“What Mean ‘WE’ Kimosabe?” ( Tonto to the Lone Ranger with Indians on the left, right, front and back.)

The catchphrase being thrown around everywhere these days is, “We are all in this together!”  It’s true and always has been.  When potable water comes out of the tap, when the electric light turns on, when food shows up at the store…our complete dependency on one another is obvious.  But CovidWorld has taken this to a new level.  I am responsible for your health and you are responsible for my health.  Our connectedness and vulnerability to one another is clear and becoming more apparent every day.

But I can’t help but wonder about the people who ask the tough questions:

Are we all in this together when you claim healthcare is not a human right?  Are we all in this together as you (federal government executive branch) are in court right now trying to have the Affordable Care Act entirely scrapped?  Are we together, waiting six hours in line to vote?  Have we all been in this together since 2009 when the minimum wage was last adjusted?  Have we all been in this together as we imprison people (mostly minorities) at ten times the rate of any other countries?   Have we all been in this together watching vast numbers of our children living in poverty?  Are we all together drinking toxic water and breathing polluted air?  Are we all in this together when the income gap grows and homelessness abounds?  Will CovidWorld change our thinking about any of these issues?

“We’re all in this together,” during the bad times.  In “good times”…not so much.

 

 

Mom

April 2, 2020

On the bike ride, approaching Colorado and enduring Kansas (least-liked of the ten states we traversed), Mom had a stroke and was hospitalized.  Her right side was paralyzed, and I began considering how I might leave the ride and fly home.  At ninety-five years old, I figured this would be the start of a quick decline and probable death.  She had been living at home with a daytime caregiver; now everything was up in the air.

Mom had been receiving postcards from the road on a quasi-daily basis, and we talked by phone several times a week.  I could create a postcard on my smartphone with a photo and short message and it would be printed and sent by Postagram.  On a phone call before the stroke I shared my anticipation to reach the great Rocky Mountains very soon after more than forty days on the road.   She suddenly sounded wistful and said, “Do you remember that song,  ‘When It’s Springtime in the Rockies’ ?”  She had a little singsong in her voice like maybe she fell in love listening to this song once upon a time.

Later I googled the song and learned it had been popularized by Gene Autry, the “singing cowboy”.  Really hokey listening.  The version that I came to love, the version that I put on my phone and played for days on end, the version played directly to my hearing aids as I pedaled away the hours, was one in the Smithsonian archives.  It was an interview with “Leadbelly”.   He told about how he learned of the song and then broke into his rendition.  Something about the raw naked simplicity of his plunky guitar springing to life under his hand, something about his transition from speaking to singing, something about the soulful voice seasoned by a lifetime, and the lyrical image of coming home just shot like an arrow right to my heart.  Tears flowed easily while drinking in the awesome beauty of  “Springtime in the Rockies” playing out before my eyes…and ears!

LeadBelly recording…

https://music.apple.com/us/album/springtime-in-the-rockies/951247083?i=951247248

I thought about Mom and started composing her eulogy.  Mom stabilized and came home; I abandoned the eulogy and continued on to Wyoming, the most beautiful state of the trip.  Mom turned 97 in November.

Mom&Susan

 

 

The whole mishpucha celebrated Clarie’s 97th birthday.  Mariachi’s sang Happy Birthday and Mom is shown talking to her niece, Susan.

 

 

 

I just got off the phone with Mom.  She’s at a new level of weakness today, not able to walk but can shuffle around with the aid of a caregiver on each side.  The three days spent at the hospital last week with aspiration pneumonia and sepsis took its toll.  Hoag Hospital did not allow any visitation while she was there and now back at home, doctor’s orders say no visitation whatsoever!  Yette, her devoted primary caregiver, told me in so many words that the isolation is an emotional drag on Mom.  She’s losing her will to persevere as she has done for the last 22 months since the stroke.  She gamely did her PT, she gamely did her OT, she gamely started using her left hand!  And she would still get nicely dressed with hair/makeup/earrings for the rotating visits from her three sons and occasional others.  Now she might be right at the stage of becoming bedridden.  And no visitation.

The immediate family shared a Zoom call with Mom yesterday afternoon, not her peak time but it was what we could all manage.  To my hospice-eye, Mom seemed to be in early transition to “active dying”.  The unspoken understanding on the session was that this could be a final conversation.  This is certainly not the way I ever imagined it would be after more than a decade of hospice volunteering and after hosting a dozen “Death Cafes”.  The pandemic has meant people dying alone, no final goodbyes and no chance for family and friends to grieve together.  Our practices surrounding death and dying have been shredded.  Stricken without warning.  Surely one of the learnings from CovidWorld will be a re-examination of our relationship to death and dying.  It’s painful and it’s long overdue but our humanity will be greatly enhanced by the process.  Love will grow.

 

 

 

 

PANDEMIC ~ APRIL, 2020 ~ CALIFORNIA

I have not posted in this blog since August of 2018 when my TransAm bike ride ended in Oregon after 4200 miles of pedaling.  After letting the experience marinate for the better part of two years, and with the sudden rise of the CovidWorld, it’s time!

What was learned from riding coast-to-coast is just now coming into focus.  It was not for nothing that I took a ride of such length and scope, having never done any self-contained bike touring before.  Yes, I put myself through this experience…an experience I called a “quest”;  but the lessons weren’t readily apparent at the end.  There was only the idea that I had taken on a big challenge and ended up doing it.  The more profound underlying lessons have taken time to emerge.  And perhaps the pandemic has served to focus the mind.  Please join me as I document the unfolding pandemic and integrate my learning from the ride in the posts that will follow.

 

April 1, 2020   

Where do I start?  It’s the great pandemic of 2020.  Twenty-four days ago Barbara and I drove to a timeshare in Napa with plans to visit friends and family in nearby San Francisco.  We had heard about Covid-19 of course, but we felt like we’d be low risk to catch it since we were not getting on a plane or using public transportation. 

Quarryhill Botanical Gardens, Sonoma County

In Napa everything was wide open, no closures, wineries and restaurants filled, lots of people walking the downtown streets at night.  We joined them.  So much for delusions of “low risk”.  Napa was beautiful in the early spring, lush and green from plentiful rains and the rolling vineyards pruned bare.  I’d arrived with a cough that I’d had for weeks but it suddenly worsened.

One by one our planned visits got cancelled as a result of creeping Covid and my uncontrolled coughing.  Barbara suggested we head home and see a doctor.  We left the San Francisco Bay the same day a cruise ship with 24 Covid-positive passengers docked in Oakland after negotiating with authorities for days.  This is the ship Trump famously wanted to reject so they wouldn’t make his numbers look bad.

My doctor had just switched to telephone visits due to Covid precautions, so I had a phone appointment while driving home and started antibiotics the next day.  A few days later I was diagnosed with pneumonia, presumably the good ole-fashioned bacterial kind.  They DID test me for Covid-19 however, and it came back negative after five days.

The severity of the pandemic dawned on us in stages.  Six counties in San Francisco issued “shelter-in-place” orders just as we left. Within days, additional Bay area counties started issuing similar orders and a couple days after that the governor made the policy state wide.  Suddenly we were “sheltering in place” but taking liberties such as seeing the children and grandchildren.  Then the parks were closed, the trails were closed, the beaches were closed.  The WHO declared an official “pandemic” and the wild ride of CovidWorld suddenly began.   

On cable TV, the hapless president was desperately trying everything in his playbook to deal with the pandemic: denial, spin, blame-shift, deflect, attack the media, roll out a conspiracy theory, bluster and bombast, alternative facts…everything that has worked for him throughout his life.  But Covid is having none of it.  The president stands naked, exposed as a malignant narcissist, unable to summon up genuine empathy, seemingly unable to connect with his heart, alone with nobody he can trust, and so fearful.  And totally incompetent as a crisis manager.  

If CovidWorld becomes overwhelming, maybe there’s a chance the president will have a “come to Jesus” moment and be struck by the light of love.  Maybe we will witness the Scrooge storyline play out, with a tiny virus serving as Trump’s ghost.  Maybe he will appear on TV in tears, repenting, asking forgiveness, offering amends…a profoundly changed man.  Or maybe not.

 “Man plans, God laughs”

The president is only a bit player in CovidWorld. Covid has brought the whole world to it’s knees. Rabbi asks,

“To what question is the coronavirus the answer?  The implication, of course, is that the virus has something to teach us — collectively and individually.”  Indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

Sisters, Oregon

Seven volcanic peaks of the Cascade Range usually stunningly snow-capped in the view from this tourist resort town are obscured by hazy skies. Smoke from various fires, twenty- three burning in Oregon according to the cook at the cafe this morning.

We have ridden hard and long in the West. And it’s been hot. It’s been a full-time job to take care of camp set-up and take-down every day, get hydrated, get calories, shower and do laundry and…oh yeah…get a good nights sleep. It takes a very focused effort to go day after day.

I’m looking back at the photos that never made it to this blog as we traversed Montana and Idaho. Here are ones you might enjoy.

This is Earthquake Lake just north of the town of West Yellowstone. It was formed over the course of a few weeks in 1959 after a massive Earthquake caused a landslide that blocked the Madison River….overnight.

The maps don’t always tell the whole story. Here’s our intrepid leader Wally emerging from a “unexpected road collapse” we encountered on the route.

Waiting for our cooks to finish shopping and divvy up the food to carry to camp, Steven grabs a nap. He can go to sleep anywhere!

Shoe tree next to the road. No explanation!

Marijuana farm in eastern Oregon. Saw two that day.

Fire area under repair from fire a year ago near the Mackenzie Pass.

Lava fields at the top of the Mackenzie Pass as seen from atop the “observatory” built by the CCC during the depression.

Last Days

We are just six days away from finishing.

I have been having technical difficulties uploading my recent blog posts…until tonight. Sorry for the lapse. All is well. Stay tuned for ceremonial wheel-dipping in the Pacific Ocean 8/4/18.