I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Sunny skies and random acts

Bellingham Bay and boats
Yesterday morning, Melanie and I walked along Boulevard Park for our Saturday outing, and this lovely picture of sailboats anchored in Bellingham Bay caught my eye. The day was picture perfect, as you can see here, and we ended our five-mile walk with a trip to the Farmers' Market, where I figured I'd just take a few pictures of the produce. Instead, I decided to buy some homemade shortbread cookies, and we shared some as we went our separate ways. If I had it to do over again, I'd leave that purchase out, because I cannot resist those cookies and finished them over the course of the day. I'll pay for that indulgence on the scales.

An update on SG's progress: he's continuing to improve after the stroke three weeks ago, but he has a ways to go. Finally he's going outdoors for some walks, and he describes himself as feeling like Bambi, transported from a mountain meadow into the middle of New York traffic, where everything is loud and rushing by at breakneck speed. Each day he's a little better, though, and I see the progress in his continued improvement with joy and hope. He's a little bit like a baby bird that has just fledged, needing to find how to use its wings and trust them to fly. And I feel so impossibly proud of him as I stand by and watch.

Yesterday, as I sat outside our coffee shop enjoying our little spot in the shade, my friend John shared an article with me that I haven't been able to forget. He had actually sent it to me the night before, but I hadn't yet read it, so he suggested that I read it aloud right then, as he wanted to hear it again. It's rather long, but I was very moved by it and cannot stop thinking about the implications. It's written by an anthropologist who lives not far from me, over the Canadian border in Vancouver, BC. It's entitled "The Unraveling of America," and appeared in Rolling Stone Magazine. As an anthropologist who has studied many different cultures over the span of his career, he knows of what he writes.

He suggests that the Covid-19 pandemic will change the course of history and be one of those inflection points we all see in stories of past eras. He writes:
The COVID pandemic will be remembered as such a moment in history, a seminal event whose significance will unfold only in the wake of the crisis. It will mark this era much as the 1914 assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, the stock market crash of 1929, and the 1933 ascent of Adolf Hitler became fundamental benchmarks of the last century, all harbingers of greater and more consequential outcomes.
There is no way for us to know for sure how the pandemic will change the world, not from this vantage point anyway, but I believe that the young people of today will one day look back and see that this is when we began to come to the realization that we would never be able to "get back to normal." The social inequities I see everywhere around me are increasing, not decreasing. As I see more and more people in the streets without homes, and as they look out of their sleeping bags at a world that has left them behind, I wonder what separates me and my friend John from their fate. I am retired now, and I receive not only Social Security benefits from decades of working, but also annuities from a retirement plan I paid into for thirty years. It's the only thing that separates us. I no longer have to think about losing a job and having to try to find work where none exists.

I saw a young woman outside the grocery store yesterday, holding a sign clutched to her chest that said, simply, "NEED HELP." I talked with her for a few minutes, to find that she is living in a shelter, with little hope for the future, and she's trying to find a way to stay off the street. She's young and healthy enough to possibly not end up like so many of the older men I see walking with all their worldly belongings in a shopping cart. I know that when I was younger, there was not such a huge divide between those who have and those who have nothing. What has caused this inequity? And what can be done about it?

Sometimes I get very depressed about the state of the world, especially my country, but then I realize it does absolutely no good to wish things were different. Things will continue to evolve and change, and since I am old now, pushing the boundary of eighty, I know I won't be around to see the next phase of history. So what can I do, if anything, right now?
Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate. —Albert Schweitzer
Oh. Right. Find ways to spread a little kindness into the world. Well, I can do that, and I can find people all around me who will benefit from my efforts to be kind. Today, for starters, I'll buy coffee for a stranger when I head to my favorite shop. I'll take whatever occasions that present themselves to notice where a little kindness might make a difference. I'll keep myself open to opportunities to enjoy the little things in life that make me happy. We are all connected, and if I'm happy, that will help you be a little happier, too.

It feels like the right thing to do, in fact maybe the only thing I can accomplish today. I just received a text from Lily, my dear friend who has moved away from the apartment complex, that she will be there this morning. That's just wonderful, and it gives me the impetus to cut this post short and get ready to start the rest of my day. I feel energized, just thinking about the day ahead, and all that I might be able to do to spread around a bit of kindness.

My dear partner still sleeps next to me, more quietly these days as he continues to improve, my tea is gone, and the day beckons. I always want to say thank you to all of my dear virtual community, because you brighten every one of my days. So many of you feel like family because, well, you ARE. You bring a smile to my face just to think of your presence as I finish this post and get ready to launch it out into the world. Be well, dear friends, until we meet again next week.


Anvilcloud said...

Shortbreads are worth it.
Good for SG.
Although I fear it, I hope America doesn't unravel completely gets itself back together.
It looks as though you are heading for a good day. I hope it is just that.

gigi-hawaii said...

Kindness is wonderful. We all need a daily dose of it.

Linda Reeder said...

I often feel like there is nothing I can do to help "fix" things. I have so little contact with others now. But, yes, I try hard to practice kindness. I have had lots of opportunities lately to talk with medical providers. I always thank them and ask them to stay well and be careful. I think just that little bit helps. Same with the grocery store clerks.
I can somewhat identify with SG and his walking. I am still testing out my stability and trying to get my stride back. I drove myself to PT for the first time this week, and at first I was overly cautious, but by my return trip home, I was back to feeling comfortable.
I have had to be kind to myself, and certainly to my wonderful husband, who has been such a loving caretaker.
Have a great day, I'll be seeing you virtually.

Marie Smith said...

The grandkids and I are headed to the food bank this week to drop off food items which would be good for children’s lunches for school. People are hurting here too but I don’t see people living on the street. Maybe they are here but not where I go.

Glad to hear SG continues to improve. Good news is hard to find these days.

ApacheDug said...

What a very thoughtful post, I always enjoy reading your Sunday writings at least twice... very glad to hear your partner is continuing to improve, and thank you for giving myself (and others) much to think about, DJan.

Far Side of Fifty said...

So good to hear that Smart Guy is getting better every day.

I read part of the article in Rolling Stones...I could identify with it until the attacks on our President. There is no escape from politics these days it seems. I find it really sad that the people cannot come together for the common good...clearly the swamp in Washington needs to be cleared out...and perhaps the virus will do just that one of these days...and we can begin again...smarter perhaps.

I guess I take a hard line with law enforcement...bottom line stay out of trouble and you won't get shot...I also notice a big disparity if white people are shot by cops...no protests etc...

Be kind...I try everyday...we have several homeless passing through in town sleeping in the park...they will move south come winter. Mostly in our area they are USA Veterans with PTSD...sad. Before Covid a church in town fed them once a week and a lovely lady made them meals and delivered them. Now with Covid I am not sure what is happening.

I hope you have a good week:)

Arkansas Patti said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Arkansas Patti said...

So glad SG is improving and hope this period of adjustment for him goes quickly.
You are so right that kindness is the key to so much. Given it heals the giver and helps the receiver. I saw a tee shirt I just love.
Kindness may be just what we need to salvage this terrible time. Thank you for reminding us.

Elephant's Child said...

I am glad that SG continues to improve.
Hooray for kindness. Small kindnesses spread HUGE ripples across the pond.
That is a sobering article, and much of what it contains is true world wide. Sadly true.
I hope your day and your week are delightful.

Rian said...

DJan, I read "the unraveling of America" and printed it off so DH could read it too. It contains so many of my own fears for our country.

So good to hear that SG is doing well.

One of my favorite quotes is "in a world where you can be anything, be kind" ...

Gigi said...

My day is now made to hear of SG's continued improvement!

I love that quote so very much. Kindness is the answer, I believe.

I expect the world will change in many, many ways thanks to this pandemic. Hopefully, those changes will be for the better.

Sending hugs and love, DJan. Have a wonderful week.

Red said...

I think you're right that many people will suffer economically from covid. they shouldn't have to suffer but when the economic system is like it is more and more people are on the short end of the stick.

Galen Pearl said...

When my daughter was in high school, I felt that she was not a very kind person. It was not "cool" to be kind. So we started a game, the kindness game. Every day we would look for opportunities to be kind, really consciously seek out those situations that we often overlook. Then at the end of the day, we would compare notes. It was amazing to see how each day offered so many chances to make the world a tiny bit better. It changed the way I went through my day and changed the way I experienced my life. I have fond memories of that game.

By the way, I sent you an email recently. If you didn't get it, would you send me an email to let me know? galenpearl@gmail.com. Thanks.

Rita said...

Sadly, I agree with everything in that article and that is why I have been feeling so upset that I even put a pause on blogging for the first time in 14 years. Have been gradually regaining a balance of sorts. Still holding my breath.

So glad SmartGuy is getting better and better. There are such blessings in this world. :)

William Kendall said...

Good that he is improving.

Margaret said...

Wonderful news about his improvement. I love the views of Bellingham Bay from that park. I've been there, but it was over 8 years ago. I find myself mostly discouraged these days, but can do small things to improve my corner of the world, which I will try to work on.

Linda Myers said...

I've been spending time on the phone with customer service people. It always happens when we're closing up one of our places and opening the other. This week I had to stop the newspaper in Tucson and start it in Seattle. In both conversation, I made the effort to be humorous, and in both cases the customer service person laughed. They're all working from home these days, so I hope the few minutes of humor lightened their day a bit.

Friko said...

I’ve just read the previous post and this one and I can’t tell you how glad I am that things have progressed so much on the health front. I hope and pray (sort of) that your partner will continue to improve.

We are all too old to get up on the barricades and make change happen, apart from voting, but there are still little things we can do to make the world a better place. Being kind is one of them. I find that I say thank you so much sooner, whether it’s in shops or on the street or to people coming to my home. I also start conversations and most people respond and I can tell that we are all a little disturbed by the situation we are faced with and in need of warm human interaction.

You are still an example to me and I hope we can continue to do our modest best to spread a little happiness.