April 1, 2020
Indian Divide, New Mexico
Our view of life is all about perception and that concept has never been as clear as it is in this instant. Perception, that there is some lethal virus circulating the earth right now and none of us are immune to it. This concept is literal and figurative. The only immunity is ignorance, in the lack of knowledge, understanding, or acceptance. We are all being affected by this unless we are so completely isolated in the physical or the intellectual sense that it cannot reach us. There are people who do not know, or do not care, but they are few and far between. This brings to light a quote a friend of mine penned many years ago. He said, “Who is to say that the people we think are insane are not in fact the sane ones? They know they cannot cope”. I think we are all exercising our coping mechanisms right now, even if we are simply in denial of doing so. To disregard this threat we are facing is to negate it only in our minds as it is as abrupt a reality as many of us have ever faced. I only know of one person I am associated with who has had the illness but I know it is out there, in plethora for the moment. I also know it is not going to go away, even if the spread lessens with time. This is the new normal.
My perspective is an interesting one. I am isolated by nature and by my own design. I am safe in ways that many people are not. If I don’t leave my house I am assured to not be exposed and even when I go to the grocery store or the post office, my two essential stops when I go out, I am still reasonably safe. There are no cases here in Lincoln County, New Mexico as of yet and if not for the travelers we could well escape any exposure. Sadly, there are travelers and they are likely fleeing the places where this pandemic is raging the worst. I do wish they would stay home, or away at least, but I sympathize with them also. My home is presently safe and theirs apparently is not. Ironically the greatest challenge I am facing is a blend of isolation and a break in my routine. If I am a solitary person I still find some measure of interaction in my day to day life, at least until now. I have made an effort to socialize over this past year because I do not want to recluse, and now I am doing just that because I have to. I find it somewhat unsettling but my coping mechanism is good. I am also building a new routine, though I was really looking forward to the gallery I just started. It will have to wait! If I prefer to avoid the digital means of exchange I am going to have to adjust to that.
There is another challenge that I have been faced with that I am just now learning how to deal with. I have tracked this outbreak through the news on my phone from its beginning. I recognized early on that this was serious, and payed heed to the same. I bought a bottle of hand sanitizer in the beginning of January, and a box of surgical masks, just as they were starting to fly off the shelves. My justification for the masks was that I do wood work and could use them for that if I didn’t need them for protection. I also ordered two cloth ones, though I could have made them myself. Since then I have followed the progression of this pandemic as it ravaged China, and then began its outward spread. In the end of January I proctored a Utility Operator Certification exam in Las Cruces, in spite of being nervous. We packed two hundred people into a crowded room including a few recent travelers and we were all a little nervous when they coughed. Soon thereafter I cancelled an opportunity to go to Phoenix, Arizona in spite of my eagerness to attend. I promised myself I wasn’t going to travel at all until this was over and then reneged to help a friend move home to northern California in the end of February. I flew back from San Jose Airport on March 4 with the headlines already screaming of cases in the Bay Area. I wore a mask on the plane even though no one else did. I was concerned where they apparently were not. When I got home I distanced myself and worried for the next two weeks in spite of all my precautions. I could have been patient zero for New Mexico, but I wasn’t.
The point I am trying to make is that I have been on high alert for weeks, months even and it finally got to me a couple of days ago. For a moment I plunged into that dark place where I rarely go and I had to climb back out rapidly, which I did. I lay down my phone yesterday and tuned out for a moment. I wrote a poem reflecting my sentiments.
I want to put the world
On pause today
Cancel out the news
And the worries of the day.
I wish for the winds
To lie still and silent.
That the song of the meadowlark
Reverberate in the air
Whilst I pray for the salvation
Of a disease ravaged world.
I will for this long moment
Revel in the peacefulness
Of my own solitary perch
And thank God for his protection.
I learned something yesterday, and I hope that I can carry that with me as I go forward from here. I need to maintain my perspective. While it needs to be realistic, and I should remain attuned to the events as they unfold, which I will, I also need to stay well. If I deal well with some degree of stress I cannot handle it in excess and I am well aware of that. My immune system cratered in December. I cannot afford to repeat that now as I am vulnerable enough as it is. I am on the low end of the high risk population, and I want to remain there. I have no control of what is happening around me, only of what I choose to do to cope with it. I will cope as well as I can and maintaining a clear view of my surroundings is my best mechanism. I am surrounded by beauty, and opportunity, and I will put them to good use. Whatever the future brings, I will do my best to be prepared. I am so very prepared!
Unlike so many people I have chosen a very base existence. If I have done so deliberately in order to keep myself grounded and sane it has paid off in ways I never really anticipated. I revel in simplicity in response to a complicated world. I live a borderline existence because it keeps me connected to the earth and the simple elements of survival. By doing so it has allowed me to satisfy my most basic requirements in the physical and the spiritual sense of things. It has also, inevitably, prepared me for the worst. I am as isolated as I could hope to be, whilst still in view of humanity. I have a highway and a neighbor to remind me that the world outside is still in motion. I have all of my essentials in easy reach, though I wish that my water well was functional. I do have to haul water but it is within easy enough reach, and I am increasing my storage as well. I need gutters and rain catchment to improve on that, and I will address that. I have wood heat and can cook with the same if need be, though I also have propane. My lights run off of solar. If not for my debts I would need so little income, but at least my expenses are few. Aside from some extra interest I have no great financial hardship, and for that I am as grateful as I am for everything else. I can put my life on pause, and in so many ways I have. I feel for those people who cannot!
Now is a time to mend our perspective so we can cope as best that we can. We here in New Mexico, in the rural areas in particular, are so very fortunate to be where we are. If everything is in crisis right now our lives are not in immediate danger, at least as of yet. Some of us are more vulnerable than others and I extend my gratitude to everyone who is still out there working to assure we all have the necessities to survive and go on with our lives. My needs are few but they make all the difference in my day to day comforts. I am fortunate that I can stay behind my gate for weeks and not do without very much, but I prefer to not have to. From that perspective I have everything to be thankful for right now, and no reason for complaint. I will check the news each day as I should but I will not immerse myself in it, or allow myself to be distracted. Instead I will focus on the things that are essential to my survival, in mind, body and spirit, and hope to emerge from this crisis with a clearer path forward. I will be more prepared than I have ever been for whatever it is to come, and more appreciative of all the elements that make that possible. I will be humbled as well.
No matter where or how this started, or even how it all ends we have to remember that God has his hands in this. The earth could not have been ravaged by such sickness if it were not already ill and overcrowded. We have created a scenario where this is possible by circulating ourselves all over the planet for reasons so beyond any measure of necessity. Certainly we have carried luxuries and even necessities to great lengths for time immemorial but I don’t think that nature ever intended for us to take this so far. We are now paying for that trespass. There is no way to undo that at this point but this pandemic is an undoing in itself. The herd is being thinned, unmercifully and with no consideration for the actions of those affected but instead preying on the most vulnerable of our population, and some who are not. The outcome, at least for me, is to make our lives all that more precious and appreciated because at any given moment, in a way we have never really had to consider, it could be ended so quickly. It is from that perspective we will all go forward, and hopefully with a greater reverence for the powers and energies which have made that possible. I for one am so very grateful for each and every breath and for this precious moment my lungs are still clear!