Categories
Living in Society

Autumn in Iowa

Autumn Blaze maple tree.

The colors of the maple tree in front of our house don’t photograph well. We have to stand and take in the feeling they arouse. The variety is called Autumn Blaze.

Branches high up in the tree have been blown down and broken by wind storms. The foliage is not as dense as it once was. Like all maple trees the wood is soft and if the right kind of insect gains entry it will be curtains. I remember planting the tree with our daughter in the 1990s, shortly after moving to Big Grove Township.

We had no idea how the changing colors of autumn would make us feel. If we knew, we would have planted another.

The coronavirus pandemic rages in Iowa and in the United States. Republican politicians in charge are downplaying the seriousness of the virus so as not to have to address it before the election. Only a cynical, craven person could do so. The same kind of person who sent meat packers back to work without adequate protections after outbreaks were revealed.

The end of the year holidays are upon us with Halloween a week away. I wrote a post for our neighborhood Facebook page:

“My personal two cents: Just finished reading the complicated Iowa City rules for trick or treating during the coronavirus pandemic. To me, it’s simple. If parents want to take their children out in the neighborhood they should be free to do so. At the same time if members don’t want to participate, they should leave their front lights off and not answer the door. There should be no “tricks” or unpleasantness for anyone during the pandemic. As President Trump said in Florida last night, ‘you should do all the things’ to prevent spread of the disease. We know what those ‘things’ are: wear a mask, practice hygiene, use sanitizer, and clean up upon returning home. It’s important to create a positive environment for children during a fun holiday that marks the beginning of the end of year holiday season. I hope we are closer to normal by Halloween 2021.”

It really is autumn in Iowa.

Categories
Writing

A Personal COVID-19 Timeline

Lake Macbride State Park trail.

The coronavirus pandemic brought normal to a screeching halt.

On March 13 I spent the day with a friend I’ve known since grade school ending with a beer at a bar in Tiffin. After that there has been no normal.

My personal timeline went like this:

March 7: Governor Reynolds activated the State Emergency Operations Center for COVID-19.

March 8: Iowa Hygienic Laboratory reported the first three positive test results for COVID-19 in Iowa.

March 9: Governor Reynolds issued a Proclamation of Disaster Emergency regarding COVID-19.

March 11: World Health Organization declares COVID-19 a pandemic.

March 29: President Trump extends federal stay-at-home order until April 30.

April 2: My final shift at the home, farm and auto supply store.

April 6: Began 30-day COVID-19 leave of absence from the home, farm and auto supply store.

April 11: Purchased poetry books via email from local used bookstore to support them during the coronavirus pandemic.

April 14: Received CARES Act coronavirus pandemic payment from U.S. Treasury.

April 16: Interviewed by Andrew Keshner of MarketWatch about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on gardening.

April 21: Conducted first home owners association via conference call because of the coronavirus pandemic. Same with sewer district board of trustees.

April 28: Gave notice of retirement to the home, farm and auto supply store due to the coronavirus pandemic.

April 29: Statewide food policy council meeting on the CARES Act, via Zoom.

May 1: Iowa for Biden Round table on the Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Rural Families Moderated by Tom Vilsack, via Zoom.

May 6: Webinar on UPS Supply Chain Challenges during the coronavirus pandemic, via Zoom.

May 6: Arms Control Association meeting about COVID-19 and Global Security, via Zoom.

May 27: First COVID-19 screening (negative).

June 1: Prescription for cholesterol medicine during followup at local clinic. Socially distanced.

June 2: Began exercising for 25-30 minutes daily for health reasons and due to shelter in place because of the coronavirus pandemic.

June 15: Conference call with Vice President Mike Pence on COVID-19, other topics.

June 16: Second COVID-19 screening (negative).

June 18: Began bicycle riding for exercise.

June 28: Haircut at home because of the coronavirus pandemic.

July 13: 75th Anniversary of the Atomic Bombings – Deconstructing the Myths and Promoting a Nuclear Weapons-Free & Just World, via Zoom.

July 23: First garden donation to local food rescue non-profit.

July 23: Rita Hart meeting on re-opening the schools, via Zoom.

July 29: Dental appointment in Cedar Rapids. Partial treatment because of COVID-19 restrictions.

August 2: Bicycle crash on Lake Macbride Trail.

August 9: Op-ed in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, 75 Years After Hiroshima.

August 10: Derecho, lost electricity.

August 13: Bicycle crash on Polk Avenue detour because of derecho damage on the trail.

August 14: Electricity restored.

August 15: Discussion with the orchard about return to work for the fall season. Declined due to the coronavirus pandemic and high number of infections in Johnson County.

August 20: Third COVID-19 screening (negative).

September 10: Followup appointment at local clinic. Socially distanced.

September 13: Op-ed in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Is Rural Iowa Different?

September 26: Pop-up event with Doug Emhoff (Kamala Harris’ husband). Drive through campaign sign pickup due to restrictions of coronavirus pandemic.

October 23: Washington Post reports, “America is poised to enter its worst stretch of the pandemic, with cases spiking and the country on the precipice of shattering its daily record for infections in the next few days.” In Iowa we have the eighth highest COVID-19 infection rate among the states. There have been 1,617 Iowa deaths linked to the coronavirus.

Categories
Living in Society

House District 73 and the Pandemic

Woman Writing Letter

As Election Day approaches, the coronavirus dominates the news and lives of many who live in House District 73. I voted early for Lonny Pulkrabek as state representative and recommend you vote for him too. Pulkrabek will engage with other legislators to do something about spread of COVID-19 in Iowa.

Given the chance; the Republican majority did little to address the global pandemic for Iowans.

The single bill related to the pandemic that passed last session was Senate File 2338 which took away liability for COVID-19 from businesses. State Senator Rob Hogg said of the Republican majority, “no proposals, no bills passed,” to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. As a member of leadership Rep. Bobby Kaufmann has culpability.

At a minimum, what was needed was to add capacity at the Iowa Hygienic Laboratory so they could process more tests. Because the legislature did not, Iowa fell out of compliance with White House and CDC recommendations regarding testing in nursing homes.

Iowa friends and family of mine tested positive for COVID-19. A child I know did too when schools reopened. The minister who officiated at our wedding died of the disease. The pandemic is proving to be personal for so many of us.

Republicans had their chance. It’s time to elect Democrats like Lonny Pulkrabek to effectively address the pandemic.

~ A version of this letter first appeared in Little Village Magazine in Iowa City. Also published in the Cedar Rapids Gazette on Oct. 24, 2020.

Categories
Kitchen Garden

Temperate

Light and clouds. Oct. 13, 2020

2020 has been a good growing season in Iowa.

Temperatures seemed normal, rain adequate. When there were exceptions, dealing with them was easy and intuitive. Gardeners produced a great crop.

Meanwhile, the arctic is melting, the antarctic too. NOAA reported the third warmest September in the history of record-keeping. Drought and desertification plague many parts of the globe. Hurricanes and typhoons wreck havoc on lives. If the derecho effectively ended our garden production, damaged hundreds of thousands of acres of corn and bean fields, and destroyed half the tree canopy in nearby Cedar Rapids, well that’s a once in a lifetime kind of event… we hope.

A reckoning is coming for how we get our food. California’s Central Valley, which produced one fourth of the nation’s food suffers from drought with limited alternatives for securing water to grow crops. The Central Valley supplies 20 percent of the nation’s groundwater demand and is the second most pumped aquifer system in the U.S. These conditions for farming and food supply are not sustainable.

In March, soon after the governor signed the proclamation of disaster emergency, grocery stores began running out of food. Many people reacted by planting a garden or expanding the one they had. They joined community supported agriculture projects. Since then food supply chains worked to fill most of the shelves. Whether grocery retail sales will return to what they were is an open question. As the coronavirus pandemic continues, it is getting worse in Iowa, causing many to stay home when they can and develop alternatives to how and what they eat.

In Iowa we are blessed with a temperate climate. Converting from row crops to diversified agriculture should be done yet is not as easy as it sounds. Smaller farms require cheap labor to produce vegetables and livestock for niche markets. Mid-sized farms are constantly on the razor’s edge working to maintain profitable and diverse operations while avoiding the burden of large capital investments. Big farmers are stuck in a web of government subsidies, commodity markets, long term capital investments, and changing demand for food.

On March 13 I had lunch at a restaurant and a beer at a bar with my best friend. That was the last time I ate restaurant food or went to a bar. Cooking at home has become the norm, not just for me, but for many. That has an impact on food service companies that supply restaurants, and food processing companies that prepare food for distribution. We lost one of the anchor restaurants on our Main Street in town. There will be more business casualties unless people return to restaurant dining soon. With winter coming and the pandemic getting worse in Iowa, diners seem unlikely to return to restaurants until next spring or summer.

It comes back to Iowa’s temperate climate. It seems clear climate change is changing the way we live. As long as we have a temperate climate here we’ll survive.

In graduate school I interviewed people who survived the great depression. What they did then is what we have to do now: create a home industry that meets more of our needs and relies less on global supply chains that developed since World War II. Self-reliance should come easy for Americans as it was defined early in the history of the republic. What’s needed today is broad adaptation of a self-reliance approach to living.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended everyone celebrate Thanksgiving virtually this year to prevent spread of the coronavirus. I suspect many Iowans will meet in person and contribute to spread of a disease that is out of control here. A temperate climate can’t help with that. What we can do is plant a garden, something our environment currently supports.

Categories
Living in Society

Isolated

2021 Garlic Patch.

Even with advances in electronic communication, those of us who take the coronavirus pandemic seriously have become increasingly isolated. Not everyone takes their chances of contracting COVID-19 seriously, which complicates things.

In Iowa, the governor’s approach to containing the virus has been mostly voluntary. The results speak for themselves. Last week the Iowa Department of Public Health released a White House coronavirus task force report. The Des Moines Register reported:

“Iowa continues to see more than twice as many coronavirus infections as the national average,” White House officials warned. “Community transmission has remained high across the state for the past month, with many preventable deaths.”

Since Governor Kim Reynolds’ March 9 Disaster Proclamation, more than 100,000 cases of COVID-19 have been identified (three percent of the population), and 1,471 people died from the disease. Mitigation of the coronavirus is not going well in Iowa.

Yesterday, while visiting the county seat to get bicycle parts, about nine in ten people wore a face mask on the streets, a marked improvement reflecting the seriousness of the pandemic. More generally, Iowa is not reporting similar face mask usage.

A retired physician sent some 3M-brand N95 masks. Their spouse, who is a practicing physician, couldn’t get an adequate supply at work so they purchased them in bulk. It’s a sad state of affairs when front-line medical workers, who deal with coronavirus infected patients daily, can’t get an adequate supply of personal protective equipment seven months into the pandemic.

Many of us are not afraid of the virus. We’re following the recommendations of experts, which is to stay at home as much as possible and wear a mask while practicing good hygiene in public. The stay at home part sucks.

It’s not that there isn’t work to do at home. I haven’t been to a restaurant since March, all social events were called off or restructured to maintain social distancing, and emails, phone calls and text messages have increased dramatically. Meetings are conducted on line using Zoom or Google Meet, or via conference call. It’s not the same as meeting in person, shaking hands, interacting with other humans. If the logistics of meetings are much improved, the personal nature of them is diminished. There is no end of the pandemic in sight.

In the spring my work at the farm was isolated from the rest of the crew because I was the only worker living off the farm. Moving most workers on-site was their reaction to staying COVID-19 free. The plan is working. I gave up my part-time retail job at the home, farm and auto supply store in April, and didn’t go back to the orchard in August. Retirement was forced upon me by the pandemic. My new potential cohort of retired seniors is not getting together as they once had. I wasn’t ready to give up the human interaction of the workplace, yet did in response to the risks of continuing.

I spend some time with neighbors who joke about wearing their Trump campaign face masks. They know I’m supporting Joe Biden and I’m used to the friendly political interaction. We don’t discuss politics that much. When one family’s child brought COVID-19 home from school, a pall fell on the neighborhood.

With winter approaching, 2021 looks to be isolating. I planted garlic last week and went to the metropolis to get straw bales for winter cover. Like the garlic cloves just planted, we are alive and and ready to spring to life when conditions are right. For the time being, we are isolated.

Categories
Living in Society

Cutting Deadwood

Removing deadwood

It is not ideal to chainsaw dead branches from living trees in autumn yet that’s what I did during my morning work shift. The wounds provide an entry point for insects which may eventually kill the tree. Some of these apple trees are eventual goners, so there was little to lose.

A bee landed on one wound while I was working, making my point.

I couldn’t get to sleep Thursday night which is unusual. I was stressed about 2020 and everything that has happened. A lot of that is going around. When I finally got to sleep around midnight I slept until 4:30 a.m., later than usual.

News the president and first lady contracted COVID-19 waited for me to wake. My reaction was he brought this on himself and should have been more careful. Regular people knew that all along. The following hours were filled with other takes and by the end of the day the president was hospitalized at Walter Reed. Last report was he didn’t need supplemental oxygen.

Friday I did morning work then rode my bicycle. When I got home I spent time outdoors. Leaves on deciduous trees have ignited into color. It was glorious to be outdoors. I feel better after using the chain saw. The pruning is partly finished and a new pile of brush awaits processing. The woodpile will get taller once it is.

The natural part of each day has been calming. We could spend more time in nature and be the better for it. So much depends upon this election, though. It keeps us up at night and retards our ability to function as we once did. We must work through the challenges and maintain our own health and welfare at a basic level. It means wearing a mask while talking to neighbors in the driveway, putting mail in quarantine a couple of days before opening, and reducing the number of in-person contacts with people we don’t know.

Out of isolation something better will come, a path to a better future, I hope. Days rush by toward the election and we can’t wait for the catharsis we hope it will bring. The uncertainty is unsettling and it’s important to acknowledge that.

Saturday begins another day with a full schedule. Mostly I’ll be working on the election as the first gleaning of the garden was yesterday and the brush pile can wait.

We placed our bets that hard work will change the direction of this misguided country. We all must do our part. Most of us are doing the best we can.

Categories
Kitchen Garden

At the Orchard

Wilson’s Orchard and Farm, Sept. 30, 2020

I began work at the orchard in August 2013. It feels weird not returning this season. I was asked. Due to the coronavirus pandemic and Iowa’s lack of governmental leadership in containing it, combined with my personal risk factors, I declined the customer-facing position as mapper. Maybe next year.

A May frost during bloom took out some of the crop. Then the derecho knocked down trees and shook fruit loose. For the first time in my memory there was no u-pick operation last weekend to allow remaining apples to ripen. It won’t be the best crop. The apples I bought yesterday were grown by the chief apple officer’s brother in Michigan.

There is a crop. I hope to buy a bushel of Gold Rush at the end of the season. When I last inspected those rows they were abundant. What happens is customers start picking them before they are ripe. I’ll wait to see what’s left at the end of October when they ripen. Fingers crossed.

Our back yard apple trees are reaching the end of their lives so I planted two new ones last spring. The Earliblaze trees are slowly dying. The Red Delicious tree had a branch knocked down and the scar from where it was can’t be fixed. Since my trees alternate years of bloom we’ll see what they do next year but it’s clear they need to be replaced.

On Instagram I follow a few Europeans who post about food. Yesterday Maria Bessières posted about apples:

“Got a bit carried away this morning at the market and came home with 4 kg of apples. Now, there is a difference between an apple you get from the grocery store and the apple that grows in your garden. In Estonia apples are one of those things that you never run out of during autumn. Everyone has a grandma with an apple garden or a summer house with apple trees and once the season starts, there is no end in sight. So you make apple jams, compotes, juice, anything and everything you can imagine that uses apples. And when there are still too many of them lying around, you put bags or buckets of them outside of your garden for whoever happens to walk by to help themselves. Apples for days and days to come.”

In the United States that world of apples doesn’t exist with consistency. Supermarkets sell many apples yet we rarely buy them there. When our own trees don’t produce we visit one of the several area orchards and eat them fresh and in season. Instead of dealing with apple abundance during off years we buy them as commodities for out of hand eating or specific recipes. When we do have a crop I put them up as apple sauce, apple butter, dried apples, apple cider vinegar, apple juice, frozen apple slices, and more. During off years we work the pantry down until there is another crop. There is a predictable pattern of our personal apple kingdom. It’s reflective of a type of American individualism.

It’s already October and the orchard is into Ida Red and the Jonathan family of apples. Because of coronavirus restrictions the experience isn’t quite the same. I see them advertising for help in social media yet I’m not tempted to return until the risk of contracting COVID-19 from customers is in the rear view mirror.

The orchard is a pretty place, a fit place for walking and breathing fresh air. A change of scenery from the isolating confines of home during the pandemic. The cloudy sky doesn’t look different, then it does as we spend a couple of autumn hours at the orchard.

Categories
Living in Society

Holding Pattern

Turn around at Lake Macbride State Park, Saturday, Sept. 26.

While waiting for Joe Biden’s first presidential debate my mind was not on politics. I was wondering what to do after the election.

I returned in memory to a trip I made to Philadelphia in September 2001 after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the day an airplane laden with terrorists and bystanders crashed in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Passengers on my flight were few, with most seats open. The country was still in shock although I had business to attend. While driving to the Cedar Rapids airport I heard the president was also planning a trip to Philadelphia that morning, his first trip after the terrorist attacks.

Because of the president’s visit our aircraft entered a holding pattern as we approached Philadelphia. It lasted a long time, 45 minutes or so. When we were cleared for landing and did I entered a changed world, eerily quiet. I rented a car and drove to our operation on Grays Avenue. There were law enforcement officers on every corner. I encountered the Bush motorcade heading back to the airport on the opposite side of I-95. It was a turning point in my support for the president after the attacks.

The question I find myself asking today is similar to what I asked myself that grey day in Philadelphia. What will be next? An honest answer today is I don’t know. A lot depends upon the outcome of the Nov. 3 election.

Yesterday the other shoe fell as the Walt Disney Company announced layoffs for 28,000 workers in Florida and California. After cast members were on furlough for six months this is an unwelcome announcement. Airlines will soon follow suit with layoff announcements. Cruise ships haven’t figured out how to operate post-pandemic. People aren’t going to the movies as they did. Government has done a poor job of containing the coronavirus and people do not want to join the more than one million people world wide who died from COVID-19. Everyone is cautious and it is unclear if or when we will do things again that once seemed so normal. If the travel and entertainment industry can’t figure it out, there’s little hope for us until well into 2021 or maybe 2022.

In the meanwhile we are in survival mode, conserving resources and making do. Every extra cent from our pensions is used to pay down debt and keep our credit lines open. The August 10 derecho resulted in $1,200 in direct expenses for us. We got off easy compared to many. The unresolved stress of the elections works against our best intentions. It will be worse if Republicans win.

In all of this we must find hope enough to find our way out of the darkness while remembering the darkest hour is just before the dawn. It is hard to find hope when we’ve been up all night.

Categories
Living in Society

Turning Point 2020

Predawn light. Sept. 20, 2020

A few things in the election campaign need doing before turning toward home. Compared to past years the work ahead is enough to keep busy yet less.

Chaos in the pandemic response, racial tensions, economic turmoil, and the obvious impact of global warming made it easier to get to this point in the 2020 election cycle.

I’ve been discussing candidates with friends, family and neighbors. Everyone is planning to vote. Most have decided for whom.

I want to finish the lit drop for the state house candidate, take a look at our budget to see if we can afford another contribution to congressional candidate Rita Hart and state house candidate Lonny Pulkrabek, and finish the last writing for the campaigns before boxing up the memorabilia and moving on. Unlike in past years we won’t likely have a final get out the vote gathering or operating center in town because of the coronavirus pandemic.

What bothers me most about 2020 is the inadequate government response to the coronavirus pandemic. If African nations, with a lot fewer resources than the United States, can control the virus what is our problem? I don’t have good answers.

The fact that Russia is blatantly trying to influence the outcome of the election gets to me. It’s not because I viewed the former Soviet Union and Russia as an adversary while serving in the U.S. Army in West Germany. It’s because Republicans apparently agree with the Russian view that reelecting Trump serves their purposes. When did we become susceptible to Russian propaganda? I don’t know but Trump is without question their favored candidate. What the president does to contain Russian global aggression is pitiful. Did he think we wouldn’t notice?

The issue of China is problematic. In a new world order with the United States diminished by the president’s America first agenda, China is rising. They have been for a while. It’s been 11 years since I retired from my job in transportation and logistics when the appetite for American companies to do business with China could not be sated.

There were many examples, Hon Industries in Muscatine is one. They pursued a deal with China to manufacture and distribute office equipment in the Asian market. Manufacturing costs were much lower in China and there was proximity to developing markets combined with transportation infrastructure to export the goods. Doing business in China seemed obvious from a global perspective. The kicker was they could own no more than 49 percent of any China-based business, surrendering control to the Chinese. I don’t know how this worked out for Hon but they were vulnerable to the Chinese and deemed it worthwhile to expand use of their technologies into new markets.

Republican politicians repeat the words “Chinese Communist Party” without end. If China was such a good business partner a short while ago, what turned us on them now? The answer sounds dumb but rings true: the problem the president created with his management of foreign affairs is coming home to roost. Instead of managing diplomatic and economic relations with China the president let the whole thing turn into a mess. Our former governor now outgoing ambassador to China Terry Branstad’s personal relationship with the Chinese president couldn’t stop the president’s inept policy.

Part of the president’s message is about jobs. It is incoherent. For anyone following this as long as I have, history tells a different story about job migration. Once President Bill Clinton signed NAFTA the job exodus began. Jobs first went to the Mexican side of the border where labor was cheaper than in unionized plants in the United States. These plants were called maquiladoras. Ultimately corporations left Mexico and chased cheap labor around the globe, ending up in China and Southeast Asia. As I’ve written previously, there is no bringing those jobs back. The global system American business created would be difficult and costly to dismantle. I’m not sure we want it dismantled.

Whatever the outcome of the election we’ll go on living. As the disaster of 2020 governance has shown, it will be better with Democrats in positions of power. I’ll continue working to elect Democrats until the polls close on Nov. 3. At the same time I am ready to turn toward winter and what’s next.

Categories
Sustainability

First Coronavirus Wall

Turn around. Ely, Iowa.

As autumn begins we hit the six-month wall of the coronavirus pandemic. We are all getting tired of the masks, restricted activities, and video meetings.

We want our lives to return to a sense of normal with more reasonable human interaction, the kind to which we are accustomed.

The Aug. 10 derecho gave Iowans something to do at home. Now that it’s mostly cleaned up we are left with ourselves and more mask-wearing, restricted activities, and video meetings.

If we have to go to the doctor or dentist we understand there are specific protocols to maintain social distancing inside the clinic. They are labor and time-intensive. The clinicians are not used to them either. At least we determined a way to get routine medical checkups.

Time was we could escape from our daily lives. People took cruises, traveled to faraway places as tourists, or just went to the beach. Now there is nowhere to go because the pandemic is global. Cruise lines, those floating cesspools of infectious diseases, haven’t determined how to restart operations in the pandemic. Air travel is not much better.

We learned new ways of securing provisions, living at home, meeting with friends, working, and attending school. Some found new ways to entertain and enjoy ourselves. We prepare more of our own meals and exercise more. We make more telephone calls and participate in a variety of activities made possible by the internet. All the same it doesn’t seem normal. For the time being there is the wall.

Last Saturday NBC News reported the U.S. COVID-19 death toll surpassed 200,000 individuals. In March, Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House Task Force on the coronavirus, said in a best case scenario, with Americans doing exactly what was needed to mitigate the effects of the virus, the death toll would be contained to between 100,000 and 200,00 deaths. At the time there had been only 3,000 COVID-19 related deaths. 21st Century Americans are not a disciplined lot nor good at doing what is needed. We are also not the best listeners. Whatever happened to us? The pandemic is expected to get worse.

“As we approach the fall and winter months, it is important that we get the baseline level of daily infections much lower than they are right now,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told James Hamblin of The Atlantic. For the past few weeks, the country has been averaging about 40,000 new infections a day. Fauci said, “we must, over the next few weeks, get that baseline of infections down to 10,000 per day, or even much less if we want to maintain control of this outbreak.”

Up against the wall, many are not paying attention to public health officials. We want to get on with our lives. The coronavirus does not care.

The first step in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is to admit it exists. Denial of the reality of the virus only serves the virus. We have to live like we are contagious. We get tired of hearing it yet we must wear a mask and pay attention to our immediate environment, what we contribute to it, and what we take away from it. Maintaining social distancing has been hard. I want to be closer to people when with them, to maintain customary behavior. We can’t do that as much in the pandemic. We also have to pay attention to the amount of time we are with people because duration of exposure is a key factor in COVID-19 spread. It is near impossible to view every person I know and meet as a disease vector.

Experts say the six month wall in a crisis arrives and dissipates like clockwork. We can muster a positive attitude and persist, be kind to those closest to us, and take care of our obligations. Before we know it we’ll be on the other side. That’s a start, and for many it may be enough. We have a long way to go in the coronavirus pandemic, maybe another year or more. To sustain ourselves we must let the chips fall and be prepared to climb when we discover a chink in the wall. It is there, although at times difficult to see.

The human condition is optimistic. We believe this pandemic will end. We know enough to see there will be another pandemic after this one. At the same time we should realize that the wall we encountered six months in isn’t the end, even as the coronavirus is permanently with us. We are able to parse the difference and should.

The predictable wall gives us a new kind of normalcy. It’s a bit weird yet comforting at the same time. In a couple of weeks we hope to be on the other side.