Diary 62

Tuesday, May 19th

Many years ago, as a doctoral student, I studied the writings of Joseph Conrad. One tale sticks in my mind. It’s called “Typhoon”. It seems more relevant than ever today.

In the tale a small ship sails, unknowingly, into a typhoon.

When the storm is at its highest, Jukes (the First Mate) goes looking for the crew. He finds them cowering in a safe place between the decks, convinced the ship will sink, where they are indulging in what Conrad calls, “Do nothing heroics”. 

That seems to me to be a good description of some of the more pessimistic folks on facebook, who are convinced that everything is shot to hell and want only to tell us how bad it all is.

In the story Jukes kicks those sailors out of their sheltered spot, and gets them working to save the ship. The ship weathers the storm, though not without damage.

We are, today, surrounded with many sad and frightened and negative voices.  It’s OK to feel that way. But I cannot believe it’s OK to let that get in the way of managing this ship until the storm is over. I like to try to encourage those who are despairing; I try to do what I can; and not give in to fear. Nothing was ever made any better by despair.

Diary 61

Diary 61

Monday, May 18th

So we have a “president” who is taking a drug not approved by the FDA for Covid-19… or says he is. I really cannot be bothered to deal with that.  At this point it would be a naïve person who accepted the “president” at his word.

Today, as I was looking at the bees, I recalled an old school-mate of mine called Beesley. Beesley was an ink-stained and spotty fellow, mild and much given to the collecting of stamps. A gentle soul. It occurs to me now that his name probably derived from Bees’ Leigh, or possibly Beo’s leigh, meaning one who lived in the valley where the bee hives were. Clearly he had in his blood the sort of ancestral knowledge that I for one, find singularly lacking in myself when survey the hive in my garden. With a name like Hunter I’m only too well aware that the clan from which I emerged was a Scots hunting sub-clan, well known for their keen eyesight and ability to shoot. Which is what I have, or used to have, when I was younger.

That’s why I posted this picture of the gopher that came to our front yard. No one else was quick enough to see it. I still have the hunter’s eyes – to some extent.

Beesley went on to become an ambassador to some odd country and is now probably a Lord of the Realm, a reward bestowed upon him by a Grateful Country.

We have, all of us, in our deep roots all kinds of unacknowledged awareness and wisdom. We tend not to know this. Mine tends to remind me that I am just one creature of many species on this bit of earth. I have no ultimate ‘rights’ to anything. I have only the responsibility to look after it.

Diary 60

Sunday, May 17th

Spring has taken hold. Walking around my neighborhood I occasionally see young women, teenagers mostly, clad in short shorts, very short tops, and huge masks. Something seems a little off, there, somehow.

The masks are a very smart idea, though. Tomorrow Governor Baker is scheduled to announce the ‘easing’ – or not - of the current restrictions, and I do hope he’ll not be too cavalier.  Mass is a small state, and we have suffered a disproportionately high number of infections and deaths. You probably know the numbers, but in case you don’t, we’ve had 85,000 cases and nearly 6000 deaths, for our 6.9 million residents. 

Maryland has about the same population, but only 38,000 cases and 2000 deaths. In comparison Texas has 29 million residents, 47,000 cases and 1300 deaths. Texas is more than 4 times our population, and has had only a quarter of our deaths.

Some places got hit harder than others.

Diary 59

Saturday, May 16th

My impression is that various people have decided to relax their stay-at-home self-regulations. Today I noticed that the good weather had tempted out a fair number of motorcycles. I like motorcycles, but the unmuffled roar of the I-don’t-give-a-damn bikes such as I heard in some numbers, well that’s been absent until now. There’s no where for them to go, so I can only assume it was a gesture towards the joys of summer.

A few houses down our neighbors, who had held socially distanced gatherings of four or five in their yard until now, today had a barbeque with much looser social distancing.  It looked like fun. I wish I’d been invited. Perhaps we’re all just a bit tired of this lockdown.

But if we just go back to business as usual we’ll have missed an opportunity to reassess how we live, and how we want our world to be, and what we hope the next few generations will inherit.

Diary 58

Friday, May 15th

My son in law came by to look at the bees. It seems that while the rest of us have been somewhat under-employed (33 million of us, it turns out) that the bees have been busy busy busy.  So much so that we needed to add an extra box to the hive. This we did by lifting the lid on the first box and examining the hive for overall health.

Each frame of comb we pulled out was totally covered with bees, several thousand of them, and we were in our shirts and jeans, no gloves, no veils.  But the bees seemed to know we meant no harm. They were just eager to keep on working to benefit the hive. We were not stung. We were not attacked by protesting bees who wanted to gather in bars and wave their weapons around and sport confederate flags.  And believe me, this lot had their little stingers. All they wanted was the general good for all.

We could learn from bees.

Diary 57

Diary 57

Thursday, May 14th

The days tend to blend into each other, somewhat, and I’m reminded that in the not-so-distant past agricultural communities had to work hard to keep the shape of their week recognizable. The Sunday or Sabbath anchored the week, and preparations for it (cleaning, getting one’s clothes in order, preparing the meal that marked the day) were as inflexible as any office schedule. 

We’re still not quite ready for this, the new self-regulation. Neighbors ask me if this is recycling week or is that next week? And so on. It’s easy to lose track.

Not that this is necessarily bad. I’ve found myself having to make ‘set’ times for exercise. And it works well.  Previously I’d have got in my car, driven to work, walked a few hundred yards to the office, worked, come home tired out – convinced I’d had plenty of physical exercise. I hadn’t.  I was just mentally tired. The external locus of control and valuation had taken over. Now I have to choose to stay fit, and take action to do so.

Old habits are being dissolved.

For me it feels as if I’m taking more charge of my life, for the first time for years.

Diary 56

Diary 56

Wednesday, May 13th

Eight weeks. 

The drama of the missing Siamese enters a new phase: the trap has been set, the owner is convinced it truly is her cat, and she waits anxious and tight-lipped in her car across the road from our house, for hours at a time. I am beginning to think that this may not be her cat, and that the video only snagged an image of the one that lives down the road. Yet she so clearly wants to believe, needs to believe it is her cat. We love our pets, and in a time of lockdown they can be immeasurably consoling to those who are older, alone, and lonely.

Elsewhere in the Grand Duchy of Watertown the river is in its springtime surge, the herons have moved to a sort of island refuge, and while the geese are clearly interested in mating the herons remain aloof from it all.

People leave messages for each other on the sidewalks and on tree roots.

Diary 55

Tuesday, May 12th

55 days, eh? 

Meanwhile Operation Catnip is into a new phase. Yesterday the cat-recovery people set up a camera in our front garden to see if the missing Siamese actually was lurking in the undergrowth. The owner, an older lady, is clearly heartbroken at having lost her cat, and presents a brave face, although despair is not far behind.

It turns out that they actually caught the wee feline on video, and so they’re going to set up a trap for it. I was somewhat relieved about this because it turns out there is another Siamese in the neighborhood, and I had visions of them scooping up the wrong cat, thinking it was, in fact, the wandering Darcy.  Yes, that’s his name. We were even introduced to his rather sad sister, whom I immediately assumed was called Elizabeth, of course, although I have no evidence for that. After all, Jane Austen called Darcy’s sister Georgiana, so I could well be wrong. So the video evidence that this was in fact he was, well, a relief. 

In Austen’s world Darcy and Elizabeth wind up together after various tribulations. We all love a happy ending. I hope it may be the case for this Darcy, too. I hope it may be the case for all of us.

Diary 54

Monday, May 11th

Today brought some unusual things. First of all I invented a new exercise that is suitable for lock-down. I call it ‘where the hell did my wife leave her glasses’. It involves bending down to look underneath chairs, running up and down stairs in case they were left in the attic, reaching up to places she may have put them ‘for now’ and so on. Without her glasses my wife has a little trouble seeing where her glasses are, you see, which is why I do some of the searching. She seems intent on my doing this exercise at least once a day.

The other item also involved searching. It seems that with less traffic about the local cats have taken to wandering further than usual, and then getting lost. So a dear lady who is a ‘Pet Recovery’ professional has now set up a wildlife camera in my front yard, since that was the last place the cat in question was seen. I bet she’ll get some brilliant pictures of the squirrels.

Meanwhile the thing we’re missing is not glasses or cats so much as decent guidance during this pandemic.  Why are we not seeing advice about how we can enhance our immune systems so we don’t collapse when the virus hits? Why are we not being encouraged to take good care of ourselves in terms of nutrition? We can do more - so that we’re not sitting ducks. 

Diary 53

Sunday, May 10th

Mothers’ Day – a day well worth celebrating, to acknowledge mothers everywhere, the act of mothering, and especially the source of us all - Mother Earth.

Today also marked the day when people within the White House started to come down with covid, and Fauci went into quarantine. I don’t wish bad things to anyone, but I can’t help thinking that a dose of good old reality might be salutary for some of the present incumbents. It’s when it hits close to home that it becomes real.

I’ll attach a picture of ‘my’ bees doing what they do best. I wish the White House would do the same. Our “president” was doing just fine as a small time swindler and real estate fraud. As a leader, though, he’s far less impressive.

Oh, and remember: Flynn pleaded guilty twice; now charges have been dropped.