Forty years ago, nearby Mount St. Helens erupted killing 57 people in a single blast, not to mention animals. By perspective, the Coronavirus has now slowly taken 137 Oregon lives in 11 weeks that seemed like forever. Thankfully, there have been no new reported cases in the last three days. The flattening curve today looks just like a mountain. It’s been a long, exhausting climb the last 60 days, but we can now see the base camp on the way down. I have to ask the question: what’s more terrorizing – a volcano or a pandemic?
I came to Oregon for the first time just after the explosion and saw the city covered in ash. All the scenic vistas that the area is known for weren’t visible for weeks. It left an ugly scar on the landscape, taking 1280 feet off the top and destroying $1.1 billion in property. Last year, my wife and I took a drive up to the top and spent some time at the Monument, museum, and observation center. Shorty after, my wife’s daughter hiked to the crater on top. Travels have also taken us to both Pompeii and Herculaneum to witness the devastation of other historic volcanoes. All of these side-trips have been humbling, especially those in our own back yard.
We’ve recently been faced with invisible destruction that’s resulted in sickness and death. The toll on lives and the economy will grow far worse, as our state has yet to re-open for business. There was no big blast but rather a silence, as people continue to stay home. Our recent outings have included a couple of drives up to enjoy the five visible peaks that skirt the city of Portland, including Mt. St. Helens. In the future, as I marvel at these mountains, I’ll think of our time here in self-isolation, worried about the graphs that once looked like mountains that would never peak. I’m glad we finally reached the top, beyond the explosion, and now cautiously headed to the safety of flat ground.
It’s always good to get my run out of the way for the day. Any more, it’s my sole daily accomplishment, now at a consecutive 4,158. There’s at least one point on the route when I don’t think I can make the 3.1 mile distance, but somehow I push through. This morning a golden retriever joined me for the home stretch, keeping proper social distance on the sidewalk, while pulling his reluctant human forward to outrace me. My dog Tally likes to dawdle. She’s more into sniffing than running. I just read an article that claims that the best exercise for your dog is using its nose. Fittingly, Tally takes her time to “decode” a number of doggie messages hidden near fire hydrants, trees, and in bushes. She’s too busy for the actual walk.
I’ve almost finished my cheap “made in China” 1000-piece jig-saw puzzle. The cardboard is so flimsy that they’re difficult to pick-up, plus they tear easily. I’m going to tear out my hair before I finish the “hot air balloons over water” scene. To add to the frustration, all the pieces are cut in the same shape, so it could actually be completed in a hodge-podge of shapes and colors that make no sense. It is so frustrating that it may be the last one I ever do.
I also made some good progress on my murder novel, but I may have psychological problems like the main character by the time it finally gets done. It’s so creepy that I would never attach my real name to the book. Perhaps this is a sign of being stuck at home too long with little or nothing to do? I hate to keep mentioning that we would still be in Bali today if it weren’t for all the virus-related cancellations that keep us safely home. At least, it’s been raining there, with a high of 87 and a low of 76. It’s supposed to be their dry season. We would have arrived to enjoy a full week of sunshine, but the 7-day forecast now calls for rain and overcast skies, similar to Portland. We did save a lot of money by staying home, but they were dollars I would have gladly spent.
Retirement should be filled with travel, seeing all those places that you’ve daydreamed about while trying to work. Stay-at-home restrictions were the last thing I ever expected. Even this is much preferred over being stuck in a hospital bed on a ventilator or worse. I’m grateful for our health, but feel as if we’re all in a rut. As others have joked about on Facebook in reference to the movie Back To The Future, , “whatever you do, Marty, don’t take us to the year 2020.” I would love to see a movie anywhere but in my living room right now. Unfortunately, the Future is Now!
It was a McMeal of Scooby Snacks, Sliders, and Tater Tots last night while we watched the final episode of “The Handsmaid’s Tale.” In Oregon we have both McDonald’s and McMenamins to satisfy our McCravings. However, salt and caramel ice cream is what we were really after, but Salt & Straw can’t keep it in stock, so we didn’t get dessert. “To-Go” is the main incentive to get us out of the apartment these days. “To-Stay” means little to do but watch TV, play video games, read, write, nap, or assemble a puzzle. We ended the lazy night with the first episode of “Little Fires Everywhere.”
It’s another rainy Portland day, so Tally the schnauzer will join us on a “Nothing-Doing” Saturday. She hates getting wet, so her much anticipated walks will be disappointingly short, leaving us all more time to do nothing. There was a time when a down-day like this would have been more than welcome, but instead it’s become dreadfully routine. We could have been doing nothing in the Bali sunshine right now, if circumstances hadn’t changed. At the very least, I should be grateful that we’re healthy, along with 99% of people we know. There is that very small percentage of distance acquaintances that have contracted COVID-19, but fortunately none have been fatal cases or even close to home.
As we walked to pick up our food last night, my wife did an informal survey of those wearing masks on the street. Ours just arrived in the mail, so I was sporting mine for the first time, while she elected to enjoy the fresh air. Of about 75 people we passed, only about 20 had their nose and mouth covered. I found mine to be uncomfortable because my glasses were steaming up. I’ll have to dig in my ski equipment to find some anti-fog. Speaking of snow, the local ski areas just re-opened today. It’s about an hour drive if I were ambitious. It serves as a reminder that there are things to do if I make the effort. However, I haven’t skied in over a year, even when life was normal and never as late as mid-May. Before we exit Oregon for a Florida home, I’ll need to hit the slopes one last time while I’m still in my sixties. It’s a long way from Tampa to snow for a Septuagenarian, another name for a dinosaur. I guess I better think twice about “Doing Nothing” when a few more years might mean “Nothing Doing!”
I run hot & cold with the homeless. One minute I’m feeling sorry for their plight, and the next I’m disgusted or annoyed. I realize their are many hard luck stories worthy of empathy, but in too many cases I just think they like the lifestyle. As the rest of us have gone into hiding, they’ve flourished, becoming what I see as “the untouchables.” They’ve taken the doorsteps of closed businesses and seem unaffected by the virus. No one gets near them anymore, as the downtown camps continue to grow. There is no longer police presence, clean-up attempts, or any efforts to disrupt their near permanent settlements. I’m expecting to see mailboxes, soon.
While they huddle together, we spread apart. In one way, I admire their ability to survive. I could never live as they do. Their food and spare change providers of the past do not go near them any more. They are kept at distances even greater than current six-foot social standards. To make matters worse, they aren’t wearing masks when this is their opportunity to hide from any shame. Instead, they want us to see their faces. They’re also not washing their hands every hour as we do. Maybe even the virus wants to stay away?
Some taunt me as I run by every morning. A majority of this is sadly mental illness; people who need our help. While I’m on the move, no one ever asks for money. They also aren’t finding as much leftover food because everything now is strictly to-go. Yet, they’re still a major presence in our community and perhaps a health threat. I try to help out in other ways by supporting local missions, but too many of the homeless are wary of their programs. They want help…but then again they don’t. It’s frustrating…and real….and help runs hot and cold!