The Zeitgeist Done Caught Up with Us

(With thanks to TL and LR for a great line.)

Curfew, Waikiki Beach.

Although we ended our quarantine in Nova Scotia yesterday, we have functionally been in quarantine since our grandchildren left Hawaii for Nova Scotia in mid-March.  The self-isolation in Laie was not significantly different from quarantining in Annapolis Royal.  Masks and rubber gloves, mopping with bleach, waving Mahalo to distant Laie fishermen and surfers and mouthing Thanks to Nova Scotian neighbors when they drop off groceries and books are de rigeur on both the island of Oahu and the peninsula of Nova Scotia.   Adherence to the rules governing social distancing was no more casual in Laie than it is in Victoria Beach. 

In truth, social distancing among surfers and fishermen in Laie and artists and fishermen in Annapolis is neither a foreign concept nor, for the most part, viewed as much of an imposition.  Rural residents wherever they are not as addicted to the wealth of opportunities to meet and greet in the same way that urban audiences at concerts, major league sporting events, museum openings, and cocktail parties are.   

Balancing Rock Trail, Digby, NS

We will miss our Saturday Farmers Market, Version 101, for sure, but it’s likely we will adapt to a new, sadly scaled back Saturday Farmers Market 201, come June 1.  The latter is now billed as a Food Hub with pick up orders, a far cry from the weekly celebrations with farmers, artists, tourists and toddlers.  No more socializing, music, spontaneous hugs, and hours spent exploring long rows of booths and tables for the very best produce, the most exquisite handicrafts, snacks ranging from sushi to BBQ and the most spectacular baguettes and other baked goods in the region. 

Even simple rituals we’ve taken for granted are at risk.   Sad 2020 graduates who purchased their prom dresses and celebratory finery back in January are forced to devise clever Zoom photo ops and mock graduation ceremonies that belie their disappointment. 

Shannon Funk, a senior at Maur Hill in Atchison, KS. Courtesy of Kelly Funk

Sutherland as Snow in ‘The Hunger Games’

They, like their parents and grandparents are coping with disappointments large and larger. Small wonder.  Most of them have grown up on dystopian literature and films and are just happy an evil Donald Sutherland is not forcing them to fight to the death for the entertainment of crazed, blood thirsty audiences.  Still, those lovely grown-up gowns are a rite of passage and now that rite has been set aside for on-line classes and graduation certificates received via e mail.

A friend who has known me for almost a half-century suggested that social distancing is a mandate tailor made for me.  It fits like a bespoke leather glove lined in velvet. I can name a half-dozen friends for whom this might also be said.  Which is not to say any of us has, in the exhausting past, shirked our duty to be a contributing volunteer and civic activist.  Nor that anyone enjoying a schedule with NO daily appointments and meetings and the wonders of solitude is indifferent to the context in which we can indulge in reading, gardening, naps, painting, listening to music and letter-writing without guilt. 

Doing anything without guilt pre-pandemic was pretty much a gift from God.  Very few people prior to the global pandemic felt they spent enough time with their families, made enough money, exercised and volunteered as much as they should have, visited their parents often enough, practiced a second language, contributed enough money or sweat equity to their favorite nonprofit organizations, worked hard enough to advance their careers, attended the appropriate cocktail parties, ran 10Ks for charity, weeded their gardens, made fresh pasta from scratch or saved enough money to bribe top ranked universities to place their kids on varsity rowing teams.

‘…social distancing is a mandate tailor-made for me. It fits like a bespoke leather glove lined in velvet.’

NOW, many of these activities warrant a reprimand or fine which, in my view, is really good news.  Absent the context, that dreadful, evil and heartbreaking context, I applaud all the people that now candidly admit spending a little TOO MUCH time with their families is a mixed blessing. Young parents now view pre school programs and organized after-school activities like a no-interest mortgage.  I also admire the legions of people now happy to have an excuse to avoid the gym and cocktail parties where good sense means tossing a few belts back before responding to monologues about politics South of the Border and lectures on environmental Greenwashing.

It’s really amazing that a killer with the capacity to destroy the lives of thousands of innocent people around the globe has ANYTHING to recommend it.  However,  in point of fact, communities I read about, even communities in which I live, are quieter, kinder than they were prior to the pandemic (which is saying a lot), more thoughtful and deliberate, and endlessly creative about how they use their newfound gift of TIME.  Some people are learning new languages (on line), others have discovered the joys of baking, exercising with TV fitness gurus to guide them, and/or are writing books they’d planned to write for at least three decades. A friend’s sister now living in the Australian outback is taking voice lessons on line with a well-known Aussie soprano. Am not sure if she’s ready for Carnegie Hall but apparently her operatic training has enhanced her breathing capacity and her posture.

Fat’s Waller, Courtesy of CBS

As that wise man Fats Waller once observed, “One never knows. Do one?”

Well, Fats, what one does know is that today, climate warming is demolishing our defense systems, combining an unimaginable loss in biodiversity with reckless deforestation and aggressive conversion of all empty space for economic development.  We have opened the Gates of Hell and apparently facilitated the spread of killer diseases.  And this may be just the beginning.

Still, it’s difficult to wake up almost any place in rural Nova Scotia in the morning or bathe in the warmth of a scarlet sunset at dusk and be totally distraught and heartsick. Perhaps Maritimers will be able to keep on keepin’ on a little longer knowing they are nurtured by Nature and by neighbors whose first reaction to bad news is to kick it squarely in the okole.

“One never knows. Do One?”

Home – What a Concept!

I feel at home in a lot of different places.

Hawaii, certainly.  I first arrived in Hawaii when I was eighteen and freshly graduated from high school.  Stepping off the plane from Los Angeles, then a ten-hour journey that was anything but smooth, I was instantly enveloped in the fragrance of a hundred different flowering plants that grew all over the island.  The first day I visited the University of Hawaii campus, I was treated to a triple rainbow illustrating why, I suppose, the UH was called The Rainbow Campus. During my first years there and on at least fifty visits since, I rarely saw any landscape or seascape that was NOT beautiful.  If one doesn’t feel at home in Hawaii, or at the very least doesn’t want to claim the islands as home, it may indicate the visitor is likely comatose.

 I also felt at home in Cambodia and I first arrived there when pyramids of skulls decorated Phnom Penh and pre-teens had access to AK47s.  There was then one broken traffic light in a city of over a million people and the Minister of Culture’s phone number was 15, which meant there were at least fifteen other phones in the city.  The doorman at the one luxury hotel in Phnom Penh probably earned more from tips than the Cabinet Ministers made in salaries. If water came out of the taps at the second and third class hotels in those days, it was preceded by twenty years of liquid rust.

 I stayed at a fifth class hotel and was not able to enjoy the luxury of tap “water” but my love of Cambodia, then and since, has defied a taste for comfort and certainly has defied logic. But how can you not love a country that throws a party for you on a floating brothel and invites monks, generals, hookers, NGO workers, ex pats, students, and consulate officials? Cambodians truly are generous, imaginative and have a great tolerance for inclusion.

Still, the joy of liberation, of finding relatives and friends still alive, the ability to share fruit, tea and conversation, music and stories, restored relationships and enabled new friendships to blossom.  Dreams and hopes destroyed by torture and death emerged from decades of despair and visitors that walked off those first planes from Thailand and Vietiane fell into the open arms of survivors who assumed we were all there to help.  

And in truth, there were no tourists on those early flights into Cambodia.  Most of us, when greeted with joyful tears of innocence and love informed by an expectation that we would, after so many years of indifference, make things better, wanted to at least to make Cambodia our home away from home.  We wanted to make the country our own and for many, we wanted to help heal the survivors, the amputees, the shell-shocked, the starving.  And the countryside.  In the process, many of us, including those that had fled Kampuchea (Cambodia) at the beginning of the war, needed to heal ourselves.

In any event, many of us from those early 90s excursions into Southeast Asia still feel the pull of Cambodia.  There’s a Raffles Hotel there now and a dozen other high class digs like the Amanjaya, and the country is still run by a corrupt old soldier from the Khmer Rouge regime.  But the local people, now a combination of ex pats, survivors, and a younger generation of college grads, while a little cynical about their ability to eliminate corruption, are still joyful and probably hopeful that when Hun Sen dies (which has to be soon. He’s at least as old as we are), they and their loyal allies will make things better. 

Home may, indeed, be where the heart is.  It’s not usually about property but is, rather, an idea, a feeling, a place where sometimes we feel safe but where we can also be vulnerable.

These days my heart is in Nova Scotia.  I feel at home in Laie and in Phnom Penh but I AM at home in Nova Scotia.  Freezing, poor, isolated Nova Scotia.

It’s hard to envision an environment more different (politically, economically, geographically or culturally) than Cambodia.  Nova Scotia is not without corruption but it’s the kind of corruption that hasn’t historically resulted in genocide. In Canada, corruption may be about greed or control but in many places in Southeast Asia, it’s definitely about greed and control.  Throw in spiritual corruption and we’re talkin’ evil.

 You don’t see a lot of that in Nova Scotia.

 The province in which I live observes a system of laws (Nova Scotians may not always obey them although generally, I think the less important rules and regulations are respected).  The province’s free education, free health care, and welfare would all be celebrated rather than criticized by the people of Cambodia and for that matter, by the people of Hawaii. Temperatures vary from torrid to freezing but Hawaii, Cambodia and Nova Scotia share breathtaking beauty.   And the residents in all three locations have a great capacity for kindness, celebration and in very different ways, spiritualism. 

However, I didn’t fly TO or FROM Hawaii to do a comparison check of the natural assets of Laie and Victoria Beach.  And I didn’t avoid flying to Phnom Penh because I can no longer maneuver my way around old time warlords.  

Nor was I trying to escape the pandemic as it gathered strength in the ice and snow along Granville Ferry Road.  Rather, I simply wanted to be with family and friends, to explore the concept of homes, old and new, and to check in and check out while I am still a lively eighty year old with options.

Many people, perhaps most people, believe it’s only possible to be in love with one person and to be at home in one place.  This is obviously true for some people but I suspect Love of One or Many depends on the capacity of a heart to absorb and share love.  And if one’s definition of home is expansive enough to draw comfort and pleasure from sources that are unfamiliar, home can be in Brighton, Bridgetown or Bali.  If we can embrace the concept that large people in Hawaii, little people in Cambodia, and hardy Nova Scotians of all sizes and colours are after all, very much alike, my own, sometimes logic-defying homes of the heart in the South Pacific, Southeast Asia and in the North Atlantic make perfect sense.

It’s good to be home.  Wherever it is.

Not a triple rainbow on The Rainbow Campus but good enough for Maritimers!

Traffic on the 405 and Choices No One Wants to Make

Photo Credit: Polina Zimmerman

It’s getting harder and harder for kids to find a good pick-up BB game. Suddenly, basketball game is a solo act.

On a more serious note, it’s hard to applaud California for NOT having a public transportation system but I suppose if we don’t want everyone in Los Angeles to die in the next month or so, having two cars per household is a good thing. Really? I guess if my children were hospitalized with advanced stage corona virus, I’d say “Hell, bring on those cars so we can all avoid crowded trains!”

Eventually, I suppose, we will all be so experienced making Choices as difficult as Sophie’s, or even just making hard decisions that appear to work to our advantage NOW (to spew or not spew gas fumes) will not present much of a moral or economic dilemma. Sadly, I realize for many people, driving gas guzzlers has never presented a moral dilemma. And for many, the dilemma has been “do I drive my fifteen year old Chevy to a minimum wage job Today or help save the planet Tomorrow?”.

Tough choices where there are probably no right or wrong answers. Just choices with tragic consequences.

The Joys of Driving on California Freeways.

The following discussion was posted on – line and raises issues that deal not only with climate control but employment and of course, THE ECONOMY, that rationale for most urban sins:

Why does California have substantially fewer COVID 19 cases, considering how large it is and with such a high population compared to smaller states with enormous cases based on their smaller population?

The reason California has fewer cases in spite of its population is due to a combination of factors. First, the population is much less tightly packed in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego than it is in most other big cities. Also, California has much less public transportation than the eastern states. Instead of using crowded public trains, buses and subways, we drive private cars with only one or two occupants. Our freeways are crowded but our vehicles aren’t. To the global warming people this is a bad thing but if you are trying to keep from getting COVID-19, it is a very good thing. Finally, the Governor locked down California very early. Social distancing and “Safer at Home” became the new guidelines. Maybe surprisingly, most of the people in la-la land are actually doing it. The normally overcrowded streets and freeways are empty. Grocery stores are open but many people are learning to order online and either pickup or have food delivered. Restaurants only do deliveries. It does seem to be working.

Difficult times, folks. It’s about the 100th time I’ve said, “I’m glad I am not Governor of California!”

For a hundred different reasons, I am also glad I am not the current President of the United States.

Both sentiments are, I’m sure, widely shared.

Nova Scotia: It Couldn’t Happen Here

NEWS FLASH: IT JUST DID!

A Dark Day for Nova Scotia.

Violence is like a contagious disease and although there are vaccines that would reduce, perhaps even eliminate, the Violence Virus, few people in Canada have given a great deal of thought to preventing massacres within the country. Nova Scotians, including me, have generally adopted a “Can’t Happen Here” attitude. But like most young people around the world, young people and some adults in Canada are fascinated by false heroes on television, in movies and perhaps in their own communities. Why is it, do you think, we allow, even encourage our children to idealize a Rambo instead of a Mandela?

Although Nova Scotia is a province of hunters, eager to literally bring home the bacon (and the venison) in the winter months, I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone, at least among Canadian citizens, that owned assault weapons or even hand guns. That said, as violence increased in North America and indeed, around the globe, one could not help but wonder if one day some tragically misguided Canadian would also become infected with violent urges to destroy innocent lives.

Having it occur in Nova Scotia is almost as unfathomable as having it happen in Bhutan or some other oasis where gentle people try to measure the scope and breadth of happiness. Still, we buy the same video games and see the same films as other countries, all of which promote “justice” in the most obscenely violent ways disturbed writers can imagine. That the perpetrator of yesterday’s killing spree was a middle-aged man rather than an impressionable teenager makes the tragedy even harder to grasp.

The despair of the parents, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives and children that lost a beloved family member yesterday is inconceivable and can be borne only by people of incredible strength and courage. Still, small children in small Maritime communities expected their parents to walk in the door last night to join them at the dinner table.

It didn’t happen. It will never happen again.

While working day and night to develop a vaccine for COVID 19, rather than accepting or even encouraging violence, we must also WILL a reduction or better yet, the elimination of violence in our communities. Where are the leaders that can make this happen?

Island Diaries – Kudos and Birthday Leis for a Sixty-Year Old Son

I’ve lost track of what day it is.  Time here is increasingly measured by sunrise and midday heat and moonlight reflected on Laie Bay. 

I did remember it was my older son’s 60th birthday, which is startling to think about although my dismay paled in comparison to the shock experienced by many of my girl friends who have known Scott since he was three years old.  While I can accept my son’s membership in AARP, it’s more difficult to grasp the passage of (many) decades among friends that are trotting off to Egypt, writing a sixth book, removing wasp nests from the roof of a Flintridge mansion and teaching flamenco and the tango to a luckless husband who is quarantined with the tango teacher / psychologist. Also a small dog and two cats, all of whom live together in an enchanting Northern California cottage. 

Most of these friends are at least sixty or forever young 80-somethings.  Without exception, they look twenty years younger, which, in my view, is still not nearly wrinkle-free enough.

Ladies of a Certain Age Who’ve Still Got It.

It’s easy for me to come to terms with Scott’s age, however.  He has been sixty since he was about six.  Although he has a wonderful sense of humour and does have his zany moments, he has never been anyone even Kafka would consider carefree.  I remember his second-grade teacher at Glassell Park Elementary School in Los Angeles calling me in to discuss how we might jointly encourage him to lighten up.  Apparently, he was very concerned that some of the other second graders were not treating Mrs. Gallardo with the deference and respect he thought she deserved, a problem he felt called upon to address.

Then and future sixty-year-old on the left… looking slightly uncertain about whether or not his picture should be taken.

He has not changed much in the years since then.  He often tells strangers how he raised me and how challenging that was.  There may be some truth to this although I think he might have fared worse with another twenty -year- old parent.  But he is a person of great integrity, kindness and generosity who deserves an easier life than he’s had.  (Although really, who doesn’t?) 

Doting husband with patient (and lucky) wife.

He is a doting husband, an anxious but not overbearing parent, and donates time and energy to the homeless, to AIDS patients, and to causes his church takes on.  Had he had the resources to continue at USC, he would have been an outstanding alumni association president for shiny, shallow Tommy Trojan and might have endowed a chair for George Lucas.  He would also have been a fabulous athletic coach, a great family doctor or if there had been jobs in his field (environmental science) that paid enough money to support a family when he graduated, he’d have done that field proud.

Coulda/woulda/shoulda. 

The trick is not to make a success out of the career we’d choose to have but to make a success of the kind of career (and life) many of us have when we win some and lose some.   Most of us play the cards we’re dealt and Scott has played those cards consistently, successfully and always with dignity. 

Makes a Mother proud. 

It also makes me very sad to head back to Nova Scotia without seeing him and his family in their isolated shelters in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Orange Counties. When I came to Hawaii it was my intention to stop in Southern California en route back to Canada to see Scott as well as other beloved friends and relatives I have not seen for over a year. But as the saying goes, “we plan and God laughs”. In a few weeks, I will spend twenty hours and take several planes to Canada without having the pleasure of seeing my son, my daughter-in-law and two grandsons.

Still, it just feels about time to get off the beach and head back to a different kind of beach to see how Nova Scotia folks (including my younger son and his family) are dealing with a global pandemic.

I also wonder if my friends will respond as they did when I asked them a few years back how they’d dealt with the recession.

“What recession?” they asked then. “Exactly”, I said, belatedly realizing that life in the Maritimes has been so hard for so long, many crises could come and go and not be noticed.

Of course, they will notice the travel restrictions between Digby and Annapolis and may be amused by new rules governing social distancing. In truth, with fewer than a million people in the whole province (and most of them in Halifax), keeping your distance will not strike them as unusual. Maritimers are not excessively demonstrative so a limit on hugs will probably trouble the Come From Away people more than the good people in Brighton with whom I grew up. They are also fairly stoical and while illness and death cause everyone great and profound pain, extreme hardship has never brought them to their knees.

They will very likely complain about a scarcity of paper products and a shut down of the little work they’ve had over the winter and without question, they will blame the hardships on the Mounties and the government. But they will not be defeated. If anyone emerges from this world wide tragedy with their spirit intact, I’m betting on Maritimers.

And I’m betting on both my sons as well. Scott may have been born in Hawaii and Kevin may have first greeted the world in San Diego but if super heroes with X Ray vision examine their bones, they will find the original building materials mixed with a lot of Nova Scotian grit.

It does make a Mother proud.

Completely Objective Proud 80 year old Nova Scotian Mother with a Hawaiian tan.

Island Diaries: Does EVERY Cloud Have a Silver Lining?

Personally, I always doubted it.  Although my current circumstances might prove me wrong. I have been self-quarantining in the nearest place to Paradise good luck and good timing could place me, a place where I have frequent contact with my family, all of whom, thank God, appear to be relatively healthy.  I have a library, fresh food, and Laie Bay at my fingertips, an embarrassment of riches at the best and now, clearly, the worst of times.  

 

Nonetheless, it’s difficult to view personal good fortune and comfort as karmic proof that a worldwide pandemic has an Up Side (and almost as difficult to remember the world of pain beyond our small Bay on Oahu). 

The heart wrenching pain of those whose loved ones are fighting for their lives, the agony of others whose loved ones have lost their battle, and the suffering of all the millions of households just on our continent facing economic ruin will find cold comfort in stories of brave, resilient, creative and hard working citizens trying valiantly to hold our broken world together.  In time, maybe, they will find healing power in those stories and perhaps will even be inspired by the voices, old and new, that are appearing in articles, on line, and in blogs, all trying to make sense of what is happening to their world. Our world.

We’ve always known that words have power but in crises of the magnitude of COVID19. when words fail so many accustomed to soothing and healing with expressions of hope and tenderness, when those people are brought to their knees by unimaginable loss, it gets our attention when new voices give shape and substance to our fragile hopes and prayers. Or when we are able to share videos of neighbours serenading The Nurse Next Door with Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah., we, as the Hawaiians would say, “cry for happy”.  See  PBS American Portrait#AmericanPortraitPBS #WorldHealthDay

The Extraordinary Ordinary people I hear and read about every day, people like my own friends who on a daily basis describe how they are coping with loneliness and fear, their efforts to sew hundreds of facemasks, and others that cook complete and beautiful dinners for one (with an extra place setting, of course, for Elijah) on occasions such as Passover, Easter, and birthdays are sending prayers to the Universe. Too little too late perhaps but these days just finding food in unexpected places brings many of us joy.  When that happens, we should savour our inclination to smile and empower the rest of the world to cling to the concept and possibility of Silver Linings.

Dave Eggers, that lovely writer who decades ago, wrote A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, and went on to found McSweeney’s and storefront writing workshops for young people, has been gathering short stories and accounts he calls A Force Outside Myself:  Citizens Over 60 Speak.  He’s doing this in response to the number of sadly well-known voices that suggest pushing old people into a pit might stimulate the economy or at least shorten the lines at markets and shopping centers.  Apparently fond of a number of senior citizens and as unbelievable as it seems, close to receiving an AARP card himself, he is passionately opposed to his aging friends and relatives ”going into that good night” to save our malls. 

The short stories he gathers are splendid.  Again, new voices that inspire and suggest I might be wrong in assuming there are no silver linings and that nothing good can come from global tragedies that damage the fabric of lives around the planet.  The stories he publishes suggest that small, personal victories, when pieced together, weave a powerful and exquisite fabric that makes a mockery of silver.  Anyone interested in hearing from these old codgers, most of whom are a decade or two younger than I am, can find them through http://www.mcsweeneys.net.

Even our isolated existence in this ramshackle house on the beach in Laie, in a sense, has provided us with priceless gifts.   We read, swim, walk on an almost empty beach, and cook very simple meals. 

(It’s hard to get more isolated than this.)

If I were at home in Nova Scotia, I would worry about cleaning the house, shopping, attending committee meetings, paying bills, washing the car, cooking for grandchildren or friends or be engaged in some unpleasant activity like walking on a treadmill.   Maybe I would watch bad television or try to sort thousands of photographs of young children, distant places, and pets I’ve been collecting for a half century or more.  In this isolated spot in Hawai,  I’ve had time to read over fifty books I’ve always wanted to read and a few I just wanted to gobble up like popcorn.  My husband still enjoys a sit down dinner but he may cook it himself and simple fare on paper plates is not much of a challenge for either of us.  And frankly, I don’t do much cleaning although I have used many gallons of bleach on floors and doorknobs in the past month.  Still, he will never notice how dirty the ramshackle house is so long as we’re not invaded by cockroaches, fleas and sand crabs.  There is no external pressure to vie for a Good Housekeeping award.

We have been given the gift of time which in turn, has given us a dozen other gifts we didn’t expect to receive before we flew here.   We are very sad to have missed the company of beloved friends and family we hoped would join us on our extended holiday. We had looked forward to sharing both the sea and solitude with them.  But then we heard Annapolis Royal enjoyed a snowfall yesterday and the news softened the sharp edges of sadness as we plunged into Laie Bay for the second swim of the day.   

Perhaps the clouds over Laie are lined in silver, after all.  It certainly looks as if a silver lining is hovering over the Himalayas in this amazing photograph Eleanor Academia Magda (the Black Swan) sent me. She tells me the photo was taken from India where the mountains have been hidden from view for decades.  Interesting what happens when gas guzzling vehicles are taken off the roads even for a few weeks.

Is it possible that’s a silver-lined cloud in the distance?

Providing even more evidence of Silver Linings,  politicians in the United States and Canada have  managed to come togetherwith political opponents long enough to allocate financial support for many of their most vulnerable citizens (as well as a truckload of their cronies).  Which is not to suggest the elected officials in Canada and the USA are equally despicable. (It’s been years since I have thought THAT!) Neither country, however, seems to be harbouring a Nelson Mandela or even stepping up to the level of Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand. 

And there are bright spots flickering on the horizon.  Maria Shriver’s columns are a wonder.  Andrew Cuomo is shaping up to be a credit to his father and his state.  Their voices are strong and need to be heard and heeded.  Gavin Newsom, the Governor of California, is making noises that will assuage the longing for former California Governor Jerry Brown to return and an encouraging number of Republican and Democratic Governors around the USA are showing courage and vision that expose politicians like Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick for the cold and craven opportunists they are.

My friend, Hope, was among the friends and family members that had planned to join us on what has turned out to be a strange and bittersweet holiday.  As she noted in one of her amazing daily messages to her BFF’s, “I am old enough to know that what doesn’t happen today doesn’t eventually happen the way it would have happened at an earlier time.  Yes, one day there will be beautiful, wonderful, family gatherings again but I won’t be the person that I am today; I won’t be 67, I’ll be older with things slip sliding away. It is a Heraclitus moment, ‘No man ever steps in the same river twice.’ Or Parmenides, ‘Whatever is, is, and what is not, cannot be.’ “

Hope loves her dour Pre-Socratics.  And I basically agree with her that we will see happier days.  We won’t recapture what we’ve lost but we will find other ways, perhaps kinder, gentler ways, to cherish each other.  Many of us will reprioritize what is important in life and be less careless in our dealings with each other and the Earth.  And, as she pointed out in one of her e mails, “there is the consolation of history.  Shakespeare was quarantined in the great plague of London and wrote King Lear, MacBeth and Antony and Cleopatra.”

 I am well aware “we are NOT all in this together”.  The people I love and cherish are not in the same boat with Dan Patrick, Dollarama’s or Amazon’s management  nor with any of the companies and businesses that continue to manage their work force with disregard for their employees’ health and safety.  No one I know personally wants to introduce senior citizens to a Soylent Green exit from the Earth. 

I do see, however, the glint of silver in those clouds over Laie and every other place in the world where First Responders, Front Liners, Caremongers, community volunteers, grocery store clerks and the Nurse Next Door  step up and do dangerous jobs for the good of both their neighbours and people they’ve never met.  I want to be on the boat with them or at least tuned in when the clear and compassionate voices of people like Andrew Cuomo and Maria Shriver ring loud and clear.

Melinda Gates and presumably Bill Gates believe there will be more pandemics (as soon as this autumn) and that it will take at least eighteen months to get a vaccine to fight this one. To effectively roll out a vaccine, Melinda Gates believes you need to first give it to health workers, then to high-risk groups, then distribute it equitably to different countries and communities. IN her view, the vaccine also has to cost very little with a fund to cover it for everyone. What the US is doing right now, pitting states against each other for supplies and allowing wealthy individuals to access tests first, would be disastrous for a vaccine rollout.

I guess the Silver Lining in her mind is that a vaccine in eighteen months is possible, probable even.  Hard to imagine that two months ago, my granddaughter’s greatest concern was finding a dress for her Senior Prom.

Those were the days, my friends!

Island Diaries – Canadian Caremongers, Solitary Souls and Poetry That Binds Us Together

My dear friend, Hope, is probably not (by design or ambition) a trendsetter.  She is, among introverts and a certain kind of leader, a person of some influence but never an “influencer” as we understand the made-up word’s current definition.  The thought of persuading someone to buy a special brand of cosmetics or clothing would horrify her and the thought of her doing this would send most of her family and friends into fits of laughter.

Hope with a sampling from her Circle of Friends

However, before I had heard about virtual cocktail parties from the dozens of other friends and acquaintances who are now “meeting” regularly for drinks throughout cyberspace, Hope had gathered together twenty or so of the nearest and dearest people in her life to share thoughts, cocktails and reflections each evening around sunset. 

I imagine some members of her cocktail party circuit check in daily and while others do not write or send photographs of where they are and what they are eating, drinking and doing, most of us are likely to regularly read about the concerns and fears or delights and comforts that bedevil / delight our friend in her tiny house in Cambria.  Although we don’t all know each other, we likely know of one another and feel connected through our shared friendship with Hope and the sadness we all feel for the planet and its people.  And a fear that we are, indeed, an endangered species that failed miserably in our responsibilities as caretakers in our communities and certainly of the Earth. 

Aloha from Laie!

But there are other groups that are staying connected through cocktail hours, through books, through churches and especially through good works.  These spontaneous “communities of love and caring” range from Canada’s caremongers to volunteers that have taken it upon themselves to sing outside the windows of nursing home residents. Others leave bags of groceries on the doorsteps of people that are truly isolated or send them letters, poems, and messages that indicate attention is being paid.  It’s heartwarming, really, to witness so much active good will and generosity of spirit demonstrated by Canadian medical students, American teenagers and so many other extraordinary ordinary people. 

For the most part, I don’t think the caretakers and caremongers give a lot of thought to their good deeds.  A wonderful neighbour and an estranged in-law in Nova Scotia have each been stopping by the cottage on the cliff to play with my cat during my absence from the Maritimes. They brush her and change her water, fill her food bowls and have assumed the thankless task of changing her kitty litter pan.  Although I am extremely grateful that they exceed the job description for good neighbours and erstwhile in-laws, they get no thanks from the object of their devotion. Minxie, a role model only for feline prima donnas, expects nothing less than total service from everyone that stops by or stays at our house.   Those that ignore her get an earful if they don’t watch her favorite television shows (professional tennis matches and a sappy Hallmark show) with her or brush her as long as she thinks she should be brushed.   Her servants, of course, are fools if they expect a cuddle in return.

Since my neighbour doesn’t drink Kona’s finest coffee, wear Aloha shirts or eat the lovely chocolate pecans tourists bring back from Hawaii in crates, he will never get the Mahalos he deserves.  And yet, like those choirs and Dixieland quartets singing outside the homes of shut-ins, he persists in his not-so-random acts of kindness.

While it’s true we are seeing the worst of people during this global crisis, it is also true that we are seeing people at their best. Even a few political “leaders” are rising to the occasion although not the ones we passionately hoped (prayed) would grow a pair.  It has been left to our neighbours, in laws and other unsung heroes to find the most generous and creative ways to matter and more important, to show others that they matter as well.

Wahines Gone Wild During a Virtual Luau

Last night around sunset, right after I checked in with my solitary friend from Cambria, I attended a virtual luau on the beach in front of The House of Books, the old beach shack where my husband and I are self-quarantining.  The group of friends with whom I went to Cape Breton Island last October to enjoy Celtic Colours switched gears and cultures to create a cyber luau that celebrated friends from Cambodia, Estonia, Boston, Orange County, Long Beach, Hawaii and Nova Scotia.  The luau was admittedly frivolous and sadly short of kalua pig but it gave us a chance to affirm that Kolvady is still Kolvady, to almost see Tiiu in some of her designer duds, Lauren in a stay-at-home flowered T-shirt, to remember Sue’s epic Cape Breton Island dinners and to see Ruth in surprise island wear. April, still gorgeous even in the midst of a pandemic, was decked out like a six foot Hawaiian wahine and Lillian wore a hibiscus in her hair and twirled a seldom empty wine glass. It also provided me with an opportunity to see if I could tastefully cover up  my CostCo bathing suit with about ten yards of something suitably colourful.  All in all, Girls Who (still) Wanna Have Fun transformed easily from Tipsy Maritime Explorers to Tipsy Wahines of Laie.

The Rainbow State is hard to upstage, especially from the beach at the back door of the Old Beach House on the North Shore.

And from the Maritimes, Lisbie, the Jewel of the Caribbean and Annapolis Royal, sent a poem a few days ago to remind me

We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.

I believe this.  As impossible as it seems, we MUST risk delight.

She also shared this poem…perhaps in response to my blog indicating I was losing interest in drinking alone. 

“Now is the time to drink fine wine,
As the perfume of musk wafts from the heights,
The air is full of cries and the earth trembles,
Happy is he made joyful by drinking . . . .”

(By Abolghasem Ferdowsi, The Shahnamehor Shah-nama  “The Book of Kings”)

Thank God for Solitary Souls from Cambria, Refugees from Island Nations, Caretakers from every country and The Girls That Just Wanna Have Fun. They have ensured that drinking alone, so long as a laptop is handy and operable, is never necessary.

“Wahines and a Couple of Kama’ainas” in Cape Breton Island.