Two Years Later

A screenshot of the museum’s facebook page where they linked my blog.

I’ll start off with something fun. The Albany Carousel Museum liked my blog post about their volunteer woodcarver, Oweta Smith (pictured above), so much that they included a link to my post, Woodcarving at a Carousel Museum, on their facebook page. That’s so cool! I feel honored that the administration felt that I made them look good.

But the rest of what I have to say this morning is distressing to me. Today is the two-year anniversary of the first known COVID-19 case in the United States. That fact alone is not what’s upsetting, but it’s that we are nowhere near the end.

Or, maybe we are near the end, but it’s not the end we were imagining. What I mean to say is, possibly in the future we will have to get shots once a year for COVID and wear masks inside every public building if we want to be safe. And we are already there, so maybe all that’s left is getting used to it. Which I am not.

We are right now catching this virus more than at any point in the past. The data is so staggering, and our fatigue so palpable, that we are not able to absorb the numbers anymore. At least it seems like no one is panicking anymore. On January 8, 2022, over a million new cases were reported in the U.S. A MILLION. REPORTED ON ONE DAY. It was amplified due to lack of reporting over the holidays, but January 3, 13, 17, and 18 all reached nearly a million. The state of Oregon has recorded nearly 550,000 cases total and is close to 6000 deaths. The county I live in, Columbia County, has had 16% of its population infected, and the county across the river, Cowlitz County, Washington, has also had 16% infection.

I was panicked back in the spring of 2020, with numbers so low in comparison they seem almost cute now. Awww, only a thousand cases a day and I was scared? That’s sweet.

People are dealing with the pandemic in a variety of ways. My heart goes out to the ones who have managed to maintain their vigilance and caution at Spring 2020 levels till now. I know more than one family who has not left their house in two years, except to be in the yard, or go for neighborhood walks. They get groceries delivered. Fear of the virus’s consequences is too great to chance it. I have friends who consider ME a risk, because of my comparative lack of caution, and won’t come into my house for a visit, but still insist on staying outside to talk. I can easily follow their logic and agree that their approach could be a sensible one. However, I personally could not maintain that amount of fear and stay sane. I don’t have the capacity for it. I worry about what it is doing to them; the long-term effects of keeping themselves safe. It’s got to be damaging, and they must be struggling with the tradeoffs.

On a trail the other day with Pedro, we passed an older man out walking his dog. He saw us approaching and went to the outside edge of the trail and turned his back to us. He was hunched over with his shoulders lifted – probably a completely subconscious effort to block air from us traveling in his direction. I am glad he was able to take an extra step to protect himself from us, and I did not feel the slightest negative feeling about the man himself. What I thought of was a question that has come to mind multiple times in the past two years. What are the long-term consequences to humanity when we have all been training ourselves to fear and avoid each other?

It’s making me sad to think about all this today. And the reason I even started thinking about it is so random. I noticed that I had accidentally deleted a folder from my desktop, so I went to trash folder to retrieve it, and out of curiosity looked to see what was in the folder and found my neglected COVID journal. And out of habit, I checked all the national and state health websites I used to check daily. And everything began piling up.

It reminds me of what most of us do every day. Dangerous, upsetting, threatening, worrisome things are out there every day. Without COVID, there would be plenty to worry about. We manage to tune it out most of the time, to a level we can manage. Sometimes it’s too much, and we have to actively disengage, like those folks who take a break from social media. I think a lot of the time, our brains are helping us disengage for us, by screening out difficult stuff and minimizing it till it’s off our radar. We don’t even realize it’s happening. People who stay vigilant about any difficult topic have my respect. It’s hard to keep yourself from going on autopilot.

So I guess in the end, I’m glad I decided to engage with the heartbreaking numbers and the dismay at the fact that the virus still runs the world two years in. I haven’t been thinking about how high the statistics are getting, but the numbers are still there, and still need to be noticed.

I’ll close with something funny and completely unrelated, so you can transition back out of this dark space more easily.

My hens come out of their henhouse much later in the morning than they used to. Sometimes they don’t come out at all, even when it’s a warmer day or a rare day when the sun is out. I finally realized what’s going on. The matriarch hen, Jamie, who is nearing seven years old – she’s an OLD lady! – has realized she likes to stand in the doorway of her warm home and poke her beak into the cool air of the day. (Racecar the cat also likes to do this and would prefer every day that I just leave a door open so she can do the same, but it’s hard to keep the house warm that way, so to her chagrin I let her sniff for 30 seconds, then close the door.) Since Jamie is the boss and gets to do what she wants, the other hens pace impatiently behind her. The doorway is chicken-sized. When it’s plugged with a contented fresh air sniffing Jamie, the rest of the hens are trapped inside.

7 thoughts on “Two Years Later

  1. I’m glad that your post got the recognition. As for the rest – I just stopped thinking about it other than I need to write to the Embassy and inquire about the booster vaccine and when I need it in order for my Green Pass to continue working (Italian and Slovenian laws differ, in Italy you need the booster 6 months after the second dose, in Slovenia 9 months after). I had my second vax in the middle of August. But I didn’t need to show my pass for anything since you guys left. Really, not once. We don’t go anywhere.

    1. Oooh, that could impact your employment then? How scary. So, since my booster was 10 months after my vaccination, does that mean I would be disqualified in the Italian or Slovenian systems? That’s extra challenging!

  2. I like that you put the good news at the top, the hard news in the middle and the funny at the end. I was interrupted before I could leave a comment. TS stopped by for lunch and to offer some muscle. I’m delighted with the good news. I get the hard news. I hate wearing a mask and prefer not go out because of it, but oddly I’m not scared. Just frustrated with the constant irregularity of rules. No one masks here. Not sure most even have their vaccines. But I figure I can pull the covers over my head and if it’s my time, I’ll go from there. I’ve had too many experiences to that show me I’ll be protected until I’m needed elsewhere. That’s what it’s all about. When I decide I’m done here, even if I never leave the house that gate will open. I walked through the most diverse collection of humanity in the Frankfurt Bahnhof everyday for a week. If ever there was a breeding ground, that was it. Some very disgusting behavior that sent germs everywhere. That where I could have caught it but I didn’t. Not until I’m ready to be done on a soul level. Me, the ego wants to hang around and make things for a while longer. I will not live in fear. maybe a little anxiety that I’m working to control. Especially when I’m tired. How long did the Spanish plague last here? Years before it was done. I feel so sorry for that poor man but I get it. You don’t want to be close enough for someone to smell you, now. That’s close enough to catch the flu or a cold. Hiking trails need to be a bit wider now I guess.
    Is there anyway the young hens can get around that old stick in the door? 😉

    1. I like and trust your philosophy, Marlene. You are caring and cautious, and read signals so well, that I am sure you are right about having an extra level of protection. Possibly we all have it, and don’t pay as much attention to the help we get as you do, so we negate the effects. Sounds like you’re resilient in among a germ festival as you were in Frankfurt, and your vaccine may have helped you there. I had someone tell me not to go to Boston. “You WILL get COVID if you go to Boston,” he said. Well, I didn’t. Yes, I keep meaning to take a closer look at the lifespan of the Spanish flu and see if I could give myself some projections to work with.

      SO glad TS came over to lend some muscle. Old Stick in the door! You are so funny. There’s the great big people door, but I’d like to keep that closed so it stays warmer inside their house. I think I’ll let them work it out. They do eventually all get out most days, so at this point I’ll let them work it out. Jamie isn’t long for this earth anyway. By chicken standards, she has outlived her sell by date, as you like to say.

    1. Ha! Yes! So many people are considering their own personal needs and absolutely nothing else, it having never occurred to them the impact it has on others. It reminds me of a conversation I had when in the passenger seat with someone who is my age and has been driving for decades. We were on a crowded highway and he was riding the bumper of the car in front of us. Dangerously close – maybe a foot behind it. From my perspective this is aggressive behavior and I asked why he was doing that when there was nowhere else for the car in front of us to go. He answered that he was in a hurry and wanted to be as far forward as possible, and that it was not at all a message to the driver to move. I told him that when I am driving, and someone is that close behind me, it is very upsetting and can cause me to be so nervous that I become a more hazardous driver. He let off the accelerator and stared at me in wonder and said, “I have never considered what it would be like to be the person in the other car.”

      Thank you for being sad for my country. I am too. I am somewhat bewildered by the divisions and positions between us. This is unsustainable, but I see no evidence whatsoever of the trajectory changing, but rather getting more amplified.

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