Two roads. . .
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
― Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
History repeats itself and our age is no different than other times when humanity has had to reset itself. We leave behind cherished ways of thinking, about how things “should” be done and find ourselves walking on a different path. Right now our country is facing racial unrest not seen since the 1960s Civil Rights movement; unemployment greater than the Great Depression of the 1930s; and a pandemic that equals that of the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918. It is not surprising we find ourselves stressed, restless, and lacking in that basic necessity of human survival — hope.
These issues before us are not easily managed and the world looks for leadership to show us a way to begin rebuilding some measure of what we feel we have lost. There is a long held belief that the world is always getting better, that life is improving in living standards, in length of life, again in that hope that life will be better for our children, for the generations who will follow us. That makes us vulnerable and our vulnerability makes us fair game for those who would divide us and manipulate our fears thus turning us against those of a different color, gender, economic class or part of the world. That manipulation is most often for personal gain as we have seen the disparity in our own country with the loss of the middle class and the financial power settling in just a few pockets.
Life is not easy and there are many voices that would pull us into other camps that breed dissatisfaction, and, yes hatred. Great thinkers for centuries have talked about a world where all people could work together for the common good and promote peace among the nations. Our own Constitution, a dream our founders thought had been realized with the settlement of this vast continent — to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility and promote the common welfare — has always been on display as a great and noble experiment. But the experiment is still in a trial stage and not looking too promising at this moment.
Jesus gave us two commandments to live by — just two — love God with everything in you and love your neighbor. The Great Teacher said everything hangs on these two rules. It is really that hard and that simple.
Poet Robert Frost wrote,
I shall be telling this with a sigh,
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Former teacher friend with a tree business is digging out some of my bushes today that succumbed to blight last fall. I gave them this Spring to see if there was any life, but other then for a few limp green leaves they were done. My favorite was a strawberry hydrangea bush. Every year the cone shaped blossoms would start out a creamy white and end up an antique rose color. And they dried beautifully! I have several sitting in vases around my house from previous years. So it was heartbreaking to lose the bush. I also had white lilac and purple lilac bushes that went as well. Normally you can't kill lilacs, but this blight or whatever it was was a dangerous attacker. Other people have huge lilac hedges but these had lasted for only five or six years so this was the year, I guess. I also had a couple of berginia plants that reminded me of rhubarb, again not a favorite. So there will be some new bushes. Also lost a bleeding heart to the blight and had to replant that. It was very sad as the plants you labor over become part of the look of your house, your yard and you greet them each Spring and look forward to seeing them appear.
I have a couple of buds on my Winnipeg Parks rose bush. That is one of the first to bloom in the Spring and the last to go in the Fll. Then there are a number of day lilies, yellow and purple, a white hydrangea or Anna-Belle and some ornamental grasses which I enjoy. This year I planted more in pots, but there are Asian lilies, poppies, and some other odds and ends I threw in the ground.
I have the best friends. One built me a raised garden bed for my deck (the kneeling and bending isn't going too well this year). He made it out of scrap cedar and I told him it could be a buffet in my dining room it was so pretty. Right now I have potatoes, carrots, onions and tomatoes as well as some sun flowers growing well. By the time the season is over I should have learned a lot. I already had to replace the tomatoes as the first batch I lost in a frost.
Most folks around here are adapting pretty well to the Corona Virus restrictions. They are easing a little. Churches still are not rushing into worship -- just small numbers. Graduation was parents only, was outside, with the graduates sitting six feet apart. There are a few who rudely attempt to change the rules for themselves in the restaurants. Of course there are always some folks for whom the rules don't apply. As an old school teacher I have seen a lot of that before.
A cousin from the Anderson side of the family is attempting to put together a family reunion in Spearfish. People are still adjusting to travel restrictions and not sure what they will do. I can drive down, visit Cole and Margy in the process and then we will see what else transpires
Joe Biden, presumptive Democratic candidate made an appearance for the first time since Covid. He hasn't selected a Vice President yet. He promised it would be a woman, but there are lots of good choices Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams, governors of New Mexico and Michigan. All pretty savvy politicians in their own right, but he has to be careful. Lots of disappointed Bernie Sanders' loyalists in the Democratic camp so Elizabeth Warren is a possibility if he is trying to keep them happy. We will see what happens. There is a lot to lose if he doesn't get the right one.
According to statistics there are 100,000 dead for the virus. The U.S. has the largest outbreak in the world. Staggering and scary. Epidemiologists say there will be a resurgence in the fall about the time our regular flu season begins. So we have that to look foward to. Adjusting to the virus is changing a lot of things around the world -- people are much more cautious, international travel will probably not be as widespread. Education is shifting to on-line both at the public school and college levels. More tele-medicine. The "new normal" we are all facing promises to shake things up for a long time to come.
Where to begin? The virus seemed to appear suddenly. Without warning we were in quarantine and wearing masks and cancelling all our haircuts, elective surgeries, church worship services, face to face visits with friends, handshakes and hugs. Gone. I am amazed at how easily we stepped into this new life. It wasn't what we wanted, but we knew it had to be. Because we could have church on the radio and live streamed, our pastor held worship to an empty church. Two other people and myself were the only ones in the sanctuary. I sat way to the back on one side as pastor delivered her message to an empty room. I did a funeral graveside with 6 people. No large gatherings allowed. Weddings are streamed to family and friends. Vacations to Europe are cancelled. The big cruise ships that were everywhere have been docked when they became floating virus breeders.
As the time progressed we have grown to accept most everything that has come our way, for the most part. There is now a vocal minority prompted by Trump that carries around loaded machine guns, demands businesses open and bad mouths any idea of a vaccine. Closed churches have suddenly become a cry for "religious rights" from people who mostly could care less about God's house and living the life we are called to live as God's people. The governors of New York, New Jersey, Washington and several other states have been real leaders in dealing with the pandemic in their own States and thus being effective for the rest of the country.
Shortages have been one negative of the quarantine. The first to go was toilet paper -- yes! Toilet paper. I walked into the grocery store and went to the toilet paper aisle -- empty shelves!! I really was amazed. People figured they might have to be quarantined for two weeks and they wanted to be sure they had plenty of what they needed. After a few weeks, investigative reporters told us there is tp for home and there is tp for work. Because no one was going to school (all online classes) and most people were working from home, the industrial tp was not being used and you cannot convert from industrial to home quality easily. Now we have tp for the most part, but it has taken awhile AND you do not take a supply of tp for granted. Ramen noodles, frozen pizza, white flour, yeast, and eggs have all at one time or another been on the missing list for a variety of reasons.
The worst shortages came when the U.S. realized we were unprepared for a medical emergency such as this and medical personnel were without gowns, masks and ventilators to help those in distress. The virus affected the lungs so ventilators were a must. Hospital emergency rooms and wards were full to overflowing and there were not enough nurses and doctors to stay alert to all those in distress. It was a medical super emergency. Lots of people were making masks, sewing them to help hospitals and other agencies where people were in need of protection.
The food supply chain has been stretched pretty thin the past couple of months. Major corona virus break-outs have occurred in meat packing plants across the nation. Many of these plants have been staffed by low wage, immigrant groups or large scale black or Latino populations. One word was in a plant in Sioux Falls SD there were 15 languages spoken. The virus has hit hardest in areas of high population density and is hard of people who are fragile elderly or anyone with pre-existing conditions. Because the food chain is being messed with, the chain has broken to the point of food surpluses being destroyed just as in the 1930s. Milk dumped on the ground, animals slaughtered rather then provided for sale. And everything is predicated on a chain that no longer exists or at least is broken. Food pantries are in high demand, many people are going hungry because they have no pay checks.
Within the more densely populated states nursing homes, Veterans' homes and prisons have had high numbers of deaths. State governors have been trying to get tests going. Tests are in short supply. Testing allows medical personnel to trace the virus, place folks in quarantine and hospitalize when necessary. So right now we are waiting for a vaccine which may take up to a year to produce and wear masks when we go out, state in when we can, and wash our hands and use a sanitizer.
The pandemic is world wide. France, Spain and Italy were hard hit. India is very bad. It started in Wuhan, China and then began to travel with people who were traveling. When the virus hit the U.S. it had a European DNA but that only meant it had been traveling for a time. People can be carriers and not be sick. The U.S. has the most cases, over a million and drawing more deaths daily. The disease started to appear in larger numbers in February. Some people in Glendive wonder if they had it earlier which could well have been. We would have said they were very sick with the flu. They were in the hospital with pneumonia and have had a difficult time getting strength and energy back.
The Federal government has been less than helpful. At first they tried to pretend the virus didn't exist, then when they could no longer do that, they said it would go away -- like magic. When there were medical shortages, the governors were told to take care of it themselves and figure it out. Then when some governors managed to get the supplies they needed the Federal Government hijacked them and took the supplies!! Trump is worried about the upcoming presidential election as are we all. Biden is the candidate apparent for the Democrats, because everyone else dropped out. Some elections were cancelled because of the virus. There is a real call for mail in voting these days and many are hopeful this can be a reality, although the Republicans say if they do it the Democratics will win because it is a way they can cheat.
Another effect of the virus and the shut down has been a huge rise in unemployment. There are more people claiming unemployment then did during the Great Depression of the 1930s. There has also been a drop in oil prices at the same time so many are out of work in that area. For Glendive the railroad round house closed and 85 people were transferred. This hit the economy of the town so hard. Most concern is for small, independently owned businesses like restaurants, bars, clubs, etc. They don't know if people will come out as they once did and no place that opens is allowed to pack the bar -- too many people -- too great a chance for the virus to pass around. No concert venues, movie theaters, sports events, tourist events and on and on it goes.
Where will it end, nobody knows.