones who believe). The ones who don’t believe – well, how they are coping is all over social media. It’s not good.

A bright blue and grey bird flashes into my peripheral vision. The scrub jay, come to take a peanut and hide it. He is followed by a black shadow – one of our crows has noticed the feeding table. A large bumblebee buzzes over the top of the lithodora. The hues of green burn into the back of my mind.

I am not okay, but life goes on. Breathe in. Breathe out. Listen. Absorb. Smell. Sense. Straight spine, feet planted firmly on warm green grass that tickles.. I know there are messages on my phone from one or the other of my granddaughters. I am loved and I love.

Thursday, we will buy new Venetian blinds for our dining/living rooms. We’re continuing to plant metaphorical trees despite the uncertainty of tomorrow.

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. ~ Martin Luther

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Today I bought a bicycle. Not for one of my kids or my grandkids, and not for my husband. I bought it for me. The last bicycle I personally owned was sold in 1977 to fund my trip across Americamy trip across America. That was my lightweight Schwinn ten speed that I saved up for and bought from a catalog hen I was sixteen. It had been my only mode of wheeled transportation for three years.

I don’t know why I never bought another bike for myself. My husband has gone through several, and the kids each, but it never seemed a priority for me to have one – and so I didn’t.

I was not even looking for a bicycle. It found me, in much the same way a cat finds its owner. No, it didn’t “follow me home”. It merely presented itself as needing a home and I was available – and my husband encouraged me to take the jump.

My very first bike, the one I learned to ride on was a Sears Hawthorne girls bike. It was a strange blue color that turned purple under the halos of street lights. 24″ wheels, single speed, and a basket for carrying things. I painstakingly taught myself how to ride when noone else was looking, wrecking and wrecking, and dusting myself off, wiping my tears, and trying again. when I mastered it, I showed everyone.

“Blue Ribbon” and I regret that she ended up in a city dump, because she was a classic. I had a wire basket, not a woven basket, but the photo attached looks like Blue Ribbon.

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The bicycle I purchased today is a retro 2007 Elektra Cruiser, barely used, 26″ wheels (the height of my old ten speed). Single speed, disk brakes. The neighbor had it in his driveway with a for sale sign. Helmet, bike pump, and free flat tire repair for the lifetime of the bike (a $40 value) all thrown in for $100.00.

No, I did not need the bike. The neighbor did need to sell it: his wife was in an accident and in a walker now.

I took it on a quick flat land spin: smooth, smooth, smooth. So smooth that I was tempted to try one of the many inclines around the neighborhood but thought better of it. Baby steps. I’ll do that tomorrow.

The only caveat is the color. It is way to feminine for me, but I think it will grow on me.

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I’m pretty jazzed about the adventures we will have.

 

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“This looks like a nice house. I wonder if it is available?” DeeDee Blackcap wondered.

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“Oh! It says it is for rent! I hope it’s not too expensive!”

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“Excuse me, are you the landlord? I’d like to take a look at this house. Can you tell me how much the rent is?”

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“Well, you don’t talk much, do you? The sign says it is available for rent. I’d really like to take a look.”

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“Well, it has a few spiders and bugs, but we can eat those. I really need to know how much the rent is. I wonder if I can just grab a snack and go? That’s why they put out the bugs and spiders during an Open House, right? I’ll send Mr. Blackcap back to talk to that one-armed landlord.”

 

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No, really, how is it going?

Are you stir crazy? Convinced the government is lying to us? Convinced the government has overstepped its boundaries? Hoarding guns yet?

How about allergies?

Are you planting your Victory garden?

Learning a new skill?

Is life the same old, same old, but with less going out?

Are your kids getting on your nerves? Your spouse?

Have you braved the line at Home Depot to get a project finished (or just to complete a job you’re getting paid for)?

Are you ready for this pandemic to be over already and can we just get back to normal?

Tired of playing games on Facebook that require you to list the things you might use as a password hint?

Are you creating a list of things to be thankful for instead of things to be angry about?

What are you thankful for?

I am thankful I can cook from scratch and bake from scratch (I can read a cookbook). I am thankful I have been dirt poor and know how to improvise and substitute. I am thankful for the internet and social media (although the latter is a questionable blessing). I am thankful I have books to read that I probably will never get to and an attic to clean out. I am thankful the weather has been nice. I am thankful for antihistamines. I am thankful for blogs I can follow and read. I am thankful that there are many news sources and you can fact check what is being reported or passed along on social media. I am thankful for Instagram which is more about artsy photographs and family memories.

I am thankful for an old and beat up washing machine (I have washed clothes in a wringer washer… and in the bathtub). I’ve washed dishes in the bathtub. I am thankful for nice weather and a clothesline. I am thankful that I lived in poverty and I learned how to cope and how to improvise.

I am thankful that I have been homeless.

I am thankful for cameras, art, paint, fabric, colors, and eyesight. I am thankful I have a little left over to give to someone else. I am thankful for online church and a decades old collection of Easter decorations i have to put away tomorrow.

I am thankful we are not under martial law where I live, with National Guardsmen having to enforce the new restrictions. I am thankful to have a governor (and this pains me to say this) who has put her constituents first and who has made painful decisions to collaborate with other nearby governors on how – and when – we will open back up for business. That really hurts me to say: I don’t like this governor and I would not vote for her, but she has unequivocally stepped up to the plate when other leaders have refused to. I am thankful she is our governor.

I am thankful for my children and their survivor’s sense of humor because they grew up poor and know how to survive. It’s a wicked sense of humor.

I am thankful for electricity, public water, garbage collection, recycling, natural gas, and the US Postal Service. I am thankful I am able to vote by mail in the upcoming primary and the upcoming general election.

I am thankful for creative friends who made cards for me so I could send them out randomly to cheer people who don’t have a thankful list.

Have a thankful list? Comment here or on FB.

 

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The bird swooped silently in a circle between my bird feeder and the neighbor’s yard. At first glance, not more than a crow –
but a very large crow.

The light shone through it’s extended wing feathers, feathers unlike any other bird.

“oooh!” I must have exclaimed.

It was beauty. Elegance. Silence.

Ugly up close.

Turkey vulture, low to the ground and seeking dead meat. A squirrel had been run over a few days earlier – it must have scented that.

We stood, mesmerized by the beauty of flight. No other bird flies quite like a turkey vulture: half owl, half large bird of prey. Silent. Acrobatic.

The Ugly Duckling among large birds but perhaps the most graceful.

It landed in a Douglas fir. Then landed on the ground, its head a naked and ugly red of wrinkled flesh. Carrion bird.

No omen, this bird. Just a hunter in an urban landscape. Too many people and cars. It retreated.

Our neighbor came out, just as awed as we were. “What was that?” she called from across the street.

We don’t violate six-foot distances these days, but we call across the street.She thought it a hawk when it swooped by her picture window.

“Turkey vulture!” we called across the street.

We stood in awe, together.

Stock photo from Pixabay

Stock photo from Pixabay

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