The Consequences of This Pandemic

I can’t shake the feeling that this pandemic is going to change the world in ways that we don’t even anticipate. What will life be like after the dust settles? What will we have learned?

I must admit that I’m loving the reduced traffic. I’m hoping that many companies will realize that yes, in fact, they can continue to do business with a lot of their employees telecommuting. And will this habit of consolidating all one’s errands into a single day rather than rushing out whenever the mood strikes have any staying power? Fingers crossed.

What will the psychological impact be? Are we raising a generation of agoraphobics? Will we ever get past the increase in depression? Will anyone ever feel that they had a chance to properly grieve those they’ve lost during this age of social distancing? Will there be a spike in divorces? A spike in unplanned pregnancies? Will we ever lose our quarantine weight?

As horrible as this is to say, I suspect that the tragic decrease in baby boomers due to this virus will reduce pressure on senior care facilities the world over. I suppose that can be interpreted as a good thing. At least from that perspective, if not from any other.

The economic impact is still hard to gauge. Will we bounce back quickly, or will the consequences be dire? Is the age of small business completely over? This pandemic seems to be killing small shops, while package stores are thriving. I know as a landlord I’m feeling the pressure, and I fail to see how my poor tenant will ever catch back up.

And what of travel? Will we ever be able to comfortably travel overseas again? And have we lost our taste for large concerts and sporting events? I know I’ll never feel quite as comfortable sitting cheek by jowl with total strangers again.

Now that we’ve seen nature bounce back ever so slightly due to our inactivity, will we appreciate it more? Will we care for the environment as we should have all along? Having realized what a cesspool we’ve made of the planet, will we make more of an effort to clean it up?

These things are but the tip of an enormous COVID-19 iceberg. But just as with the Spanish Flu a hundred years ago, a hundred years from now people will have all but forgotten what we have gone through and how things were before this pandemic washed over us like the invisible tsunami from hell.

Out of curiosity, I decided to read the Wikipedia page about the consequences of the black death. Other than the few minutes it took for our teachers to instruct us of its existence back when we were in school, most people don’t really think of the black death, and yet it changed the world permanently in many profound ways.

Here are some of the scariest and/or more fascinating bits of this Wikipedia article:

  • Historians estimate that it reduced the total world population from 475 million to between 350 and 375 million. In most parts of Europe, it took nearly 80 years for population sizes to recover, and in some areas more than 150 years.

  • The massive reduction of the workforce meant that labor was suddenly in higher demand. For many Europeans, the 15th century was a golden age of prosperity and new opportunities. The land was plentiful, wages high, and serfdom had all but disappeared.

  • Christians accused Jews of poisoning public water supplies in an effort to ruin European civilization. The spreading of this rumor led to complete destruction of entire Jewish towns, and was simply caused by suspicion on part of the Christians, who noticed that the Jews had lost fewer lives to the plague due to their hygienic practices.

  • Renewed religious fervor and fanaticism came in the wake of the Black Death. Some Europeans targeted groups such as Jews, friars, foreigners, beggars, pilgrims, lepers and Romani, thinking that they were to blame for the crisis.

  • Much of the primeval vegetation returned, and abandoned fields and pastures were reforested.

  • The Black Death encouraged innovation of labor-saving technologies, leading to higher productivity. There was a shift from grain farming to animal husbandry. Grain farming was very labor-intensive, but animal husbandry needed only a shepherd and a few dogs and pastureland.

  • In England, more than 1300 villages were deserted between 1350 and 1500.

  • After 1350, European culture in general turned very morbid. The general mood was one of pessimism, and contemporary art turned dark with representations of death. The widespread image of the “dance of death” showed death (a skeleton) choosing victims at random.

  • The plague was present somewhere in Europe in every year between 1346 and 1671.

What can we learn from the aftermath of the black death?

  • Clearly, our knowledge of medicine and viral transmission has greatly increased, and our ability to communicate is much better, so COVID-19 will not take as many lives as the black death did. That’s a huge relief. But perhaps these numbers should be used to remind us of the importance of social distancing, hand washing, and the use of masks.

  • It would be wonderful if this catastrophe brings about a narrowing of the income gap between the rich and the poor. We definitely need that to have a healthy society.

  • I fear the scapegoating and violence that is already happening. This time it’s focused on Asians and immigrants, and it’s absolutely insane. As if anyone is responsible for the existence of a virus.

  • I hope we see major environmental impacts, in a positive way, and that we don’t all revert to our previous bad habits.

  • I am seeing evidence of all kinds of innovation, and I find that encouraging. I hope we keep that up.

  • There is a very good chance that COVID-19 will return year after year after year, just as the black death did. I hope we come up with a vaccine soon, but I suspect that when we do, we’ll be getting COVID shots every year, right along with our flu shots. This is not a virus that will simply disappear after a few months.

Welcome to the new reality. May we all survive and be made all the better for it. Anything less will be an absolute horror.

dance-of-death

Do you enjoy my random musings? Then you’ll love my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Traveling Vicariously

I’ve had several trips cancelled now, in this new, scary COVID-19 world in which we live. And travel is my reason for being. I love to go places where I’ve never been and see things that I’ve never seen. So, yeah, I’m getting a bit depressed. I’m feeling kind of claustrophobic. Which means, clearly, that I need to get creative.

I’m reading more about foreign lands. I’m watching more movies set in other countries. I’m thinking of clogging up my laptop with the Google Earth application again. I’m listening to songs sung in other languages. I’m looking at exotic recipes and wishing I could go out and get the needed ingredients. And then I’m wishing that I actually liked to cook.

I’m also playing Pokemon Go. Through that game, I’ve gone to this website and made friends from all over the world. We send each other digital postcards. It’s kind of fun, peeking into the lives of people I don’t know and will never meet. Every day I get these postcards from Spain and Norway and Mexico and Israel (to name just a few), and for a moment I feel like I’m there. There’s some fascinating art in the world.

Here are some of the postcards I’ve received that I found worthy of a screenshot. Sadly, I can’t tell you where most of these things are, because unfortunately the descriptors are less detailed than I’d like them to be. I just know that they’re anywhere but here. And that’s pretty darned cool, because at the moment, that’s someplace I can’t be.

Hey! Look what I wrote! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Crazy Like a Fox

According to this article, Scientists recently put a tracking device on a female arctic fox that was less than a year old, and discovered that she traveled 2,176 miles in 76 days. That’s an average of 28 miles a day, but apparently on some days she covered more than three times that distance.

Many creatures migrate even farther than that, and with global warming, some creatures are being forced to migrate farther than ever before. But I’m impressed with this little vixen. For me, she’s a symbol of adaptation, survival, determination, strength, and abilities beyond my comprehension.

We have so much more to learn about the natural world. Maybe we might want to try not to destroy something that we know so little about. There’s a thought.

arctic fox.jpg

Do you enjoy my random musings? Then you’ll love my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Know Before You Go

This is a cautionary tale for those of you who love to travel. Do your homework beforehand. Read as much as you can on the destination. Because I’m here to tell you there’s nothing more frustrating than getting back home, only to discover that there was something awesome to see there that you completely missed.

I used to be much more organized. Now I’m much more of a lazy fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type person. In other words, I haven’t been heeding my own advice, to my detriment.

Recently, I wrote about my delightful visit to Vashon Island. Much to my horror, while researching for the blog post, after the fact, I learned that there is an iconic tourist destination there that I had totally overlooked. It is the bicycle in the tree.

bikeintree

The most romantic version of this legend is that a boy left it chained to a tree and then went off to war, and that either he never came back, or when he did, he discovered the tree had grown around the bike. While that’s a poignant notion, I doubt it is true, because it’s clearly a small child’s bike.

When I found out I’d missed this amazing landmark, I was frustrated. Little did I know, I’d be going back the following week! Sadly, the bike has been vandalized since someone took the above picture. (Why do people do that? What possible satisfaction can they get from taking the front tire and handlebars off a bike in a tree? I don’t get it.)

Anyway, the point is: do your homework before you travel. You’ll be glad you did. I’m a much more well-rounded person for having seen the bike in the tree.

bikeintreeandme

Like this blog? Then you’ll love this book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

 

What Keeps Me Up at Night

Yeah, I’ve done that mind-grind thing where I keep worrying about something and try in vain to come up with a solution. I have done my fair share of stressing out over finances, jobs, relationships, and conversations that I’m dreading. I’ve even stayed up to care for sick people and pets.

But you know what really keeps me up at night? Excitement. I spend a lot of time tossing and turning and smiling at the possibilities. I can rarely sleep just before a trip to someplace I’ve never been, for example. I can just imagine what it will be like. I also thrill to new experiences, new connections, and the opportunity to learn.

Many is the night I’ve spent staring at the ceiling, knowing that I’m about to receive the gift of newness. That’s my favorite gift of all. It doesn’t take up space in your tool shed. You don’t have to dust it. It’s usually not tangible. But you’ll be able to revel in its memory for the rest of your life.

There is nothing quite like the first time you do something, see something or realize something. Beginnings are awesome. Change is wonderful just as often as it is dreadful. The anticipation of something can be every bit as amazing as the thing itself.

Anticipation is what robs me of my sleep!

Excitement (July 2011)

Check out my refreshingly positive book for these depressingly negative times. http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

My Very Last Vacation

I live for travel. I used to go to a different foreign country every two years. I miss that. I hope to get back to that financial place again at some point. I also hope to have someone to travel with again one of these days. Traveling alone isn’t nearly as fun. Who knows what the future will bring.

One thing I do know, and that’s that I will take my very last vacation someday. I fervently hope that I don’t know it’s my last one at the time that I’m taking it. That’s a little too bittersweet for my liking.

No, I’d much rather take a lovely tour of Italy and then come home and be hit by a crosstown bus as I’m crossing the street to the bookstore to buy the guidebook for my next trip. If I have to shuffle off this mortal coil, I’d like to do it while planning for an exciting future. I don’t want to slowly circle the drain while gazing fixedly down that dark and moldy hole.

Half the fun of travel, for me, is the anticipation. The planning. I like to read everything I can about my destination, because nothing pisses me off more than coming back home to discover that there was something really spectacular within walking distance that I didn’t see. That leaves me feeling like I didn’t do my homework, that I’ve shirked my responsibilities, that I’ve failed myself.

I don’t have the luxury of returning to places I’ve visited again and again. The world is too big. There’s way too much to see. So the end of each vacation is kind of like a little death. I mourn the amazing place I’ve just been, because I know that the odds are high that I’ll never see it again. If I had to couple that mourning with the concept that I’d also never get to see anyplace else again, ever, it would be entirely too much to bear.

travel

Like the way my weird mind works? Then you’ll enjoy my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Travel as a Form of Love

In a recent post, I said that love is all that matters. My friend Art replied that travel is the most important thing that there is. That got me thinking.

Travel is actually love in action. It shows that you care about other cultures and other people. It demonstrates a desire to learn about history and geography and customs and religion and the environment, and most of all, other points of view.

A few times in my life I’ve met people who haven’t traveled more than 50 miles from the place of their birth. They seemed quite content, but I kind of felt sorry for them. I can’t imagine having such a narrow worldview.

Travel teaches you compassion for others. It makes you realize that your way of doing things isn’t the only way. It may not even be the best way. Travel broadens your mind at the same time it broadens your horizons.

I have long been of the belief that every student should go to at least one foreign country before they can graduate. If that were the case, I don’t think we’d be experiencing this rampant xenophobia. We also wouldn’t be so willing to drop bombs on innocent people. If you sit at someone’s table and break bread with them, you find it much harder to think of them as the bad guys.

Travel is truly one of the most loving things you can do for yourself and for the wider world. So get out there. Be an ambassador. Be a humble student. Explore!

globe-hands

I’m proud to announce that my book is now available in paperback, kindle, and deluxe color edition! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

The New Dark Ages?

Back in 2013 I wrote a post entitled, “When Did ‘Intellectual’ Become a Dirty Word?” Little did I know at the time that that was just the tip of a very ignorant iceberg. I am beginning to look at 2013 as the halcyon days. Imagine that.

Ironically, I started that post by saying, “I really want to try to avoid getting political on this blog.” Snort. Now it seems like that’s all I do. But I can’t stay silent. I had that luxury in 2013. I don’t anymore.

Now we are thrust headlong into a political shit storm in which our own government is trying to dismantle our public education system. While they’re at it, they are destroying every environmental victory we’ve made since the 1970’s. They’re attacking science and medicine. They’re defunding art. They’re demonizing the media and all things that allow for the free flow of information. They’re impeding travel. They are clinging desperately to fossil fuels even though they know it’s destroying our planet. They are gleefully widening the gap between the rich and the rest of us.

This is worse than the Dark Ages, because so many of us know better these days. This is not the road we want to take. It only leads to destruction.

I keep having these dreams where half of us are trying to reason with the other half by using facts and proof and intelligence, and the other half is not listening, and destroying everything in its path with steam rollers. It makes no sense. The inmates control the asylum. Whose idea was it to give them the keys to those damned steam rollers?

I used to have a bumper sticker that said, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” Word. Perhaps it’s time to buy another one.

Don’t turn out the lights, folks. The darkness is descending. And no doubt we’ll all come away with something much worse than a stubbed toe.

dark_ages_281346032

Check out my refreshingly positive book for these depressingly negative times. http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Hithering and Thithering

True confession: I’ve been to 22 countries, but I’ve never been to Chicago, not even to change planes at the airport. How is that even possible? With all the hithering and thithering and to-ing and fro-ing I’ve done, you’d think I’d have at least briefly set foot in this major travel hub. But no.

It’s not as if I’ve made an effort to avoid Chicago. In fact, I think it would be well worth a visit. There’s much to do and see there. Our stars just don’t seem to have aligned.

Even on my epic drive across country on historic Route 66 I missed Chicago, where it starts. I didn’t have enough time. So instead of getting my kicks from Chicago to LA, as the song says, I instead went from St. Louis to LA. One does have to make sacrifices now and then.

Finances have cut my travels way, way back in recent years, but I still have the travel bug, and I always will. It’s my reason for being. So, dear Chicago, perhaps we will meet some day after all. Until then, think of me kindly, and please don’t take my neglect personally.

chicago

A big thanks to StoryCorps for inspiring this blog and my first book. http://amzn.to/2cCHgUu

Traveling with Quagmire

Way back in March (my, how time flies) I adopted a little black Dachshund and named him Quagmire. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with him ever since. To say that this dog has issues would be putting it mildly.

First of all, I had no idea how stubborn Dachshunds are as a breed. But then add on top of it that this particular dog was abandoned to wander the streets of Olympia, where he was found dirty and half starved, and then, from his perspective, he was put into puppy prison for God knows how long before I came to his rescue.

What you get is a headstrong dog who finds it nearly impossible to trust, and even less possible to relax. He is extremely territorial. If someone even walks down the street in front of the house, he barks incessantly. And for such a little dog, he has a big, deep, “I’m really a Rottweiler” kind of bark, which is impossible to ignore.

He once busted through the screen door and nipped a cop on the ankle. Well, actually he gummed him on the ankle. He has no front teeth. When I adopted him I discovered they were all cracked and had to be removed. Still, I’m amazed he survived that one.

He also barks and lunges at what few visitors I have. This does not make for a warm welcome.(As if I didn’t already have a hard enough time finding a boyfriend.)

When I come home, even after a short absence, he’s hysterical with joy. He’ll throw himself into my arms, wrap his paws around my neck and press his forehead firmly against my lips, all while crying. He sticks to me like glue. He has to come into the bathroom while I shower or he’ll stand outside the door and cry. He spoons with me in bed. When I’m lying there working on my laptop, he sort of perches on my shoulder and the pillows, presses his ear against my cheek and watches the screen intently.

Quagmire is the neediest creature on the face of the earth.

When it’s just the two of us, I don’t really mind. He’s a love sponge. And since there’s really no way to explain to him that he’s safe, he’s home, and he’ll never be abandoned again, I just do my best to reassure him. I know what it’s like to have been through a lot. I know what it’s like to have been let down. I know what it’s like to want nothing more than to be loved.

I just could do with a little less barking. And I wish he wasn’t such a bully to my other dog, Devo, who is sweet beyond words and wants nothing more than to be Quagmire’s friend. And I’ll probably never travel with him again.

I took them both with me recently, for a vacation on the Oregon coast. It was a 6 ½ hour drive. For the first 3 ½ hours, Quagmire sat in the back seat and whistle/cried. The first hour I tried ignoring him in hopes that he would settle down and fall asleep, which is what Devo always does. That didn’t work. Then I tried shouting “No!” That only encouraged him. I tried singing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall in hopes of drowning him out, but by about bottle 63, I realized that it was a futile endeavor. I was beginning to see why someone abandoned his annoying little ass. I thought I was going to lose my mind.

After our second dog walk break he finally, finally went to sleep, and a very relieved Devo followed suit. I had tried to sightsee along the way, but Quagmire would bark and lunge at the other sightseers, so I gave up and just continued to our destination. I missed a lot of interesting things because of him.

After venting my frustrations to a friend, she said, “You know, you could always give him back.”

But he’s not a flaming bag of poo. I can’t just drop him on the front steps of animal control and run. I made a commitment to this dog. This is his forever home. I just wish he understood that.

At the end of our vacation, I left them in the room while I packed the car, and this freaked Quagmire out. He must have thought he would be abandoned all over again. So on the last trip from the room to the car, he bolted past me and ran down the stairs.

I dropped everything and chased after him, shouting, “Quagmire! Quagmire!” but he kept running. Now I was the one to be scared. Too scared to think how strange it must have looked to see some frazzled woman running down the street screaming quagmire for no visible reason. (That’s not something I had considered when I named him.)

I didn’t want him to be hurt. He charged around the corner and toward the street. I was sure I’d lost him. Then I rounded the corner and there he was, scratching at the car door, as if to say, “Take me with you.”

We stared at each other for a minute, and then I scooped him up in my arms and said, “I’m never going to leave you. I promise.”

But that didn’t stop the little shit from crying for another 3 ½ hours on the way home.

img_1684

A great gift for the one you’re most grateful for. Check out my book. http://amzn.to/2cCHgUu