Three Years Later

Anna’s hummingbird at one of my feeders. Like many birds, hummingbirds migrate. I tend to have the Anna’s all winter, and the Rufous hummingbirds all summer.

I used to do a series called One Year Later, in which I compared dates in 2021 to the same dates in 2020 – the height of the pandemic. I’ve still got my COVID journal on my desktop, and I still add to it now and then. A couple of articles in the New York Times caught my attention and I decided it was time to check in again on my thoughts regarding the pandemic, while we are in it. I’d like to say we are not in it. But every now and then, a public or health official will say – with some exasperation – “we are still in the midst of a pandemic.” So I stand corrected by the experts. It just doesn’t feel like it anymore, and for that I am deeply grateful.

The headline that caught my eye is the one that explains that the mask mandates in Hong Kong were dropped yesterday.

     The first detected case of Coronavirus in Oregon was found in Lake Oswego on February 28, 2020 and the first death in the United States was on that same date, in Kirkland, Washington. We are three years on (I meant to post this on February 28, but I’m late), and still shuddering from the effects of massive worldwide upheaval. What a truly unprecedented time to be alive. I’m able to marvel at my good fortune of being alive during other momentous events in world history, having actual experiences and memories to be able to know what really happened. But being alive for this event doesn’t evoke a “wow” from me, but more of an “ugh.” Maybe more time needs to pass first.

     The city of Hong Kong is one of the last cities in the world to finally relax the mask mandate. This continues the end of China’s painful Zero Covid stance that they refused to budge on until humongous protests across the country but particularly in Beijing, forced Xi Jinping’s hand. Citizens were furious because an apartment block caught on fire and people died – unable to leave the building due to China’s extremely strict lockdowns. It was with some surprise that I saw Xi cave under pressure from his people, but thank the gods the man does have a breaking point. The government was all, “no, no, no, no” then in December, “Ok, everything’s open now.” It caused the poor people of China (especially the health service) to be suddenly overwhelmed with risk and vulnerability. So, despite the virus originating in China in 2019, just two months ago China was the country feeling it the hardest.

There is no bird in this shot. I like it because just as I aimed my camera, snow dropped from a branch above and it cascaded down. I love the action and light and shadows that resulted.

In other news, new intelligence has prompted the U.S. Energy Department to conclude that an accidental laboratory leak in China most likely caused the pandemic, though U.S. spy agencies remain divided over Covid’s origins. The New England Journal of Medicine announced that a single injection of an interferon drug slashed by half a Covid patient’s odds of being hospitalized, which rivals the results of Paxlovid. This drug’s efficacy does not depend on the strain of Covid, nor in fact, on whether the virus is Covid. It will help defend against the flu and other viruses. Paxlovid is itself a new drug available to protect us.

That reminds me that I was told by the pharmacy technician after getting my booster in January that I “never had to get another COVID shot again,” which was a surprise to me. I was temporarily excited about that news, till I did some research. What I received was an injected bivalent vaccine, which is one of those new ones that contain components of both the original strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the omicron variant of the virus. I’m considered “up to date” on my vaccines, but according to a couple of medical websites, including the CDC, he was wrong to tell me I was done forever. Health experts are still considering the need for future boosters in some cases. Their guidance is to wait and see, and keep educated about the latest, and stay open to the potential need for more boosters.

We had multiple days where the temperature was in the the teens all night (below zero celcius). The syrup would be frozen solid by evening. I brought in the hummingbird feeders when it got dark and set them beside the woodstove overnight, and in the morning hung them back outside as soon as it was light enough to see.

     Pedro and I attended a play last weekend, and masks were mandatory for anyone inside the building. I have heard of no plans for The Armory (the playhouse) to relax this rule. Anytime I’ve been around any health people, they are always in masks. So among the healthcare community there may still be rules. In the general world outdoors, I see a good portion of people who still wear masks. Kellen and Cameron still wear masks often, and that matches a trend in the U.S. that shows young people have more fear of the virus than anyone else, despite being the least vulnerable. I’ll go to a park, and see most people maskless, but still see entire families in masks. This may be a wise decision for anyone who is protecting an elder, or someone who is still at risk. I lived five months in Japan in 2012, and became accustomed to people wearing masks to protect others from their colds and coughs. Though I can’t imagine Americans being magnanimous as a culture in that way, I do expect that from now on I’ll see masks more commonly here, as people realize they can protect themselves with a mask.

     While thinking about travel, I no longer worry much about Covid rules and restrictions. I still think about them, and wonder, and there are still warning pop-up messages about “please check restrictions for your destination” on the airline websites, to comply with contact tracing requirements. And any foreign national entering the US must be vaccinated. I guess, now that I think about it, the Covid rules remain, but it’s just that they have been around so long and are so ubiquitous that they seem banal.

To survive in winter, hummingbirds can enter a state of torpor overnight. Like a mini-hibernation, this reduces body temperature and function, and conserves resources till they can go find food again.

In fact, I have a trip coming up and I’m not thinking about Covid at all. (Though this nonchalance is likely made possible by the fact that I now carry my vaccination card and a mask in my purse at all times) I’m leaving in a couple of hours to go to Santa Rosa to see my travel buddy, Margaret. If you’ve read my blog, you have met her before. We have been together to Chile, to Myanmar, and to Jordan. We’ve also shared adventures at the Ashland Shakespeare Festival, and days of backpacking in the Trinity Alps of northern California, to name only a couple. We’ve known each other for twenty-five years. Isn’t that wonderful? Anyway, it’s her birthday and I’m so excited to go and help her celebrate.

I hope you enjoy my hummingbird shots in my wintry Rainier home. The snow is almost melted here, and the temperature hovers so close to freezing that it’s taking forever to go away. It was snowing about an hour ago. It has snowed here almost every day for two weeks and I am so tired of it. The coldest, shadiest spot is on my back deck, where the snow is still two inches deep. Sigh. It will be nice to be in California where it’s sunnier and a little warmer. I have fingers crossed that it will be Spring when I get home again next week.

Look at her teensy tinsy feet!

7 thoughts on “Three Years Later

  1. A very interesting reflection. How times fly and how we’ve gotten used to many things.
    I love your humming bird feeders, Crystal. They are simply gorgeous. I cannot imagine living in a place as cold as yours. Brrrr. Hope you are having a lovely trip to a warmer part of the country.

    1. Thank you, Jolandi, for the warm wishes (literally!). I had a marvelous time at Margaret’s house and came home to more snow. I almost cried. No, not really. But I am certainly ready for warmer weather. Yes, this post was an opportunity for me to realize how I had become used to things that used to feel foreign.

    1. Aww, Derrick. I’m glad you say so. I felt the same. At first I was not planning to include it, but that’s the one I like best too. As far as the pandemic goes, yes, I prefer forgetting about it. I have given it my attention for so long and I feel like I did my part and now I want out of the arrangement.

    1. OH, funny you say that, as our friend Manja said the same thing. I had to look it up, and I found that there are hummingbirds in Alaska. So there you go! But I’m sure there must be a greater variety in the tropics, so maybe I can watch them there one day.

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