December 28, 2021

Come join us, there’s plenty of room!


The fires burn and the kettles sing, and earth sinks to rest until next spring.

-Clyde Watson


Winter is definitely here.  Temperatures are going down into the high twenties, the leaves are mostly gone and the first snowfall is not very far in the future.  I’m contentedly warm, in my parka and gloves, on the walks Waldo and I take and Waldo is very comfortable in his sable all-weather birthday suit.  Until covered by the all-pervasive white blanket of snow that’s soon to come, sticks are in abundance and Waldo happily moves them about, from one spot to another.

Nature has taken on a sleepy air of wait-until-spring.  Plants are hunkered down until a prolonged thaw, some months ahead, that will stimulate them to once again birth forth greenery and a proliferation of multicolored inflorescence.  The buzzing, flitting, often annoying business of insects is gone from the world and the absence of mosquitoes, gnats and ticks is not missed.  Many birds have left for warmer climes and the squirrels, rabbits and chipmunks are, for the most part, lying low in cozy hidey-holes.  If nature could, I think she would be absorbed, at these times, in the quiet reflection of things gone and what is yet to come.  It’s a time of quiet hiatus, a time to take a breath before the onslaught of rebirth.

I’ve lived in places near the equator, in Ethiopia, for example, where seasons didn’t have the dramatic change they do here.  In Asmara, in what is now Eritrea, at an elevation of around 8,000 feet or so, the year was marked by dry seasons, big rains and small rains.  I found it a little unsettling not to feel the rhythm of winter, spring, summer and fall, to mark time subconsciously by the throbbing pulse of the temperate zones.  I missed not so much the freezing snow and blistering heat (heat I could still get plenty of if I ventured off the plateau down to the coastal regions).  What I missed was the more dramatic ebb and flow of the world around me that marked time as I sailed through the course of the year.  The cooling days meant the social dance of school would soon start.  Leaves changing color and falling to the ground foretold the coming of Thanksgiving and then Christmas.  The first snow meant snowball fights, skiing, sledding and a warm cup of hot cocoa held between freezing fingers in front of a roaring fire.   Lengthening days and the slow greening of the world signaled that the slogging toil of schoolwork would soon be over and promised long days outdoors, free from the direction and supervision of adults.  In Ethiopia, I had to rely much more on a calendar than on an internal intuitive synchrony with nature.

Now, we are in the era of Covid.  The damned disease hasn’t changed the flow of the seasons, but it has overlaid it all with an ominous persistent pulsing of infectious surges that peak and fall without ever really going away.  The damn thing keeps morphing, evading our best attempts to get it under control, evolving into strains that can get around our immune systems’ ability to fight it off, or moving into areas that are not yet adequately vaccinated.  And the two strategies feed off each other.  Flourishing in a new area provides the opportunity to mutate into a form that makes it more infectious which then opens up areas where more people are susceptible to catching it.  It even has the ability to get around herd immunity so that if one survives their first exposure, they might not their next.  It is spring-time for the virus, and autumn for humanity.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not at all pessimistic about the future of our species.  Not because of Covid, at any rate.  We have the ability to get this under control, if not eradicate it, through science and experience.  The path through our plight will not be a straight one, however.  We are battling Mother Nature herself.  And She is powerful and She is resourceful.  It is an interesting time we are living through and only our descendants will be able to judge how well we manage it.  Until we do get Covid under control, we will have to be adaptive and mutate our behavior with mask-wearing, social distancing, revaccination, economic disruption, and anything else we can think of to help us ride the waves of the pandemic.  Just what we need to do will change with the circumstances of the moment as Covid evolves, much like what we wear changes with the weather.  However, our Covid autumn will become winter and then a bright new spring.  But until then, curl up with a good book and warm yourself with the fire of compassion that is born in each of us.  Take care of yourself and each other.

And you could come join Waldo and me on the rail-trail.

That, at least for now, is still safe.


There are all kinds of amazing things to see.

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