THE COVID CHRONICLES – BETWEEN THE FIRES 9-26-20, 3:00 a.m. Northern California
I tell you what’s changed—I see stars out there in the night sky. How long has it been since I’ve noticed stars? It’s not as if they weren’t there before. They didn’t go anywhere. They’ve been there since before the dinosaurs. And they went extinct a long time ago. Why are we so short-sighted and arrogant to think that we as a species won’t go extinct? We’re doing our darndest to make that happen.
Sitting by the open kitchen window, what a luxury to feel the cool night air. How long since I’ve felt that? Like a kiss on my skin, a breath of what’s real to remind me that all is not lost—yet. My orchids are dying. They live on air. Like me they cannot breathe in this toxic smoke that blankets us from the wildfires. Get ready for the next round, they warn us. We’re not done with fire season and it’s heating up out there; three-digit temperatures by Sunday.
It was clear enough to see the moon tonight. From inside my self-quarantined apartment, I bathed myself in moonlight, the same moonlight that shone down on the dinosaurs and all the sorry civilizations of man since.
There’s always been conflict. Think of the Spanish marching into the “new world” and colonizing by killing. There have always been peaceful groups; they’re the ones that suffer. Those Europeans came, saw, killed and conquered. The Mayans and the Aztecs weren’t exactly bloodless societies. One brutal outfit just fought another brutal outfit. What for? Gold, land, possessions, greed. USA society’s all about money, land, possessions, greed. Some people came here just so they could breathe. That’s disappearing. And what are we replacing it with? Money, land, possessions, greed. And air we cannot breathe.
Mother Nature’s giving us a smack: Air we cannot breathe safely. There’s a bomb floating around in it. Where it lands, nobody knows—until we sicken and die.
Plus ca change, plus c’est la mểme chose. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Life’s a crap shoot. No wonder gambling’s so popular. We think we can beat the odds, and we never stop trying, even though there’s only one ending. Try not to think of death as failure. We are too much of this world at the moment. Let’s go back to the real we so often took for granted and hardly noticed: it was so commonplace.
The night air that softly and luxuriously pours over me as I write is filtered by a beautiful tree outside my window. Birds used to live there. I have not heard birdsong in weeks. They used to be everywhere. Two weeks ago I was on a telephone call to my daughter, staring at the tree outside the window as we talked. A little bird came flying in and landed on a branch for a second or two before flying away again. I got so excited. “There’s a bird!” I exclaimed. “I haven’t seen one in over three weeks!”
“They go somewhere safe at time like this,” my daughter said. Of course they do. All animals hunker down for safety, even the human ones.
But someone was drinking from the water dish I keep on the front porch. I started leaving water out during a prior heatwave for all the errant cats that saunter through the yard, dogs that step off the sidewalk for some refreshment during their daily walk, the raccoons and god-knows-what other creatures who wander about during the night. I hadn’t seen much of any animal life since COVID hit, except people walking their dogs—cats they keep indoors, now. So, who was drinking the water I so faithfully replenished every day to keep it free of ash? Some days that dish stayed full. No one was venturing out at all.
And then, one evening as I walked downstairs to place a clean doormat by the front door, I saw a little fat squirrel come bounding up the garden path. I felt overjoyed at the sight of him, my first squirrel in weeks! And he looked so healthy. We used to have squirrels aplenty in this town. They’d move around on the squirrel highway, running along the neighborhood power lines, jumping from tree to tree. Since my landlord cut the big tree down in the front yard last year, I’ve seen squirrels less and less. They used to run up and down the tree trunk taunting the cats, “catch me if you can.” But now, they stay more in their hiding places.
A small flock of Canada geese flew by my window yesterday, a much smaller flock than usual. But still, a flock of migrating geese! What joy to see them in a V-shape against the sky.
This is the real I cling to as an antidote to all the chicanery of politics in Washington. As Rome burned, Nero fiddled. These days, he’s playing golf.
Aletheia’s had many jobs: teenage store detective. wine harvester in France, Hollywood P.A. and film reviewer for underground newspapers amongst others. Much volunteer work, too, including tutoring homeless children, arranging for NASA to bring their space mobile for a day of fun to inner city kids, and currently Foundation Vice Chair of an art and rare book collection. She lives at the top end of the Bay and looks out at Mount Tamalpais across the water.