Monday, March 30, 2020

we are the lucky ones, riding out the crisis out at the end of a mountain road, with national forest on two sides of us, and enough sunshine and fresh air to kill any virus even if it arrives on an amazon package. the main hazard for us is being so isolated from the social world that we lose all sense of where we are.

by social world i mean the people of the valley and the small town where our kids go to school - in an area of only a few thousand, and a county that hasn't seen a single case, though it stretches from el paso all the way up into these mountains - people are really different from the rest of the country. we read the news - we overread it in fact, being in isolation, and finding it so tempting - and the news, geared toward us, tells us that the virus is overtaking certain hospitals and threatening everyone everywhere.

our ups driver, though, who was our only visitor over the course of maybe three days, feels like the whole thing is overblown. how can you feel it's overblown if it's overtaking whole hospitals, whole cities? well, it's too politicized. like the kennedy center, for example, he says. they make a bill to help people with their rent, and they fund the kennedy center.

his comment was something i could chew on the rest of the day, after i removed a big old stump, and raked leaves, and removed a few more little stumps. i spent the day out in the sun, moving brush to brush piles, and doing my "old man and the stump" routine. of course, i checked the news obsessively, especially for anything about john prine.

john prine, as far as i can tell, recovered. and so will boris johnson, and probably trump and pence themselves, and any number of other people who got it. it's only random old people, and some other random people, who get it and go under. but even this happens unexpectedly, you never know, you can't count on anything.

someone said you can't get it in this county, because they only test for it in the nearby counties. when you go a county over, you become that county's statistic. but someone else said, no that's not right, we can test for it here too. what do i know? i haven't gone to get tested. maybe our fears are overblown about emergency rooms being over their capacity. with all these bars closed, and cars not on the road, emergency rooms are empty. people are in runs of good health.

and this leaves us to wonder: is the whole thing a hoax? or not really all that bad? and these people aren't really dying, or, if they are, just as many would be dying anyway? we are isolated out here - having not talked to many people about what we know, except online, on zoom, we don't have much to go by. and it makes me wonder sometimes if our grip is somewhat tenuous.

we are gearing up for another trip to town. this one will be maybe wednesday. we'll try to get everything we need in one fell swoop - to town and back. it's forty miles to the big (20,000) town with the WalMart, but we'll hit our little mountain community, if we have to, as well. don't know if we'll wear masks; maybe everyone should. there are principles involved here. if something makes you safer, you should by all means go the safer route. in that regard i've been assuming that the virus was here in our county, and has been, and people are passing through regularly, and surely it's been spreading like wildfire. assume everyone's infected; assume you're infected; keep six feet; be grateful to those on the front lines. all those are easy for us. the virus has turned the world upside down, but we, mountain bumpkins, are going along living kind of like how we were, but with less traveling.

there is some aggravation out there that we had to go through this, that the governor shut everything down to slow the spread of the virus, that businesses had to close and people had to go home and stay home indefinitely. teachers are now on us to get us started with salvaging what's left of the spring semester, giving our kids something to think about, something to do, a chance to pass if that will even be possible. we have to rebuild the school year, just like the economy, and take what we've got and build on it. In that respect i feel guilty, as i'd rather pull stumps in the yard, on a fresh and windy day, and blow off, so to speak, all suggestion of schoolwork and suffering on the part of the kids. i could homeschool, i always thought, but i could never get my kids to do what i want them to do, and my wife undercuts me because she's left with so much bad feeling about her father making her do things as a kid. so she'll jump in there and defend them, and in the end it's a bad combination, because they can play one of us off the other. i'm better off with the stumps.

so begins the last part of the school year, and spring blossoms out in the mountains, where we wake up when we are ready, and maybe do the laundry, or clean something up. my wife cooks and bakes like crazy. life is good, with the air in the house full of cooking smells, and even the dogs are happy. they get their walks, and it seems like that helps them sleep better at night. me too - i pull stumps, and my shoulder muscles set in to the bed, and i have crazy dreams. it's coronavirus times. things are changing, and fast, and there's no telling what the news will have for us in the morning.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

lively times, these, with u s coronavirus deaths doubling in a couple of days, exploding around everywhere, and meanwhile we, sequestered out in the country, get increasingly online and involved in various communities that are surviving, albeit online, and getting to know each other in different dimensions.

i know zoom ok, but i don't know how to block someone in an instant, if i should need to. that hasn't happened yet on cloud quakers but i asked my family about it. i'm on there, on a family zoom, with my two brothers and one sister, and a daughter and a son, and three grandchildren, and my daughter knew a little bit about it. i haven't followed up but will.

nacchus was the word i was looking for; it's a yiddish word for the pride a grandfather might feel in front of his brothers and sister, when his three grandchildren are so cute, and in the case of one of them, so precocious. it was a fantastic feeling, to have all three of them in one place, and in good shape, and being so young and lively in their parents' arms.

on the other hand a little kid died in chicago, of coronavirus, among the thousand that just died in the last day or two. it's an explosion of deaths as the whole thing gets more serious, and it points out a great disparity that we live with - some of us can sit back here, out in the country, out at the end of the road, and simply stay out here, as the kids are out of school, and we can keep people at bay and only go in to get our groceries, etc. we can afford to cut ourselves off, self-isolate, and we do this, because first of all, we read the news and know it's necessary for survival. but we also don't depend on the day-to-day income of some essential job, one that would require us to come face-to-face with people sneezing and coughing and whatever, as we are trying to live our lives. i am convinced that coronavirus doesn't come on an amazon package, or on food delivered by pickup at wal-mart, and so i'm relatively safe that way. it surely isn't out here with the deer and elk and wild turkeys that the dogs are always barking at. but it is in those enclosed small rooms, like the allsup's, or the post office, where you stand in line and even if you try to keep six feet, you can't really. people breathe, it's out there.

so we are determined to survive, and our kids seem to understand, though they still want a kitty, and they really want to see their friends and go stay the night sometime. it's ok with them that we have to stay kind of holed up out here, and start to take classes online, and do everything over zoom or youtube or whatever, what else is there? to some kids that's all there was to begin with. but now that school's out, it's all more serious, more permanent. they aren't going to town, today or tomorrow.

it's good to see my family, one in england, one in pittsburgh, one in albuquerque. they isolate and keep social distancing the best they can given their circumstances. it's harder in the city than the country, and, i'm the country one - i've moved way out to the mountains, out at the end of the road, and now's a time i'm grateful to be out here, and any town, any village, any small burg, would be too much anyway. how do you keep teenagers away from their friends? we who have trouble saying no, will have more trouble than usual. because we know our kids and know how bored they can get.

but on the other hand, it's a world out here, a national forest, and spring is coming, and though i don't expect them to go out and revel in it, it is at least right there in front of them, saying hey, lots of deer out here, elk, bear, coyote, turkeys, bunrabs, you name it. it's not boring. i work days raking, pulling stumps, moving stones, cleaning out old rotten sticks and bark, and planting a meager garden. i have to move on the garden front, because it's spring, time to plant. i have to get some stuff in the earth pretty quick here, because i have all summer to stand around and watch it, and i want to have more than the meager plot i've got now, that has a little greenthread, three heads of garlic, and a few fruit trees. time to move on the market and get going.

meanwhile, i have to say, the world is caving in out there, as we have more and more hotspots. nobody told mississippi or alabama that this was coming, and they were watching fox news, so it was too late by the time they figured it out. mardi gras had come and gone. it was spread, everyone had it. out here in the scrubby desert of new mexico, it wasn't so fast - what few travelers we've got, all came up from texas, and it hadn't got out to west texas yet anyway, and we were at such a pace, that it just wasn't in any hurry to jump from person to person. so it didn't. and still even today otero county has zero. it's inevitable that we get some, yes, and maybe we'll get too many, as even some is too many, but not yet. some people say, if you want one of those hospital beds, grab it quick. because soon there will be none left.

and sure enough, in los angeles, new orleans, new york, they're running out of things already. i think the numbers will jump precipitously and people will get nervous. a thousand a day is calamitous, scary, apocalyptic, and it makes you wonder. they ship a thousand caskets into wuhan but wuhan maintains it stopped at 300 or so and they have it totally under control. control? 300 more in a day, in new york, and i'm looking only at the deaths, because they've lost track of the cases, total cases, there are so many. we are world leaders. how can you not panic?

out here, the same old deer come through, chewing on the grass. they seem to pull up the entire greenthread plants except in places where it's thoroughly and carefully fenced. greenthread is navajo tea - an herbal tea - you get the wisdom of the navajo, at the same time you pee all night. of course i need to grow some other stuff too. what good is wisdom, when you aren't actually growing stuff?

my grandchildren, so cute, i wanted to hug them over zoom, and squeeze them 'til they shriek. all three will give their parents a run for their money, so to speak. it's coner-virus time, time to stay home, and get to know your family.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

went into town today, five out of six of us, and came back to a peaceful mountain retreat where we expect to spend the next week or so, before we have to go back again. we'd gone ten or eleven days without going into town. we'd been virtually sequestered as a family. having three teenagers, it was no small feat. but in town, we had to stay in the same car.

we had a limited agenda. we got four five-gallon jugs of drinking water at the water place. we got groceries delivered at walmart, by the carload, and got some prescriptions. we went to mcdonald's; that was for the kids. and finally, we got gas; we were out of gas.

the kids watched out the window as we drove past the deserted town. people are not supposed to be out and about, although rumors that they were fining people or stopping them, i think, were false. for a moment i envisioned being stopped in a car with five, being asked why we were all different races, and having to explain that we were one family. but no, i don't think they are that militant about it. they have asked everyone to stay at home, to shelter in place, and we're doing it. most people are cooperating.

it's not like we have beaches in new mexico. but in fact, we have so few people, that if people were really violating the restriction, everyone would know it immediately. the kids seem to understand this in a basic way. we are not mean to them, or abusive; we are gentle, and in fact make very few demands on them. they are having an internet holiday, and only the youngest is bored, as she really loved the social interaction of school.

the oldest, eighteen, didn't even want to go to town. to him it's an excuse to stay home and do what he wanted to do anyway, make youtubes, play games, play on his computer. he's been monetized, i think, on his youtube channel, so we could consider it a kind of part-time job, and will stay that way over the summer, if he keeps at it. but mostly he's doing it because he wants to. you'd think after eleven days, he'd be in for going for a ride and seeing the area. no, not really. he's content to stay in his trailer, take his dog for a walk, and come around regularly for his dinner.

one kid is desperate for the mcdonald's. he started to break down in about the eighth day. a while ago he'd decided that nothing mom made was fried enough, or addictive enough, or whatever. he understands the price - now we are risking our lives, to take a ride down into town. but his point is, he needs it. bad. he needs it before he can even sleep.

people were keeping their distance at the water store. they had the door open, so you weren't breathing enclosed air. they had every other spigot closed, so you wouldn't be standing near someone as you served up your water. they were vigilant. but life was going on. it was clearly a new way of living. there were plenty of cars on the road; people were up and doing business. these places that dealt in food and water, they were selling plenty of food and water. and meds, lots of those too.

i'm wondering what "non-essential" really means. to me, alcohol, and a sit-down restaurant, they are non-essential; at mcdonald's of course we could do the drive-through. but other places? it's a kind of fuzzy line, and i could see arguing even about alcohol. well if booze is essential, how about pot? the world seemed to be going on. the thrift store, maybe, was closed. dollar shirts may be essential to some people, but it's an indulgence i suppose to most of us.

there were elk by the road, as usual, deer passing through. our canyon, as peaceful as ever. it's spring in the mountains, and i guess if some people are giving the message of hope, that's good, i'll hope. things seem to be moving both directions at once, like the stock market's wild fluctuation - wildly up one day, wildly down the other. they say, bring back the economy, and soon, and others say, stay home, please stay home. maybe both are possible. we'll stay home as long as we can, or at least until we know more. the damage could be severe, in the economy, but it seems to be picking up in nature. less traffic, better air, animals moving back in, dogs and cats getting to know their owners better.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

mountain lions walk the streets of boulder, other wildlife returns to places that are unoccupied. lots of places are unoccupied. if you sit out on your porch, you may hear birds singing, as spring is arriving in many places. a friend of mine says there are still three feet of snow in northwest territories, but spring is arriving there too. nature has made us go home to our rooms, and pay attention to it.

look here, says nature, now that it has us trapped at home, afraid to venture out to the restaurant. you have trashed this planet. you've heated up antarctica, and let the seas rise. your factories have burned coal and other things, choking off the air - look here, here is fresh air, even in china, pay attention.

you have elected trump. and then, on the other side, biden, just as bad. you are the leader of the free world - are you going to just let all the insects die? and the birds? and the frogs? and every living thing, on up the chain? No. Stop. This virus is here to teach you a lesson.

you have cornered animals into increasingly smaller spaces. endangered, almost extinct, they have no other place to go. you are eating them in the outdoor markets as you stroll in the evening, talking to each other. can you blame them if they release a virus, as their last chance to survive? if this virus shows you what clean air can be like, what it's like to see dolphins, what happens when the animals have a little breathing room?

springtime, you see, is beautiful. as promised, the green comes back, the little shoots come from the earth, and blossom. in this dry country, it's not wet, not bright green, until july. but it's spring - the ice is gone.

pay attention - there's some things you really need to see.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

a lazy saturday...i taught chinese kids early this morning (got up at five) and then put their coronavirus tales on their weblog. we in the states should pay close attention; they teach us some things.

one is that there is a lot of benefit to staying home. it doesn't appear that way to young folks, who are often bored, but when the chips are down, family is who you want to be with. it's who i want to be with, anyway. my daughter set up a zoom reunion for my brothers and sisters, and we all got on there and worried about each other and about the general collapse of civilization as we know it. but it's become clear to me that so far none of them has it. my daughter has friends in seattle who have it, and this is quite serious, but it's more advanced in seattle than here - i suspect we will get it, or people we know will get it, soon enough.

no one mentions this, but i suspect you can look at it as nature's last gasp. antarctic melting, floods haven't worked, amazon has been razed, and then the democrats go for biden, who has never given any indication of caring. it was earth's last chance. and ironically, china and the states are the two places where it will hit the worst, besides italy. if you think about it, it's a wealthy class disease, if you consider all chinese, americans, and italians to be first world to begin with. it makes us slightly smaller as a people. "the earth is telling us to go to our room, and think about what we have done," someone said, and i bought that. i'm not sure if the earth did it deliberately. someone said it's just because we are right up against what is left of animals. yes, and if you buy that things happen for a reason, this is earth's last chance to make sure the animals have a shot at surviving.

and coronavirus has only begun to pick up steam. new york got another five thousand, overnight, and now has over eleven thousand. other places are beginning to double, overnight - new mexico among them. there are massive nationwide attempts at getting everyone to stay home - we are totally behind that - but the disease has a big head start, and will overtake large numbers before too long. there is no question, it will be a major event before it's over.

it's interesting who might get it at the top. Trump might (still); Pence might. Some senators and congressmen might. the way i see it, anyone who is still meeting in large groups, is very likely to get it, because that's who it is going after. and we still have people getting together - on florida beaches, in texas, at various bars and clubs that are still open - we still have a fairly wide swath of the nation that is not taking it very seriously.

that swath is getting smaller every hour. eleven thousand, i'd say new york has respirator/ventilator shortages already. it will not be pretty. it will be like italy - lots of bodies, and no time for funerals.

our own family seems to be surviving. one sister lives alone, has stopped working, goes for regular walks, and stays six feet from everyone. she sounded panicky a couple days ago, but today sounds more like she's just determined to survive. at her job, they don't take it seriously. at places where they don't use masks, or even try to get them, there's an issue, i think. and supplies, nationwide, will become an issue. this is something the people at the top haven't been thinking about, but they should get started.

i tend to be negative - this is the end of the world, we will run out of supplies, everyone will starve, that kind of thing. my sister, also, tends toward pessimism. we read too much news, and need to get outside, to enjoy the spring. it's a new year, and flowers are coming up, all over the place.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

i really have no problem with hanging around days on end, playing out in my garden, moving dirt and cutting wood, growing garlic and greenthread. my kids are restless, being teenagers and all, and being way out on the end of the road in the mountains. there are a lot of deer and elk and turkeys out here, but no other teenagers, and they don't go for long walks in the canyon if they can avoid it. they have internet though, and we're feeding them pretty well. we hang around in the main house, either obsessing on the news, or avoiding it entirely, and when they come in, we feed them and try not to sound too upset.

the numbers climb steadily, especially in italy and here. the couple of weeks we went without testing will turn out to be crucial, as it will have spread too much and too wide, and then everyone will get it except those of us who are way hidden, way out there. for us, school has been canceled for three weeks, but we suspect it will be much more. and i am happy with that, remember, as i have dirt and fence projects, and things like transplanting trees.

one son was almost ready for college, and the prospects for that are looking dim. is he supposed to just move into a dorm, in august? i think he's a little relieved that he might not have to. if they put all these courses online, he'll save a lot of money, and then by the time he is ready to bolt, it won't be a problem. i'm sure he doesn't want to stay home forever. but he put all himself into getting straight a's, and that didn't leave him much room for developing independence skills, or the self-awareness to be ready to leave. he's nice to have around, it won't bother us a bit. i'd rather have him stay, than out there rubbing elbows with every eighteen-year-old that forgot to use social distance.

the other three, well, it's tough on them too. the question is, whether to ride horses or not. in austria, they say, not. that's because it's dangerous, but there are no hospital beds to share. if you were to end up in a hospital, as my wife did back in what, november, you'd take a bed away from someone who could die. now is that a reason to let go of a very expensive habit? i'm not sure. the horses are my wife's salvation. she will have trouble living without them.

the youngest goes outside, lives outside, likes it out there. if i'm doing weeding or raking, sometimes she'll help me; she likes it. she gets a lot of fresh air out there. but she likes school too, and will miss it dearly. not sure how to get her with her friends more. pretty soon everyone will go bonkers, i'm afraid. i'm hoping, not me. i'm trying to hole up, be peaceful, give kids things to do, keep my cool in the storm, that kind of thing.

my sister, i'm afraid, is having a tough time of it. she's alone, in a city, and it's scary, i think. a friend went to walmart and found shelves empty; that upset my wife too. if the supply chain is disrupted, that's trouble. i think inflation is a secret problem too; it's been so long that we really suffered from it, that we've forgotten what it's like. but they can charge whatever they want for toilet paper. and if we really need it, what are we going to do, live without? most of us have a lifetime supply, back in the garage, now. i know we have something like that, because we were worried about power shortages. i don't want to give the mice time to find them. my goal is to 1) use them for insulation, for the rest of the winter; 2) use them up slowly, and 3) maybe think of some art projects that use them cleverly.

and then, the sun goes down gently in the canyon. another peaceful country night, and i know that people, in their various houses, are as agitated as we can be. but there are deer, elk and turkeys out here. i say that not to say that we'll always have a food supply (i'd need a gun and some skills, before that would be true), but more that, if you're going to have neighbors at all, best to have the ones you know are not carrying the virus.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

"shelter in place" is not really so bad for us. we live way out in the mountains on five acres, with fresh air all around, and national forest to the north and east, mostly national forest in the other directions too. our kids rely mostly on internet; they haven't really got into the habit of going around, exploring the canyons, walking up in the forest. they are teenagers though - it's a hardship to not be with their friends.

we are somewhat obsessively glued to the news, watching as the cycle speeds up and things keep happening. they put the bay area on "shelter in place," which is a nice word for lockdown, they close schools in new york and the east coast. our schools are already closed, but cases have been going up only about six a day - thirteen, nineteen, twenty-six, like that. new mexico does not have a huge population, and most of these cases are in the north, where the people are.

down here, it's a challenge to get people to take it seriously. twenty-six people out of a couple million doesn't seem scary enough, and lots of people in our community would just as soon go to the local bar and complain to their neighbors. my wife will tell them, on the facebook site, be sane, go home, ride it out, for the good of everyone. but i won't even do that, because i'm afraid of getting lifetime enemies. it's a tourist town. it's a place where people believe it's a hoax meant to bring down trump. it's a place where massive go-home-and-stay-home will take food off people's plate.

i read someone's comment - he said if they give a thousand to every american, "i'm a buy me a gun." i wouldn't quite go that far. way out here, almost everyone has a stockpile, but they use them mostly on the animals - the deer, the elk, the turkeys, an occasional rattler or lion. they aren't really afraid of the city coming out trying to steal stuff, but they're well aware that it happens and might start happening more often as things really go downhill. it's a tightknit community. we take care of each other particularly in the case of fire, and accidents, and things like that. i'm proud to live here.

the one who is most set back by this is the eighteen-year-old. he was set to be valedictorian of a small high-school class, maybe thirty people, and now school is canceled and may not come back, or if it does, it will come back online. he's ok with online. but he's worried about moving to a dorm in the fall, when it may not be over. in fact, it probably will not be over. even a nice long summer, out in the sun, will not keep people from dying in the city and places where they've come in contact with it.

one of the big problems is that it's vastly underreported. in colorado, numbers have been under two hundred for days. but i have a cousin there, who actually has it, and she was unable to be tested for about a week. she has a friend in similar situation: clearly sick, but not tested. for whatever reason, if there weren't tests, there weren't confirmed cases, and that made it harder for other people to be tested. what that means to me is that colorado, by now, is probably up to about three hundred, maybe four. vastly underreported.

and there are plenty of reasons it would be vastly underreported anyway. the first is that you go five to seven days before you show symptoms. that means that everyone it's hit, we're only seeing the later stages. if only the ones that feel something get tested, that's the ones for whom it's too late. we can't really go back and ask where they've been for five days.

spring break brings a new challenge - teenagers, in motels and on the beach, bringing it all back to wherever they came from. a disaster waiting to happen.

for us, the main idea is to get used to being out here. easy enough for my wife and me; we are retired, and we are where we want to be. harder for our kids, who really like their friends. talk to them online, we tell them. and we try to show them how.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

we're feeling a little tense these days, what with the coronavirus coming around knocking on our door. for days, new mexico had zero, but was surrounded by states that had several. then it had three, four, five, now six. all this has happened in a day or two. i am glued to the news as it changes by the minute.

new mexico has a proactive health machine. it set up a website; then it cancelled school sports programs. today it cancelled school for three weeks starting monday. our decision is whether to send them or yank them tomorrow. we're leaning toward yanking.

we have four in school: one in high school, two in middle school, one in elementary. the one in high school is valedictorian, but would be just as happy staying home the rest of the year. he doesn't like people anyway and in fact is nervous about college. going away? living with other people? fending for himself in an urban environment? this may be too much for him. given an excuse to stay home and play on the computer, he might take it and simply hole up, for the semester, or the year, or indefinitely.

the youngest one is crushed. she is very social and loves school. she wants to go tomorrow and will be heartbroken if it's closed, for a week, for three weeks, whatever. the two middleschoolers have mixed feelings.

a gentle rain has moved into the valley, so i took the youngest and quick planted some garlic out in the garden. the soil was rich and loamy. the greenthread was already coming up. when the rain picked up we had to come in, but we had already planted it, and that was good. the little green shoots were already about six inches; they had been growing in the shed. now they're in the earth; they'll be much happier.

national forest stretches out to the north for about a mile, 'til you come to the mescalero apache reservation. to the east, it's national forest on down to the wide open plains where the roswell incident happened. it's kind of scrubby, with a lot of juniper, but it's wide open: deer, snakes, and a few other kinds of animals are common. in our little canyon, there are eight or ten families, on roads that are connected to ours. it's a close-knit community. they support the local school. they wear the name of the mountain town on the front of their cars, where new mexico doesn't require a license plate.

most of the mountain people, however, are a little contemptuous of the coronavirus. they simply believe it's a hoax, or nothing to be worried about; maybe this is because they've been watching fox news. or it could be because we always stockpile food and consider the outside world to be a big vile disease in general. the outside world is a pestilence, a pandemic of its own.

i like coming back home after any time away, even if i've only been in the village, or the local town. i'm pretty sure the coronavirus hasn't been to either, but just in case, we're considering yanking the kids tomorrow: it's kind of a wasted day anyway, and we're nervous about exposing our kids to anyone. my wife is the most anxious. she figures we have enough excuse to yank them already, and shouldn't have to wait one more day of exposing them to everyone in town, a day of many extended hugs, a day when, if it's arrived, will be one day too many. they were going to go to a concert in town tomorrow. that concert was canceled, because of the coronavirus. they said: we'll have a party, by ourselves, in the school. that doesn't sound appealing either. except of course to the young one, who loves the social whirl so much. she'll be crushed.

my wife is sixty-two; i'm sixty-five. we are not incredibly high risk, as we are reasonably healthy. no high blood pressure, no heart drugs. my wife rides a horse regularly, and i garden and work around the place a lot. i saw wood and rake. there's lots of fresh air. when it rains, even a little, the pine forests smell glorious, and i don't ever want to go back to town.

Monday, March 09, 2020

funny how the world can turn around so quickly. just yesterday it seemed like if you could go on a cruise, you had lots of money, and that was all cool, and you could come back with a tan and good stories about port cities like kingston jamaica, or maybe san juan. you were riding high and you spent a couple of weeks relaxing in the sun and in the beautiful caribbean. now this was not something i ever aspired to, and that was lucky because now, you have this batch of travelers, some went on the princess, some went on some other one, and they're all suspect because of coronavirus.

or here's another example. you can own a fine restaurant in town, and get lots of business, but people are close to each other, and sit in confined places. well that kind of place is going to be unpopular for a month or two, or maybe three, or all spring and all summer. i'm not really sure how this all will pan out. but panic is setting in across the country and there's no way to know how long it will last.

the schools that have more stuff online are the ones that will have more stuff going on; anything that's online can keep being online and keep going. anyone who's not online might have to think about getting online, or getting used to sitting around for a while while they wait for the whole thing to subside. but why should it subside? they are still struggling to get tests to all the places they need it, and track down where it's been, and where it's going next. it will be a while before they know it's gotten everyone it's going to get.

the schools are really our biggest concern. we live way out in the country. we've been stockpiling, but we do that anyway because we get snowed in and lose power for days at a time. we have four kids in two schools, but they only come into contact with maybe a hundred people a day each. it's a small school. so far not much of life has been altered. school has gone on as usual, and tourists are continuing to fill this little mountain town.

but i can see trouble on the horizon. new mexico hasn't had a single reported case, but it's surrounded by states with cases - arizona, texas, colorado, utah, oklahoma. it's all over the place. my guess is it will be in new mexico today or tomorrow. as for our town, it may take a few weeks before it gets to our town, but with the tourists and all, i'll say a week on that too. it'll be here in a week.

i watch the news obsessively now, and since i check in maybe six or seven times a day, i lose track of how much can happen in a day or how quickly things can get so bad. the stock market, for example, is crashing again, more, eleven thousand before it even opened, as far as i can tell. all of a sudden retirement plans, college funds, life savings, all gone up in smoke, by the trillion. now you can be an alarmist, like i am, and say this will change life as we know it, or you can shrug it off, buy low, and watch it come back to some kind of level. i'm not buying low; i'm not buying at all. i'll put my life savings in toilet paper.

when biden beat sanders the stock market hesitated for a while, on its way down, and even went up for a day. it was like people were saying, hey wait, the poor people won't come after us after all, they won't raise taxes on the rich, and we'll be able to keep robbing the system and taking our sixteen trillion every year. but then they woke up: hey wait a minute. the president is telling us everything is fine, there aren't enough tests out there, and the cruise ships are docking because he doesn't want to raise our numbers, or that will spook the markets. if he's worried about his legacy, this will be his legacy. he told the cdc not to warn us retired folks, so they didn't, so the retired folks went out and spread the disease.

it's the retired folks who are on the cruises, the ones with the money, the ones with the stock portfolio. it seems to be hitting them all at once. and apparently once they get it, they become a pariah. some of those cruise ships are still docked; they can't come home, they can't even get off the ship. they are marked for life as being on the princess.

that doesn't answer the question of whether we, out here in the country, will be ok, and the whole thing will pass when the weather turns, and we can go back to life as normal. my guess is, life will not go back to normal. my daughter says that parents in her kids' school are removing their children for the rest of the year, but in seattle they couldn't close the schools, because all the doctors and nurses needed the schools in order to go to work. big shortage of people in the medical community, as they rush around trying to get tests, and find a place to put people who are quarantined. we assume everyone can quarantine at home. but we have six here: what if one needs quarantined, and the others are ok? is there a point where you just say, well i've been exposed, but i'm going to go on living my life as usual?

there are already stories coming out. there is no more usual.

Sunday, March 08, 2020

a cold rain out there, steady, and staying above freezing so it's not turning to ice. that's not to say it's not snow or ice on the mountain, or in the village, both of which are 1500 feet higher than us. but we're down in the valley, safe, enjoying the steady wet downpour that will make everything mud, but add a glorious element to our mountain existence.

of course we are worried about the coronavirus. we are stockpiling food and toilet paper. we are limiting our trips to town, and getting our groceries by pickup instead of in-store. i am trying to refrain from shaking hands - very hard. i am learning to wash hands obsessively, and becoming more conscious of the times i touch my face - often. as of now, no cases reported in new mexico. but every surrounding state for miles around has it. and highways come through it that everyone uses.

the question brought up by all of this is, to what degree should we scale back on our activities? i know that lots of people don't have the luxury of not going to work - there's no such thing as sick pay in most places. pull kids out of school? no way. we are probably alone in our community, in thinking and saying that they should consider closing the school, and putting it online, for the protection of the kids. people will point out that kids don't get it; generally they don't, or at least they don't die from it. but they almost certainly carry it, and it's only a matter of time before it gets here.

you might consider me to be a chronic over-worrier. yes, and i just retired, so i'm on my news feed, like, every minute. my relatives don't really get it, maybe. my brother is not really worried about being in prague, even though i've said: the government should have warned seniors not to travel; the CDC warned seniors not to travel, but the government didn't want to issue the warning. to travel or not to travel? he didn't seem to mind taking the chance. i would have said, stay home.

a son-in-law is going to vegas in the morning - that's another example. he has an office mate who just got off a cruise. there you go, i say. or a friend who left for london this morning. people have lives and a lot of travel is generally involved in them (not ours, especially). people seem to think all schools will shut down (very likely, most will). no way can you just think, no problem. it's looming and looking like a big problem.

part of my worry is this: for the first time in my life, i can actually watch the news unfold all day long. i stopped the day-to-day 8-hour workday just a little while ago, and now, go back to being a sub? not advisable for a 65-year-old. but the news is coming fast and furious. it's actually possible to be absorbed by the news all day long - there's plenty of it - and they announce new things constantly. each country shuts its schools, goes on lockdown, rushes around trying to find every single case. we have barely begun, because we just got the tests this weekend. we don't even know if we have the virus.

i hate to end up sounding kind of confused, but basically i am. i don't know how many events to cancel. i don't know whether to take a strong stand, for example, and just pull kids out of school (as lots of parents will do). should i warn people? should i advise them to stay home? that's not easy either. pulling our kids won't be easy. keeping them busy won't be easy. being a fireman won't be easy either.

ah but who ever said it would be easy?

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

a victory of sorts, tonight, of the family variety. it's the end of the winter, and a huge, wet, maybe 11-15 inch snow came in; that's a lot for new mexico which is usually very dry in the spring. we were watching this snow come in and hoping the temps drifted above 32 which would make a lot of it rain, not snow, but at least not ice which is our nemesis. remember that we are separated from the school and the village by an 8700-foot ridge, with rugged switchbacks, steep cliffs, and deer and elk all over the place. it's dicey driving even in good weather, as you tend to hug the center and have to watch carefully for oncoming traffic.

so i take the kids in to school this morning, and come home to watch the snow get started. it starts and it comes down hard. it starts early - it was supposed to start at eleven and then turn to rain, but it started at ten and never turned into rain, but just got harder, whiter, fuller. the big challenge of course is the ride back into town for picking kids up at 3 40 when school gets out. by 2 there is already six inches in the village and the mountain roads are filling up fast with snow.

now snow is better than ice, as i've said; you can use your brakes sometimes, but you definitely can't trust it. four to five inches wasn't bad, though, and i made it to town ok, still nervous about bringing four kids home in it. saw several vehicles thrown in the ditch by the side of the road. had one incident where i tried to use my brakes and almost lost it. but i slowed way down, and got to town all right.

but i forgot to mention, before i left, we lost power. it just shut off, and there was no telling where, how much, when it would be restored, etc. i was worried about my wife - she can't start a generator - and so now i was in a hurry to get back. no matter how much it snowed, i wanted to come home, with the four kids, start the generator, and survive whatever the storm had to offer.

in town we had some donuts to drop off. four people had paid ten bucks each for boxes of krispy kremes, two of which as it happened were already delivered. one of the customers had closed shop and gone home - in fact, most of the village had closed shop and gone home - but i got the mission half accomplished, then having to bring a couple boxes back home.

at the school they didn't mind me grabbing my kids a little early. they were well aware that it was snowing hard, and foggy, and icy, on the roads, and we country people have a long way to go, preferably in daylight, on treacherous roads. i did it, got all four, and started back, about half hour before school was out.

on the way back, more stranded cars in the ditch; an RV was navigating the icy hill very tenuously. i slowed way down. the highway wasn't really that bad, but when i got to our ridge, i knew the trouble was going to start. partway up was a power guy, working on the lines. in the snow. it was still snowing hard.

this time, going up, the road had six to eight, and was very slippery. but i kept a steady pace and made it to the top of the hill. coming back down, first gear, easy does it, a long slippery hill with cliffs on the side, and actually now there were other cars behind me. this is in the national forest, mind you, a high ridge that separates our valley from the village and all the people in the heart of the mountains. but i kept a steady pace and got home.

we were all grateful to get home, but the big problem was still the generator. it started right up. i considered myself a genius to get the house all set up - a heater running, microwave for dinner, computers charged, playstation going, everyone was happy. some of them were getting colder, as it was still hovering around 32. but everyone was ok with their state of relaxation after school.

and the word came through: tomorrow, school is delayed. and keep yourself posted, as it might be canceled. in my view, it probably will be canceled, and that's because, in the village, it's still snowing. what was about seven when we left is now about nine, and will be twelve by morning. we're guessing, no school.

the power came on at about seven, five hours after it had gone out. i was right about that, too. it takes them about seven to be notified, find the problem, get the right equipment out there, and get it going again. i'm glad i'm not them. it's tough work and always in bad weather.

to us it was a godsend. i turned off the generator, moved heaters back to where they belonged, put everything back under its little cover; we made sure all bedrooms were warm enough. our own little house: warm enough, cleaned up, back to normal. a five-gallon jug of water that i'd moved in for toilet water (the pimp doesn't work when power is off), moved out. a huge sigh of relief. and, we can sleep in in the morning.

a kind of victory, especially the generator. my wife says, the sound of the generator is one of my favorite sounds. i agree. it's a kind of symbol of self-sufficiency, though you have to go buy gas to run it. we charged our phones and watched movies by its power. we had the option to run different heaters, and stay warm in different ways.

the temps never got below thirty, really, and it will all melt in a day or two. the moisture will be good for the dry mountain grasses and trees; it will smell good for a while. we are way down by the mexican border, and it just doesn't get too cold in march, though old-timers will tell you, things like this are always possible. you never know. and it's a wetter year than usual; they say a few inches, we get seven, nine, thirteen. maybe it's not over.

but i'm feeling better prepared all the time.