Too Much Reality

The Sistine Madonna, by Raphael

“Humankind cannot bear very much reality”, T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

Today is Wednesday March 24th. Kia ora katoa.

Worries, worries, worries. Perhaps writing this will put things in some perspective. We’re not being shot at, being flooded, or falling ill, so on that scale we’re much better off than many folk.  But still, there are a few frustrations at the moment.

Yesterday I went to Tai Chi (second to last class of Term One), and afterwards went shopping at Moore Wilson’s. I had made a list, but sadly, they had no apricots, black doris plums, or greengage plums. Avocados were dearer than at my local supermarket. They also didn’t have vegan Easter eggs, although when I asked, I was shown some that were dairy-free and gluten-free. I selected one large one, and a bag of little ones, but when I got home, I had left the little ones behind. How very annoying. It’s quite a mission to go to Moore Wilsons. I did buy some yummy donuts, and some raspberries. They do have feijoas, although I already have some at home.

This morning I went to hymn singing. I was a few minutes late, and the group sounded wonderful. We sang Bach’s Passion Chorale. Afterwards  I had morning tea (coffee and a savoury scone), and then caught a bus to Johnsonville Library, and then a bus home.

I zoomed into a Stroke Foundation session which featured a talk by Bob Kerridge. While this was interesting, it didn’t really have any bearing on what happened to me. He had had a mild stroke, had been diagnosed by his GP and spent two weeks in Hastings Hospital. He had already retired, and moved to Havelock North. He had all kinds of advice about listening to the Stroke Foundation, and working hard at recovery. I did find this extremely frustrating. My life has been totally affected by what happened to me, and, once again, I found myself grieving for my former life. Unlike Kerridge, my fatigue has not gone away. I suspect many of the participants found it frustrating, too.

I feel very conflicted about the party I am planning. But I am determined to behave myself in public, and have a good time – set a good example. Last week we had to choose between attending two funerals, and at a recent chat with friends about funeral arrangements, we joked that we would rather like to be at these parties we were arranging at our own funerals.

On a slightly more positive note, I spoke to an aunt recently about trying to use crutches and not finding them useful. I realised then that I no longer fear falling backwards, like I did in the early days. I guess that’s a good thing.

Overseas, there is pretty awful news. While more people are being vaccinated, new variants of coronavirus are spreading too. Now experts are saying that if you’ve been vaccinated, you may still get Covid 19, but it won’t be so bad. You’re less likely to be hospitalised, or die.  So it may not be quite the Get out of Jail free card that we’d anticipated. There is talk of a trans-Tasman bubble from some time in April.

It is now Sunday March 28th.

In New Zealand, Covid 19 isn’t really a thing. It’s certainly not a big worry. Here we are back to being really concerned about other things – pre-Covid objectives, the housing crisis, what flavour Easter eggs (and buns) to buy, what should be done to the house that I live in. I had thought that my party later this year would leave plenty of time for vaccinations, and a Trans-Tasman travel “bubble”, but now this may not be likely. While we have put off any thoughts of travel “overseas”, we still worry desperately about our loved ones overseas: when will they be vaccinated?  What terrifying new strains of Covid will emerge, in the meantime? Will enough people be vaccinated to provide a degree of safety and assurance to relegate this coronavirus back to the status of other diseases we were afraid of: pneumonia, influenza, and the consequences of falls and aging.  I read a story in the Guardian about how Australia is messing up vaccine distribution. Australia! This is so frustrating. I hate to generalize, but it does seem that right-wing governments continue to make a mess of this. All through 2020 the hue and cry was for vaccines, and several have been developed, super-fast. Now, their distribution seems to be taking almost as long as their development, in many places. For the most part, Covid 19 has not interfered much with my life. Now, potentially, it will. I didn’t have a party for my 70th birthday. I should like to have one later this year.

Recent news from the US continues to disturb. While it’s such a relief to have President Biden, and not to have the constant bull-horn effect that we had from 2016 to 2020, the fear engendered by T (What has he said/done now?) has morphed into another fear, that of the coronavirus, which has been politicised beyond belief. The recent mass shootings in Atlanta (why were the spas even open?) and Boulder, Colorado have both terrified us and reminded us of other dreadful mass shootings. Our granddaughter is Chinese. Our grandchildren are half-Chinese. This violence feels very close to home.

Also terrifying is the Republican Party. Although they lost (just) Congress, the Senate, and the Presidency, these losses have not inspired reflection on why they lost, a new policy platform, or better candidates; rather, Republican-controlled state legislatures have sought to make it more difficult (than it was already!) to vote, presumably because they think these moves will favour republican voters. Many have also given themselves the legal right to change the outcome of an election, if they don’t like the majority result. They are determined that this interlude of 2020 won’t happen again. Guns and conspiracy theories abound. Republicans don’t seem at all interested in courting disappointed voters who have turned Democrat; they don’t need to, if they can change the results.  I watched a video of Mike Duncan on Vice News again speaking about the downfall of the Roman Republic; about the overturning of voter urns, so as to render elections null and void; and the stupidity of some emperors, the way power went to their head. Now we have the lie of the so-called “steal”, guns, and conspiracy theories. Someone else spoke about the lack of accountability, and we have seen this in Ted Cruz’s recent (and repeated) comments, both about the Texas power crisis, and the mass shootings. “Thoughts and prayers” were bad enough, but the current cynicism shown by some politicians is just so desperately sad and scary.

Joe Biden and his team are quite wonderful, and doing an amazing job (which people like, by the way); but I fear this will just be an interlude.  If 2016-2020 was terrible, I fear worse is to come, and what’s more, although we fantasise about doing another trip, and revisiting some places, visiting new ones, I have to accept that this may never be within our reach again.

Here we have new things to worry about (although thankfully cruises and gut health are not yet rearing their ugly heads); overseas, the coronavirus continues to work its wicked way throughout the world: Brazil has a record number of deaths; Europe is experiencing a “third wave” (?); the UK’s new rules are confusing, as ever.

Yesterday we went to see another art movie: Raphael: The Young Prodigy. This was a very good film, focusing mostly on Raphael’s paintings, thankfully without much other stuff. He was contemporary with Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and other great Renaissance artists, yet, although his works bear the influence of Leonardo, he brings his own genius to them. What a great painter he was! How interesting his paintings are – his madonnas, his Cherubs. How beautiful his women are, and they look happy! Some of his work is like that of Caravaggio, where he does amazing things with light. We saved our comments for later, and then discussed the movie. When we got home, we got out books about Renaissance art (and architecture), and “bathed” in this again. I remembered that when we last went to Italy in 2010, we were busy, yet only saw a fraction of what we could have seen. And, when it comes to the Renaissance, should the stress go on the second syllable, or the third? Although we can’t go to Italy right now, we can go to the cinema, and see great movies. Ngā mihi.

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