08 August 2020
05 August 2020
31 July 2020
24 July 2020
"Putting something called Nature on a pedestal and admiring it from afar does for the environment what patriarchy does for the figure of Woman. It is a paradoxical act of sadistic admiration."
". . . the belief that humanity will soon become involved in a deep and abiding worldwide partnership with nature. Millions of us will commit ourselves to reversing the long legacy of environmental degradation that threatens to destabilize the climate as well as the great ecologies that sustain life on Earth. We must develop a vast stewardship initiative, which will become the great work of our time. Fortunately, there are as many ways to serve the Earth as there are people willing to engage in this vast restoration project. It includes nothing less than stabilizing the planet’s climate as well as saving ourselves."
19 July 2020
"Two things. One, I just try to express how much I admire the real heroes on the front line for getting in there every day and essentially putting themselves at risk. I'm operating from a different vantage point where I am, but I almost miss the days of being in the trenches with you. So that's the first thing.
The second thing is that, you know, this is so stressful for all of us. I think we have to remember that we're gonna get through this. This is not something that's gonna be forever. We're gonna get through it. It's gonna be over. And we're going to look back and hopefully say we really gave it our best shot. And it's gonna be over from two standpoints: It's going to be over from a public health standpoint if we get it right, public health–wise.
But I think science and good biomedical research are also going to come to the rescue because we're going to get a vaccine, hopefully sooner rather than later, and we will get effective therapeutics. So for the people on the frontlines and in the trenches, hang in there with us. We're all in it together and we're gonna get through it. So that's my message to them."
17 July 2020
10 July 2020
This is something that happens to other people in other times; something you might imagine, might read about – not experience. But it is real, it is happening. The plague is back. It never went away. Welcome to the future. No, welcome to the present, to the reality of an ineradicable highly contagious and sometimes fatal virus. There might be a vaccine for it at some stage, as there is for measles. There might not be, as there is not for HIV. A reliable treatment might be developed, as there is for HIV. Or it might not be, like measles.
In any event, there is a gap between what we know about our situation and what our gut believes, a gap that creates confusion, promotes outrage over inconveniences, complacency after early successes. We “know” what’s happening, but we don’t quite “feel” it. Our collective gut is still telling us normality is just around the corner. The reality has been slow to sink in because it’s beyond our privileged experience.
As you will yourself into the reality you perhaps start to understand how the millions before you didn’t understand either, didn’t read the signs, didn’t grasp calamity unfolding, were unprepared, were lost in history’s turmoil, thought their mass grave impossible even as they dug it. We’re out of practice. Mass disasters don’t happen here, not in our lifetime. The plagues and total wars and famines and deaths in the thousands and millions are confined to television screens. Even our hard times remain relatively soft in the broader, longer scheme of things. Other people’s individual tragedies have gone on regardless. In groups sometimes, in planeloads. Communities when fire or flood or landslide tear through. Bad, terrible, but this, this indiscriminate imposition … on everyone? And slowly the comprehension comes – it has always been everyone.
The single diagnosis and mass verdict, the individual execution and the genocide: Each one, one person, however many. One person facing mortality. We’re born to this. We will get used to it. Adapting is what we do best.
07 July 2020
I think that many of the good things in life, like close social contacts, being with a lot of people, festivals, big weddings, going out, going out to eat, celebrating, will probably only be possible with a vaccine with the "old" lightheartedness.
03 July 2020
02 July 2020
Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.
27 June 2020
19 June 2020
15 June 2020
New Zealand rock lily
one of (almost too) many butterheads
muscatel grapes with lily
12 June 2020
We didn't really notice very much in the way we designed towns and streets, houses, drains. Didn't really design with anything in mind but us lot. And so, the idea that "outside your house is the outside" isn't quite true. It's actually still human centric social space and can be very dangerous for other life forces.
The end of the world has already happened. The climate crisis is a sign that things have already gone drastically wrong in our, or at least the white western humans' relationships with the world. That doesn't mean it's too late. It just means that the world we thought to live in turns out not to be quite as it seemed. There's this thing that we call anthropocentrism which is the notion of putting human beings at the top of the hierarchy. The end of the world is the end of the idea that humans are the only people who have a world on this planet.
05 June 2020
She also stressed again that this is it for me, that there are no miracle cures and also, age . . . I told her I was on top of it all and happy with my lot and smiled my zoom smile because this was a zoom
doctor's appointment. And when she logged off I cursed the screen and ran to R for comfort. Side effect.
02 June 2020
For a long time we were going away from Gilead and then we turned around and started going back towards Gilead.
29 May 2020
"So often these days, every living thing seems overwhelmingly tender and fragile to me. I can feel angry at the stupidity of those joining crowds and rejecting personal and community protection, but more often, I cry that people are so anxious they’re willing to deny reality. I hear them laughing together on the trail and wonder if they’re robbing themselves of laughing together in a few weeks, or months. Next summer. Ever."
22 May 2020
We had about seven drops of rain today. The sum total since I cannot remember when. This is the summer we need to seriously consider gardening in a changed climate. Daily watering is not an option. The rambling rose, however, is coping well. Even on a muggy day.
Words for our time:
The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it emotionally.Flannery O'Connor
The most prominent and most frightening aspect of the escape from reality (. . . ) lies in the attitude to dealing with facts as if they were opinions.Hannah Arendt
Also, it's Friday. This is music from Sweden.
19 May 2020
15 May 2020
Things to do in the belly of the whale
Measure the walls. Count the ribs. Notch the long days.
Look up for blue sky through the spout. Make small fires
with the broken hulls of fishing boats. Practice smoke signals.
Call old friends, and listen for echoes of distant voices.
Organize your calendar. Dream of the beach. Look each way
for the dim glow of light. Work on your reports. Review
each of your life’s ten million choices. Endure moments
of self-loathing. Find the evidence of those before you.
Destroy it. Try to be very quiet, and listen for the sound
of gears and moving water. Listen for the sound of your heart.
Be thankful that you are here, swallowed with all hope,
where you can rest and wait. Be nostalgic. Think of all
the things you did and could have done. Remember
treading water in the center of the still night sea, your toes
pointing again and again down, down into the black depths.
Twice a week, I sit down and listen to our country's favourite virologist's podcast. He is a scientist by the book, someone who gets excited over a recent study regardless of the findings but because it was done carefully and with a high level of significance and proper statistics etc.
He tries - and succeeds - to explain the whole shitshow of media frenzy and panic stations and political scare mongering in rational, reasoned and factual words.
Our current national situation is, getting there. As long as we can keep the reproduction number (or R value) below 1 and preferably at around 0.75, we can handle the time to vaccine without overcrowding our medical services, using the hammer and dance approach, and in view of promising treatment strategies for those who get a bad case, keep the death rate minimal.
The way I understand it:
1. The reproduction number, calculated daily by the national public health institute, indicates how many people one person with the virus can infect. If the rate is equal to 1, it means that one person is infecting another, on average. We are currently hovering at or below 1, which is why a couple of social distancing measures have been relaxed. Should it climb and with it the number of new cases per 10,000 people in a district, we have to run for cover again. We are all becoming experts at numbers here.
2. Time to vaccine is - despite all the negative media headlines - estimated to be 18 months or thereabout, in other words, sometime before winter 2021. It take this from the virologist's mouth and I tend to trust him and his colleagues somewhat more than Tom, Dick or Harry on social media, regardless of how much expert knowledge they have gained from google university.
3. Read about the hammer and dance approach here.
4. Promising treatment strategies are being researched in almost all science labs worldwide. I have great faith in this.
Enough of that. It is Friday, time for music.
08 May 2020
05 May 2020
|this is from last year but it did look the same this year|
Today is one of these days when I tell myself over and over and over that it'll be ok, that we will be ok, that I'll be ok, Eventually. Not today. Not quite. But eventually. Again. A year maybe, two years.
I attempt to explain to my daughter the differences in our mothering. I tell her how glad I am that she doesn't need to constantly fear that her child may turn away from her if she says or asks for something that may not immediately be pleasant, something that could demand an effort, an understanding, a challenge. I tell her that she comes from a different place, that she grew up with a mother who most of all and always wanted her to never feel rejected, who never ever wanted her to feel abandoned the way I did and that this resulted in her occasionally getting away with stuff for reasons . . . I know, Mum, she responds calmly.
I attempt to explain to my father that just because numbers are down thanks to weeks of social distancing, the virus hasn't disappeared, that risk persons like him - and me - are still at risk. I keep my voice down reiterating the need to wash hands, yes even after getting cash from an ATM where you punch in numbers because someone else may have touched that key pad, and yes even if only one person was there before you . . . and I think how in an ideal world, many years ago, a father may have explained this to his daughter.
. . . the human condition today—an extraordinary and complex level of global interdependence unseen in the story of our species—will magnify the pandemic's effects on a profoundly disproportionate scale. One way or another, this pandemic will touch everyone alive today, thanks to globalization. Much of the result will be tragic. But I try to take heart that with massive trauma comes a new alertness—perhaps in this case, a heightened awareness that our lives are truly interlinked, and therefore must be valued everywhere.
01 May 2020
Friday. Music. Isn't she lovely here.
The garden is all purple and pink. I should take pictures. Apple and pear trees are so crammed with fruit we may need to do a bit of thinning out. But the plums and peaches are poorly, could be a virus. Raspberries full of bees right now, enough rhubarb for a decent crumble tomorrow.
Ate my first strawberry and still harvesting lemons in the greenhouse.
Three days ago I was informed that due to the fact that I am, and the official term here is, high risk vulnerable individual, I am to stay away from campus for the foreseeable future. Life goes on but not as we knew it.
29 April 2020
During the last two hundred years the blackbird has abandoned the woods to become a city bird. First in Great Britain at the end of the eighteenth century, then several decades later in Paris and the Ruhr valley. Throughout the nineteenth century it conquered the cities of Europe one after the other. It settled in Vienna and Prague around 1900, then spread eastward to Budapest, Belgrade, Istanbul.
From the planet’s viewpoint, the blackbird’s invasion of the human world is certainly more important than the Spanish invasion of South America or the return to Palestine of the Jews. A shift in the relationships among various kinds of creation (fish, birds, humans, plants) is a shift of a higher order than the changes in relations among various groups of the same kind. Whether the Celts or Slavs inhabit Bohemia, whether Romanians or Russians conquer Bessarabia, is more or less the same to the earth. But when the blackbird betrayed nature to follow humans into their artificial, unnatural world, something changed in the organic structure of the planet.
And yet no one dares to interpret the last two centuries as the history of the invasion of man’s cities by the blackbird. All of us are prisoners of a rigid conception of what is important and what is not, and so we fasten our anxious gaze on the important, while from a hiding place behind our backs the unimportant wages its guerrilla war, which will end in surreptitiously changing the world and pouncing on us by surprise.
Milan Kundera (Book of Laughter and Forgetting, 1975)
We always knew what we were doing. We were so arrogant. We just thought we could get away with it.
24 April 2020
Often toward evening,Malena Mörling
after another day, after
another year of days,
in the half dark on the way home
I stop at the food store
and waiting in line I begin
to wonder about people—I wonder
if they also wonder about how
strange it is that we
are here on the earth.
And how in order to live
we all must sleep.
And how we have beds for this
(unless we are without)
and entire rooms where we go
at the end of the day to collapse.
And I think how even the most
lively people are desolate
when they are alone
because they too must sleep
and sooner or later die.
We are always looking to acquire
more food for more great meals.
We have to have great meals.
Isn't it enough to be a person buying
a carton of milk? A simple
package of butter and a loaf
of whole wheat bread?
Isn't it enough to stand here
while the sweet middle-aged cashier
rings up the purchases?
I look outside,
but I can't see much out there
because now it is dark except
for a single vermilion neon sign
floating above the gas station
like a miniature temple simply lit
against the night.
One of the friends who so generously go shopping for us told me that her children are eating so much more, too much, she says, now that they are locked down. But what can I tell them, she asks, cut the sugar while there's a virus?
Another friend tells me how her two teenage daughters are trying so hard to be calm und understanding she wonders if they'll explode one day. I wish they would go back to arguing and banging the doors.
Yesterday just before sunset, I started to clean windows, splashing and wiping, whistling my confusion through my teeth. It was dark by the time I was done with it all.
My father asks that we stop calling him every day, as if there's an emergency, he complains. Just stop being so emotional about everything, he admonishes me before I can say a word and puts down the phone. I know all the things he is afraid of and hospitals are on the top of his list.
When R was a college student, his mother had a car accident as a result of which she had to spend six months in traction, that means six months on your back looking at the ceiling, not knowing whether she could walk again.
I first thought someone was telling me a very bad joke when I first found out, years later, during my first winter in Dublin. It had snowed and she was outside with a gang of kids and dogs throwing snowballs.
So, you see, I know we can do this. Nice and steady.
21 April 2020
the fear's all
The dawn chorus, my early morning bird friends wake me. I like to think so. Indifferent as they are to mere humans. I lie there feeling like the first, the only person awake, listening, letting my mind take me to my first thoughts. There is so much I need, want, have to accept. So much.
It feels strange. But also simple, acceptance. Almost a relief.
Life is easy, I must be honest about this. Not having to go to work and still being able to work, without problems, from home, this is truly wonderful. There is no other way to describe it. And yet, being told that should I insist to be allowed back to my office on campus, I cannot do so without prior arrangement and that I can only attend meetings in person if all attending wear face masks - something I don't even want to consider asking for. That I need to accept. We are not talking about weeks here.
And the risks, accepting that I am vulnerable, that an infection could - not necessarily but yes, with a high likelihood - be severe and/or trigger a flare up of various autoimmune vasculitis scenarios. That I have to accept. Also, that I have to explain it again and again.
In other words, not only do I have to keep my distance and be vigilant, R has to do it too. Which involves friends going to the shops for us and I need to figure out how to accept these offers for what they are without feelings of being a nuisance.
In conversations I stress that I am not afraid. And I mean it. Or rather, I am so used to being afraid for my health, this is just an extension, another version of what it means to be chronically ill. I have years of experience when it comes to working out my life expectancy, when it comes to withdrawing from, giving up something that felt a part of me, important, life sustaining, because the risks are too high. But watching others having to learn this, that I find difficult to accept.
17 April 2020
(Fun fact: the above sequence of the filming of the concert had to be edited as there was a visible blob of cocain dripping out of NY's nose - I have it from a good source.)
"How excellent that our arrogant species receives this collective slap-in-the-face reality check, waking us two-leggeds up to the simple truth that we are not at all in control, have never really been in control, that we live at the behest of powers—of a complex interplay of powers—far beyond our ability to fully fathom, to predict, or to steer. What hubris to have imagined we could do whatever we want with this exquisitely interwoven wonder of a world! And yet how awful that this lesson must come at the expense of so many unsuspecting human lives, so many innocent souls now shivering with fever and fright as they struggle to draw breath.
We’re finally being forced to recognize that no top-down institution, governmental or otherwise, can fully ensure our safety. That our deepest insurance against disaster is going local—by getting to know our actual neighbors and checking in on one another when we can, participating in our local community and apprenticing with the more-than-human terrain that surrounds and sustains us."
16 April 2020
Paul KingsnorthI would like to tell you a few things about this virus and the lessons it should teach us, all the things we should be learning.
I would like to add my voice to the crowd and be heard above it.
I would like to say: fish have returned to the Venetian canals now that humans have stopped polluting them.
I would like to say: the clouds of air pollution over Italy and China have dissipated since people were prevented from causing them with their cars, planes, factories.
I would like to say: up to 80,000 premature deaths which would have been caused this way have probably been prevented in China by the shutdown of the economy.
I would like to say: carbon monoxide levels in the air above New York have collapsed by 50 percent in a single week.
I would like to say: Nature recovers swiftly when we stop our plundering of Her bounty.
I would like to say: lift your gaze, humans.
I would like to say: we can learn from this, we can change.
I would like to say: well, we had it coming.
I would like to say that I know what to do about all this, or what to learn. I would like to teach it to you so that you may learn too. I would like to be a prophet in a time when prophets are so sorely needed.
Unfortunately, I am not qualified for this role. I don’t know anything at all, and I am learning, painfully, that this was my lesson all along.
I don’t know anything at all.
My society does not know anything at all.
Now I will say what I believe: that this civilization will not learn anything from this virus. All this civilization wants to do is to get back to normal. Normal is cheap flights and cheap lattes, normal is Chinese girls sewing our T-shirts under armed guard, normal is biblical bushfires and barrels of oil, normal is city breaks and international conferences and African children poisoning their bodies sorting the plastic we have dumped on their coastlines, normal is nitrite pollution and burning stumps and the death of the seas.
We made this normal, and we do not know how to unmake it, or—whisper it—we do not want to.
But Earth does, and it will.
It turns out that we were never in control at all.
Today the sky is once again so brilliantly sharp and blue, it almost hurts. We are going through the motions, breakfast, work, some exercise, garden, lunch, reading, talking with family and friends, work, dinner. It is not bad, no no. There is little we miss and yet, we miss everything. More than ever I believe we are on a threshold of sorts and fail to see clearly. We are waiting. I think the whole world is waiting.
15 April 2020
. . . what happens when we are devastatingly, unequivocally, reminded of our alikeness? Tell me there isn’t something achingly exquisite about scientists—from every corner of the globe—frantically working for one united goal. Tell me this hasn’t reminded you of how honorable and ancient the role of healer is.
There have been reports about people who had recovered from covid-19 disease but who were tested positive for the virus again. Obviously, scary story.
First, read this part of the sentence again: people who had recovered from covid-19 disease but who were tested positive for the virus again. The publications on this phenomenon all stressed that none of the people were actually sick at the time of retesting.
Next, this is how my favourite virologist explained it to me and a million listeners yesterday.
Imagine a full paddling pool with loads of goldfish swimming in the water. Now take a bucket and with your eyes closed dip it in and fill it up. When you pull it up and look inside, you'll see that you've caught lots of goldfish. Not difficult.
OK, the paddling pool is your body, the goldfish are the corona virus load inside an infected body and the bucket dip is the PCR test. Which is the testing method used the world over to find out whether a person is positive, i.e. infected with the virus.
After about 7-10 days of the body actively working on building an immune defense against the virus, in most cases by being sick with fever and whatnots, the virus load has decreased and will continue to do so for a while longer. Back at our paddling pool this means that if you now, maybe two weeks later, dip in the bucket with your eyes closed, you may actually come up with a bucket full of water but no more goldfish despite the fact that there are still some left in the pool. And a few days later, when you do this again, bucket, eyes closed, dip etc., you do catch the odd goldfish after all. Which is why the PCR test can be negative after 7-10 days and suddenly positive again after, let's say, 12 or 14 days.
I hope that helps. It helped me.
13 April 2020
Not so this year, for obvious reasons, despite this being the 250th birthday bash of the master.
But things are happening online.
Last week, the Beethoven Orchestra, the city's symphony orchestra, called on musicians of any skill to join them to play Beethoven's 6th Symphony. Anyone who wanted to participate could download the sheet music and play in front of their home computer or smartphone. Whether violin, bassoon, horn or electric guitar - the choice of instrument was left to the amateur musicians themselves. You can spot some interesting instruments and if you live here, even the odd colleague.
As for the social distancing situation at home, I have entered week five. At least I think it's week five but what do I care. Yesterday was rhubarb crumble day, today was anxiety day with scratchy throats for the both of us, tomorrow should be tax return day and after that possibly whatever else day.
In between all this jolly nothingness, we discuss the way of the world and whether a longer lockdown will bring forth better ideas for a new future and if this will be the end of capitalism as we know it. You know, the ususal plotting of aging would be rebels who remember a thing or two, recognising that what brought us here is not only a nasty virus that jumped out of the thin air somewhere next to a sack of rice that fell over in China, but in many cases the way our countries are run, like cut throat companies, dispensing with the stuff that represents the essential buffer in public organisations, leaving us not only poorly prepared to deal with pandemics or national emergencies, but also catastrophically unable to provide decent and sustainable livelihoods for vast numbers of people even in normal times.
For some this means that due to the fact that there is a shortage of asparagus pickers here, the sky is falling, the sky is falling.
But I get carried away.
09 April 2020
How are you sleeping these days? Are you having vivid dreams?
I read somewhere that dreams tend to be more vivid in times like these. I can only agree. Two nights in a row I have woken up in tears or should I say, from the discomfort of a wet pillow. No idea what the tears were for but maybe I will find out another night.
We sleep poorly, as expected. I wake up with the dawn chorus, as if jetlagged and make tea. I bring the tea back to bed and fall asleep again, the tea gets cold.
Our life is very cosy and comfortable, R has started to work in various neighbourhood gardens. In return, jars of jam and pickles are deposited by the back gate. A banana bread, a bunch of wild garlic.
We lunch outdoors and sit for a while reading and gossiping. I work in my virtual office and just after sunset, we cycle along the river under the moon's silver light.
My sister tells me that she fears for her sanity, being cooped up and unable to go out for her events and meetings. I try and reassure her. I am the social recluse of the family after all but she waves me off impatiently, chronic illness doesn't count, not even ten years of it, this now is much more serious.
We briefly discuss whether we should attempt to cut our own hair now so that a potentially disaster haircut will grow out in the weeks to come or whether we better wait and try the long hair look for a change. After watching a couple of online haircut tutorials, I resign and search for hairbands. I find myself inspecting the news readers' hair styles and come to the conclusion that the male ones tend to go for letting it grow.
A friend calls with a campaign, she wants me to help her press charges so that hospital patients can receive visitors again, at least those who are about to die. She is outraged how this crisis is shaping our compassion in a "twisted way" with people now having to die all alone. I briefly remember my mother's death and some statistic I saw recently about the lack of palliative care in hospitals and the resulting lonely deaths - prior to this virus - but it's not an easy subject and what do I know. In the end, we both express our hope that, when this "hubbub" is behind us, we will find ways to make sure that those in power look at life and death differently.
When I put down the phone I feel overwhelmed by all the changes I have been promised will happen when "this" is all over.
And our tiny ancient Irish aunt, the last remaining sister of my mother in law, blind and deaf, she is mostly asleep these days in her small comfortable bed in a nursing home shut to the world, shut because all of the staff have been tested positive. This is all we know.
07 April 2020
So, masks. I've been reading and listening. This is what I learned:
All previous evidence about virus load and mask protection has been based on other viruses, not this Covid-19 virus. What we could read until very recently about virus transmission and protection via masks was based on the influenza virus and a variety of respiratory common-and-garden-cold viruses.
But in the last week, two studies have been published that looked specifically at the corona virus and mask wearing. Hurray for science, yes!
I've muddled my way through the two publications (one from a team in Hong Kong, one from a team in Singapore) and in short, they both conclude as far as I get it:
- Wearing a mask in a possible early stage of the infection could well protect the virus from being released and passed on. However, a simple mask does not protect the wearer from airborne infection.
- Only highly technical masks that can filter a pore size of up to 500 nanometers would also filter virus aerosols in the room.
The Singapore team also took samples from wiping surfaces in the hospital room where 30 of the infected patient were treated (one patient per single hospital room).
- In these 30 patients, the virus swab samples were only positive in the first week of symptoms. In the second week, when the patients were still sick, the wipe samples were no longer positive. So there was no virus left on the surfaces.
- This is due to the fact that patients gives off less virus in the later course of the disease. This gives us important information as to how long a patient is actually infectious. But it also means that at home where we live in our bubble, we don't have to clean all possible surfaces with disinfectants.
Anyway, masks, my take on it is, if you are living, working, shopping in a place with widespread community transmission of Covid-19, do wear a mask when not at home.
But remember to wash your hands before you put your mask on, and then again once you’ve got it on. Don’t touch it while you are wearing it. And, if you do, immediately wash your hands. Wash the mask after every use (hot ironing works just as well) and allow it to dry properly before using it again.
And keep up with regular hand-washing and physical distancing.
Click on sources: Hong Kong study and Singapore study