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.