Friday, January 1, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 12-31-20: Slow Down, Welcoming in the New Year at 12 EST, Biology and Chemistry

1.  As a slow person to begin with, it is a startling experience when I get a clear message from my physical being to slow down. That's what I got today. After I shoveled the shallow wet, dense, snow from the sidewalks at my house and at Christy's, my lower back seized up and turned into a bright flashing neon sign commanding me to slow down. So, walking around the house like Amos McCoy/Walter Brennan, I got out the heating pad and for hours I sat still, only getting up to make some more coffee or do other essential things.

From 1953-2017, my back had held up pretty well, but I asked too much of it in Aug-Sept of 2017. Mom passed away and, in full consultation with Christy and Carol, Debbie and I decided to move into Mom's house toward the end of September. Since moving into this house in 1962, Mom had accumulated closets of clothes, piles of magazines, cookware, dishes, countless books, chairs, beds, blankets, towels, boxes of records and receipts, and walls covered with everything from pictures, plates, early 20th century kitchen utensils, a rack of souvenir spoons, a spice rack, framed souvenirs, and other miscellany. In the garage, she left behind an array of gardening utensils, tools, and supplies (pesticides, bags of fertilizer, and other soil enhancing products). It was a lot to deal with! 

Day after day after day in August, I worked at clearing out the house. Christy and Carol took things they wanted to their houses; I made countless trips to thrift store donation sites; I made countless trips to the dump. I completed this task and then flew to Greenbelt, MD and Debbie and I packed up our apartment, gave a lot of our belongings away, gave other things to the Diaz family, and used Federal Express to mail boxes to Kellogg. It was another concentrated time of lifting, moving, and transporting.

The excitement of driving back across the USA and embarking on a new chapter of life in Kellogg propelled me, but my back didn't share in the excitement. I wore out my back and every once in a while, like today, my back mandates that I give it a rest and just slow down.

2. All day, as I wrote in this blog and listened to Glenn Gould play ten Intermezzi for piano by Brahms, I wondered if I'd be able to join Christy, Carol, and Paul for some snacks and a little bubbly at 9 p.m. (12 midnight EST) to help usher in the year 2021. Forced to slow down, I spent several hours writing my blog post for 12-30-20, kept the heat on my lower back, and tried to devise a strategy for how to get out of the house.

I decided a hot shower would be smart. I took a long, slow one. I turned the water on as hot as I could and hoped its heat would loosen up my back some more.

It did.

I put on some decent clothes, packed up a tote bag with some bottles of liquor to make cocktails if asked to, and managed, without too much strain, to get the tote and Amos McCoy body into the Sube and vault myself out when I arrived at the Roberts' house and bring the booze indoors. 

The four of us had a fun time. We told all kinds of stories, talked about one hit wonders from nearly fifty years ago ("Rock the Boat", "Sideshow", "Sky High" -- but we never got to "Rubber Band Man") and talked about concerts we'd attended. This subject opened the door for me to yak for a while about how tonight marked the 33rd anniversary of when I attended my first Grateful Dead show (12-31-87) at the Oakland Coliseum and how I was kind of out of my element, but enjoyed the show and several more in the years to come. (I regret, actually, that it took me so long to go to a show and that I didn't go to more of them.)

Christy and I both would be driving home some time between 9-10 and we limited ourselves to about one cocktail early in the evening and one small glass of bubbly when we toasted the arrival of 2021 back east. Two years ago tonight, on my way home from the Lounge, I got pulled over by an Idaho State police officer.  He said I hadn't come to complete stop at the 4-way stop at Hill and Cameron. Tonight, I didn't want to go through that drill again of getting out of the car, answering questions, counting backwards, and doing other things to test my level of intoxication. That night, when I left the Lounge, it had been an hour or so since I'd drunk my last cocktail. I'd also eaten a stuffed squash before I went out that night. My moderation and big dinner worked. After I performed the tasks the officer required of me, he said, "I don't see a problem here", cited me for running a stop sign, and I drove the one block home. 

3. Let me just say, as I write this part of my post that I'm not preaching. I'm not attacking. I'm not inviting division or conflict or disagreement or argument. I'm not being judgmental toward those who see things differently and behave differently than I do.  I'm not trying to persuade you to see things the way I do. 

I write this blog, in large part, to have a record of what I've been doing and how I'm thinking about things. 

With that purpose in mind, I want to be able, some time in the future, to go back to 12-31-20 and read what I was thinking about the pandemic and the virus as 2020 came to an end and 2021 began.

So, here goes! 

Inevitably, as Christy, Carol, Paul, and I welcomed in 2021, our conversation turned to the pandemic. I shared my thoughts about how the virus is on its own timeline. There's no fresh start, no new year, no glad to be done with that when it comes to the life of this virus. It's difficult to deal with things, like this virus, that do not conform to our measurements of time. The virus is indifferent to hours, days, months, and years. It simply lets us move it along. The virus doesn't travel. We do. The virus doesn't conform to our time frames for quarantining, has no regard for the amount of time we assign to pauses and lockdowns. It relentlessly seeks out hosts. We provide them. Hosts become vectors. The virus thrives. 

Biological and chemical entities operate according to laws of nature with their own timelines, cycles, and ways of behaving. It's physical. We argue about freedom and mandates and rights and overreacting and fear and politics and worship and economics, as if the virus were a philosophical or political or lifestyle problem. At its foundation it's none of these things. It's biological and chemical. To act otherwise is to expand the virus's life span and its spread, which, by the way, can happen despite our best efforts to contain it. It's insidious. The calendar moving from 2020 to 2021 has no impact on the reality of this virus. It is opportunistic. Its timeline is determined, not by clocks or calendars, but by the availability of hosts and hosts serving as vectors. 

I'm living these days, as the saying goes, with an abundance of caution out of respect for and acceptance of the virulent and mutable nature of this virus and because of biology and chemistry.

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