Memorial Day 2020

The New York Times Front Page (May 24, 2020): “An Incalculable Loss.” America is fast approaching a grim milestone in the coronavirus outbreak — each figure here represents one of the nearly 100,000 lives lost so far. But a count reveals only so much. Memories, gathered from obituaries across the country, help us to reckon with what was lost.

One hundred thousand.

A number is an imperfect measure when applied to the human condition. A number provides an answer to how many, but it can never convey the individual arcs of life, the 100,000 ways of greeting the morning and saying goodnight…to share that closing prayer, that parting glass, that final hug.

One. Hundred. Thousand.

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Running. With Other’s Service.

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5:09 a.m.

Long sleeved shirt. Lined sweatpants. Tuk.  Tuuuuuuuk. Gloves.

I synch up the straps on my Waist Pack, then inhale, and give it one more pull for extra measure. I exhale, and the straps dig into my belly. (Another reason why you need to run. And note the use ofWaist Pack’.  Men don’t run with Fanny Packs. And yet for some reason my lips form Fannnnnnnny. Not sure where this is going.)

I’m out the door.

41° F. Feels like 34° F. Brisk. Light Northern wind bites.

0.1 miles.  Garbage truck. Spot lights illuminate the back of the truck. Back breaking work. Rest of us sleeping. Drinking coffee. Reading the morning Paper. Meditating. Out for a run. And he’s taking out our trash.

0.6 miles. U.S. #1, aka Post Road. Three signs spaced about 50 feet apart. Food Drive. Darien, CT and people are hungry.  And like a spreading ink blot from a fountain pen, this morning’s run, in early light, turns dark, with a  replay of yesterday’s headlines.  “Covid-19 could detonate a ‘hunger pandemic.’ With millions at Risk.” “Food Banks Are Overrun, as Coronavirus Surges Demand…‘Never Seen Anything Like It’: Cars Line Up for Miles at Food Banks.” And, Kids Are Going Hungry Because of the Coronavirus. Children hungry. [Read more…]

Work From Home


Illustrator: Daniel Padure (via thisisn’thappiness)

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call?

And what a wonderful thing that artifice can be. Now that we are all working from home, amid the children, the toast crumbs and the laundry, we are realising that the pretence of an orderly life at the office is also a liberation. It allows each day to have its own architecture, its rhythms of departure and arrival. Putting on a perfectly ironed silk shirt or a crisp suit and leaving the house may be contrived but it is also, says Kellaway, “one of the beauties of working life…It allows us to be a different person. And we’re all so fed up with who we are, the opportunity to be someone else, someone a little bit more impressive, is just so tempting.” When such an escape is denied us, that allure may only grow.

Catherine Nixey, from “Death of the Office” in The Economist (June/July 2020)

 

Sunday Morning

A few weeks ago, during our first few days sequestered at home, my head was straining to explain to myself what it could all mean, or at least what could come out of it. I failed. The fog was too heavy. Now that things have become more quotidian, as things do eventually even in the most frightening wars, I am still unable to frame it all in any satisfying way.

Many are sure that life will never be the same. It is likely that some of us will make big changes, more of us will make a few changes, but I suspect most will return to the dance. Won’t there be a good argument to be made that the pandemic is proof that life vanishes in the most unexpected ways and so we must live big and live now? One of your own grandchildren has expressed that opinion.

Restrictions on movement are starting to relax in some places, and little by little the world will attempt to venture out toward normality. Even daydreaming of imminent freedom has many starting to forget the promises they recently made to the gods. The drive to process the impact of the pandemic on our deepest selves, and on the entire tribe, is waning. Even many among us who long to understand what has happened will be tempted to interpret it to our liking. Already shopping threatens to make a grand return as our favorite narcotic.

I’m still in a fog. It seems for now that I’ll have to wait for the masters, present and future, to metabolize the shared experience. I look forward to that day. A song, a poem, a movie or a novel will finally point me in the general direction of where my thoughts and feelings about this whole thing are buried. When I get there, I’m sure I’ll still have to do some of the digging myself.

In the meantime, the planet keeps turning and life is still mysterious, powerful and astonishing. Or as you used to say with fewer adjectives and more poetry, nobody teaches life anything.

~ Rodrigo Garcia, from “A Letter to My Father, Gabriel García Márquez” in The New York Times (May 6, 2020)


Notes: Portrait of Rodrigo Garcia via Alchetron.

Running. With Mother Goose.

6:10 a.m. 42° F. Nippy for May.

It’s been 6 days in a row, running that is.  Why? More on this another day, this surge of something.

There she is. Mother Goose. Same spot. Each morning, every morning. Sitting between the highway, the guard rail, and the retaining wall. Sick. She has to be sick. Does she sit here all day? 

She triggered a mini waterfall of the yesterday’s events.

3 p.m. conference call. Delicate personnel situation. I’m quiet, he explains. “Listen, I’m not vindictive, that’s not who I am. There was nothing malicious in….”  He’s a midwesterner, solemn, humble, truthful.  We wrap up the conversation. I thank the small group for providing me the background.  I close: “I know vindictive, and you ain’t vindictive. I see vindictive each morning in the mirror.” They laugh. I know, they know.

6:10 a.m. Yesterday’s morning run. 0.6 miles in. A lady walker, on the other side of the road, 100 feet ahead. Face mask on. She’s pointing her finger at me, scolding.

I turn off the music. You talking to me? I can hear her now.

“You need to wear a mask. You’re putting my life, and other lives in danger. 17% chance of virus being spread by runners without masks. You. Go Home and Put on a Mask.”

“Excuse me?” [Read more…]

We are all living the same moment.

Air is the gaseous substance of life. Sky is what we see of it. How it is framed. The mind’s eye’s way of giving it structure. Blue tent, sky-space, cobalt between heaving mountains.

Air is all over us, inside us, expelled by us, renewed by the operations of photosynthesis and the evaporation of ever-warmer seas.
Sky is ubiquity. It drives into us. We gulp weather. Yet we conceive of it as “out there,” “up there,” and apart from us. Sky is “scape,” a fictive reference point to which we cling, yet it also stands for the open space we come to know as an ever-expanding, cosmic whole…

It is spring as I write, and the world is locked down in a raging pandemic. We hold still while airborne germs wrapped in fat float and flap all around us, threatening our lives…

Sky is a living body, a lung that spews life. In China it is chi, a life force, or tianqi, “heaven’s breath.” In Greenland, it is sila, nature and consciousness. For the Navajo Nation, sky is Nitth’i, a benevolent spirit. The Crow, who live on the grasslands of Montana and Wyoming, call sky huche, meaning “wind that blows steadily at the foot of the mountain.” In Egypt, the dying summoned the god of air and said, “I have gone up to Shu; I have climbed the sunbeams.” …

Sky is nothing and everything: a blank that holds solar systems, locust swarms, heaven’s gates, kingfishers, and cosmos. It’s where the Big Bang flapped everything into being. Recently, 19 new interstellar asteroids were found orbiting the sun, and astronomers have uncovered the beauty of the asymmetrical universe, where the battle between matter and antimatter was waged. Matter and cosmic imperfection won out; otherwise, we wouldn’t exist. “Imperfection is our paradise,” a Buddhist teacher said…

Perhaps that’s the best way to think about the sky and the ways it binds and releases us. Looking up, we can all see the same things: the pink moon, sunrise’s glory, starlight, and the lovely, lonely curve of air. Our peripheral vision shapes what we think we are seeing. From my lookout on a moving dogsled, I’ve seen how the horizon’s silver stripe divides ice from air, mist from ocean, space from Earth, and dark from light as the blue tent floats down and softly covers us all.

~ Gretel Ehrlich, “We Are All Living the Same Moment” in The Atlantic (May 2, 2020)


Photo: DK, Cove Island Park, May 3, 6:43 am.

T.G.I.F.: It’s been a long week

In your house for days on end,
Hours, minutes, weeks all blend.
Boredom, hunger, Tiger King.
Food depleted, you need some things.
And though I shouldn’t need to ask,
When you go out, please wear a mask.


Source: covidbookcovers

Guess.What.Day.It.Is?


Photo: Newsy.com.  Background on Caleb/Wednesday/Hump Day Posts and Geico’s original commercial: Let’s Hit it Again

How do you sum up something that’s so huge?

How do you sum up something that’s so huge?” asks Alexei Hay. “One of the only answers is the emptiness, the thing that speaks to whatever everybody’s going through. The absence is more telling than taking a picture of anybody.” Not long after the citywide clampdown began, Hay, like a lot of photographers, realized this was a fleeting extraordinary moment, one he wanted to document in a grand way before it was gone. What’s on view here is neither a completely depopulated New York nor its usual bustling self but something eerily stuck in between. These are middle-of-the-night photos shot in broad daylight, snow-day pictures without the snow…

The very overfamiliarity of some of the sites — the Flatiron Building, St. Patrick’s Cathedral — is paradoxically what, at this one unusual time, keeps you looking. Nothing is visibly wrong, exactly, but everything is wrong. Ordinarily, if you see pictures of normally busy and now deserted streets, it’s the emptiness that gets you, as your mind goes right to Vanilla Sky or the Rapture. Here, the thing that triggers alarm is not the absence of people. It’s when you see the few souls who are out and about, and they’re less than six feet apart.

~ , from “New York, Four Weeks In Portrait of an empty city.”

Don’t miss Alexei Hay’s photos in the New York Magazine: April 13, 2020.

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