Kia Ora Katoa! Kia Kaha!
Today is Tuesday, April 14. The weather is cool but fine. It is not windy.
This is a time of rebirth. We will all be affected by this crisis, in varying ways – for some it is a much more difficult time than others. And there’s the anxiety, and the dreams, or rather, nightmares. One wakes from a bad dream with relief thinking I know that things are bad, but they’re not that bad.
Isn’t it fascinating how values have changed. There is great concern about care homes having very high fatality rates, with some deaths not being recorded as being from Covid 19. In fact, some carers have moved into rest homes. The image of elderly folk being confined to their bedrooms, where their family members can’t visit them, is tragic indeed, when it is already such a challenge to get through the day. And it’s for their own protection! One rest home carer said “I have the best job in the world!” And this is caring for elderly folk sometimes afflicted with dementia. I remember the high quality of care provided for my mother-in-law, whom we were privileged to visit on her 90th birthday, one month before she passed away. Although she had dementia, after several visits she recognised my husband, her eldest son. This was a special time indeed, as was her funeral a few weeks later – time for a large family gathering over several days.
While elderly folk have lived their lives, and usually suffer various health issues as their minds and bodies wear out, we all wish for a peaceful death, not before our time. No one would want anyone to die gasping for breath, or feeling a huge weight on their chest, or suffering extreme exhaustion. And families wish to come together and honour the person who has passed, following the wishes of the deceased person, and the rituals that their loved ones wish to abide by, by holding a tangi or a funeral. It’s about respect, and it helps everyone.
Some Cathedrals are now showing videos of organ recitals, or of Handel’s Messiah, performed at Christmas. As some have said, we are under lockdown, but Jesus is not under lockdown.
The sight of empty churches, an empty St Peter’s Square and St Peter’s Basilica, and Andrea Bocelli singing outside a shuttered Duomo Cathedral in Milan, are very poignant. How striking that at a time when many people seek spiritual comfort, at this solemn time of the year, people cannot go to church. The churches are empty by necessity, now. But perhaps there is rebirth, whether spiritual or otherwise. I find it very striking that faith, and elderly folk, and family relationships, are so much valued at this time. Who would have predicted this?
The 1 pm briefing brings news, both good and bad. Sadly, there have been 4 further deaths, including the father of the groom at the Bluff wedding, a source of a cluster of cases. The good news is that there are only 17 new cases, bringing the total to 1366. Today we have Dr Bloomfield presenting the update. I look up the song about him, and post the link on the family messenger group.
- A sailor who was on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt has died. 600 sailors have tested positive for Covid 19.
- A meat processing plant has closed down in South Dakota, having a cluster of over 300 Covid 19 cases. The Republican Governor there has resisted issuing a stay at home order, despite pleas that she do so.
- The number of positive cases in Russia is alarming.
- Russians are thought to have brought the infection to the North-East region of China, causing more infection there.
- In Ukraine a forest fire is alarmingly close to the failed nuclear reactor site at Chernobyl. Having read the book about attempts to cover this, news of the fire being so close is alarming.
- A disease is infecting olive trees in Europe.
- Another larger swarm of locusts is coming in Africa.
- The focus on climate change has been dislodged by the pandemic, but like the virus, it’s coming/here, ready or not, like it or not.
But there is encouraging news, too. In New York, an owner of several apartment buildings has given his tenants a rent holiday. Some charities are doing great good works, although there are many fundamental problems as more people lose employment, and thus their medical insurance, and become more desperate.
Groups of governors are combining to work together on “reopening” America’s economy, led powerfully by Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York. They agreed that they haven’t done this before; they will work to a plan; that you must have a healthy patient before you can have a healthy economy; and they combine Democratic and Republican Governors. So what do they have in common? Apart from wanting a strong economy, they are primarily concerned about their constituents, and their lives. They want them to stay alive, and to stay well. They agree to be smart, rather than being political.
So what else do we know about Covid 19? Some things we thought we knew are being debunked. For example, it seems you can be reinfected. Doctors and scientists are trying to figure out how this works, because it would be really useful to know who has had the disease and recovered, and is now assumed to be immune. Is it carried by normal conversation? If so, at what distance? How long does it live on surfaces? Door handles, bus seats, food packaging? We know it’s extremely infectious, and there’s likely to be further waves of infection. The only safe way to avoid it seems to be to stay well away – from any interaction with other human beings! And to maintain some kind of healthy living and eating and sleeping and exercising in the meantime.
This afternoon we walked to the store, where I did some shopping. The store was not full, we did not have to queue up, and I bought some bread. I also bought some raspberries and feijoas. Raspberries – in April! That is rather wonderful. They are large, delicious, and keep well. Usually soon after Christmas their season is over, here. Meanwhile, we have beautiful feijoas, a harbinger of winter, but we enjoy them while we can. There’s something nice here about produce being seasonal. Things are enjoyed in their season, then we move on and look forward to other things like leeks and celeriac.
The coming of autumn reminds me of Keats’ Ode to Autumn.
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
My musical offering? Handel’s Messiah. There are many great recordings.
Choose your favourite chorus. I think my favourite would be For Unto us a Child is
Today has been a good day.