Until life returns to some semblance of normal, from time to time we will send out the Corona Chronicles. This publication will provide commentary, brief stories, poetry, book and movie suggestions, and ways to make our time at home meaningful and fulfilling. If you have ideas to submit, please contact Nancy Perkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Protests, plague, and presidential politics pretty much dominate the airwaves as the summer season begins. It has been a tumultuous spring and as a young Black friend wrote “sometimes I just start crying from nowhere.” I understand what she says for the events in this country have brought many of us to tears. Yet we have learned to seek solace from books, film, cooking, sailing, gardening, and other pursuits that transport our minds to better places. I have deeply appreciated the ideas, thoughts, poetry, and art that transport us in these uncertain times that so many of you have shared. I look forward to receiving more items for the Chronicle. Email your contribution to me at email@example.com. Thank you and stay safe.
It goes without saying that any statements made are those of the author and are not attributable to Senior College Belfast.
What makes hard times better?
For the first time in living memory, our day-to-day lives have been severely altered by the fear of a life-threatening, highly contagious virus. Those of us who are senior citizens or who live with pre-existing conditions, those in the most vulnerable populations, are mostly stuck at home, nearly 24/7, and this has been the case for months now. We are unable to share close space with people we love and miss. We can’t simply pick up and go shopping, go to the movies, eat at a restaurant, join our buddies in the park or at the beach. We know we are missing out, and we can’t guess with any certainty how long this will go on. We miss the people we love, the Spring and early Summer gatherings we had planned and looked forward to, the freedom we’ve been used to for most of our lives. I have a few suggestions as to how we may live well anyway.
Live one day at a time. Today can be a great day. The skies are clear, and the birds are cheerful and plentiful. I can still find positive things to say and do, creative work, meaningful activity. Gardening, painting, singing, cleaning, re-arranging your living space, cooking, baking, whatever brings you joy. Tomorrow may be rough, but these things will still be true. We need to see and find the best in each other, which is still there, always. And we haven’t lost our friends. It’s easier than it has ever been to see them on-line, have video calls. The number of video platforms seems to increase every day — Face Time, Zoom, Skype, and now Google has a new one. Since the Corona lockdown, I have actually seen more of my daughter and grandchildren in Israel than I had in months. And every week I have the deep pleasure of teaching Latin to a homeschool student by means of Skype.
Imagine that people are GOOD. Hard times may bring out the dark side in some, but that is not our fundamental nature. We all prefer to be kind. Perhaps there are some people on earth who think that they enjoy being cruel, enjoy seeing people suffer — but those people are freaks. That is, they are swimming against the tide of all humans, maybe even all life forms. Imagining that there are bad people out there who mean to do harm can ruin not just your day, but your whole perspective. Conversely, imagining that people need and treasure your kindness and friendship, that they are made of love, and made FOR love, gives you a sense of our true connection, our community, our interdependence — and your own ability to play an active part in bringing peace, joy, safety, and love to those around you. What we imagine colors the world we live in in an immediate and deep way. And we can control that.
Minimize anything that makes you less happy. This includes the daily news. Paul Simon wrote the lyric “I can gather all the news I need from the weather report.” [The only living boy in New York, Simon & Garfunkle, 1970.] Your life is not enhanced by knowing every detail of what’s going on in Washington DC, or on Wall Street, or anywhere else. Discussing current events on Twitter or Instagram or Facebook probably does not bring you peace or joy, and angry on-line conversations do not affect the outcome, they just spoil your mood. Delete, change channels or turn it off.
Value and strengthen your imagination. We all have imaginations; that’s what has enabled us to be enchanted by words like “Once upon a time…” or “Let’s pretend…” Imagination is not limited to childhood. It is a powerful part of who we are and how much of our creative potential we’re using. There are ways that we stretch and strengthen our imaginations. One is creative activity of any kind: playing an instrument; singing; writing [fiction or poetry — making things up!]; knitting; cooking; sewing; woodworking; drawing; painting; sculpture; artwork of any kind. Anyone who’s ever participated in Role Playing Games (RPG) can explain the powerful effect of imagination on joy and life. Another is learning, whether it’s by taking a course or courses, or studying with a mentor, a personal teacher of some kind, or just by doing one’s own research.
This is why Senior College is such a great gift and asset to all of us who live in this region. Taking classes by Zoom may seem intimidating at first, but it’s very easy, and plenty of us have mastered the slight trick of being Zoom students, and some have even learned to teach with Zoom. Here’s to learning new things!
Rebecca studied Classics at the University of Colorado Boulder, and had a long career as a Latin teacher in Colorado, with additional stints in Indiana and Maine, and taught Latin several times at Senior College. Rebecca is an active member of the poetry community in Belfast, and a member of the board of Senior College. She and her husband moved to Belfast in 2013, and says it is one of the best things they have done.
Sandi Cirillo, a retired art educator, has taught drawing, fiber, and art history classes at Senior College. She gives classes throughout the Northeast as well as North Carolina. Her love of the outdoor world is featured in her art.
My mother owned blue.
Because her eyes were sky.
She hoarded every hue:
Periwinkle and Cornflower
Sapphire and Cobalt
Indigo and Azure
Teal and Robin’s Egg
Cerulean and Aqua.
She drove a powder blue Lincoln.
Her summer scent was Blue Grass.
She dressed me in brown and yellow,
Perhaps a sunflower,
My sister in pink and red,
Maybe a tulip.
I left home,
Lived in a tiny Tennessee town,
Needed a dancing dress.
The only one that worked was blue,
The blue of the field in the Swedish flag.
Today, my love brings me only blue
Scarves and rings
Kristin Frangoulis writes and paints in Belfast. She lives with her husband, George and several cats. She also hosts WBFY radio show, “Poetry By The Bay,” and co-hosts the TV show, “Good Morning Belfast” with her husband.
My Elegant Beast
I have a lights-out lover.
He creeps nightly to my bed.
He will lounge and will hover,
As his paws caress my head.
He will strut across my heart,
As if it was a pillow,
Purring from the very start,
Acting rather mellow.
A muffler his body makes,
And his cheek lies on my face.
We sleep until the dawn breaks,
Then a morning pose he makes.
He dreams of what next to kill,
As he stalks the window sill.
The World Health Organization is warning nations against scaling back coronavirus restrictions too quickly. A premature push to return to ‘normalcy’ could fuel a spread of new cases. Countries could face another peak even before the second wave of infections anticipated months from now. US public health experts echo the WHO’s advice. Meanwhile the president sees himself as COVID-19’s biggest victim. Even as the death toll passes 112,000 and unemployment ranks swell past 40 million, he sees the pandemic as a misfortune happening to him. Oft-changing, chaotic messaging follows. State governments, having decreed different degrees of lockdowns or none at all earlier, now have an array of different approaches to “open up the economy.”
Trying to reopen the economy while downplaying the pandemic can only result in doing a lousy job on both. Besides, whom can a citizen believe? For those inclined to flout authority, this is an invitation to act in irresponsible ways.
When received guidance conflicts, followership is not a rational option. As rational people, we are called upon to use the analytical capacity of our minds—a capacity we all possess but are inclined to be too lazy to use. In Nobel laureate psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s masterpiece, “Thinking: Fast and Slow,” System 2 is our slow, deliberate, analytical and consciously effortful mode of reasoning about the world. It is the skeptic within us. More analytical, and more vigilant, it questions stories we would otherwise unreflectively accept as true because they are facile and coherent. System 1, by contrast, is our fast, automatic, intuitive, and largely unconscious mode.
It is System 1 that senses hostility or affection in a voice. It is System 2 that swings into action when we have to fill out a tax form or park a car in a narrow space, and when we are faced with a pandemic that is unlikely to go away any time soon, probably followed by others of its ilk. Even after a vaccine is discovered and deployed, Covid-19 may remain for decades to come, circulating among the population—an endemic disease like measles, HIV, and chickenpox that refuses to be stamped out.
Shouldn’t the long-term nature of covid-19 serve as a call to arms for the public, a road map for the trillions Congress is spending and a fixed reference point for the nation’s current, chaotic state-by-state patchwork strategy? Combating endemic diseases requires long-range thinking, sustained effort and international coordination. As for the economy, it is the virus that brought it to its knees. Logic would therefore dictate that economic recovery depends on dealing with the virus first—the root cause of the economic collapse.
Yet US leaders keep searching for magic bullets to bring the pandemic to an abrupt end or deny it out of existence. Meanwhile, states are rushing headlong into reopening their economies. Even those moving more cautiously haven’t developed tools to measure what’s working and what isn’t—a crucial feature of any prolonged science-faithful approach. Instead of knee-jerk responses to the short-term, we need a comprehensive, meticulously implemented strategy.
People talk about returning to normal, but a future with an enduring coronavirus means that normal no longer exists. We must find different ways to adapt and discover what works. That’s how we can reclaim, part by part, our society and life. At this moment of transition, infections are declining in some states, even as they rise in at least 20 others. Hotspots emerge. Still, a sense of focus and urgency is missing.
Getting this far required shutdowns, soaring unemployment and devastating blows to the economy. All that to buy us time to think, plan and prepare. Yet there are no signs the federal government has learned anything or is preparing for the next waves. Leaders are stuck in short-term crisis management instead of working on long-term solutions.
The metrics used—number of deaths, hospitalizations and confirmed cases of people showing symptoms—lag behind the actual transmission of the coronavirus by at least three weeks. We need better data and sophisticated testing strategies to increase our speed and ability to detect surges in infections—testing that allows braking quickly enough to stop surges.
This is the time to invest. In public health. In relief for communities and frontline workers. In direct sustenance of all who need it—including small businesses and workers idled by pandemic control measures. We must invest in a just, regenerative economy that serves the human needs of all—free of racist considerations. Developing our crumbling infrastructure, improving the energy efficiency of buildings and transportation, and converting from fossil fuels to renewably generated electricity would create thousands of new jobs for everyone, even while we struggled with the coronavirus.
Paul Kando, an acknowledged energy guru and Senior College Instructor, is a co-founder of the Midcoast Green Collaboration. Paul writes a weekly column, “Energy Matters” for the Lincoln County News.
Heroes and Helpers
Do you suppose, when this is done…
When the world has healed and science has won….
Do you suppose that we’ll look back,
And be able to recall being under attack?
Will we remember the feeling of fear,
When someone would get just a little too near?
Will we look back on the panicky thought,
Of stores not having ‘what we’ve always bought’?
Or will we look back and see heroes galore…
Those unsung heroes at the grocery store,
Who worked the ‘front lines’, kept supplies on the shelves
Even though they had to be scared for themselves?
Will schools that sent lessons and lunches and caring
Home to the kids be remembered for sharing?
The folks who delivered meals that were needed
Will we recall efforts that saved and succeeded?
Exercise classes on Facebook and such…
Technology stepped in when we could not touch.
People gave of themselves before time ran out
And we need to remember, without any doubt,
The good and the heroes, the unselfish gifts
The seemingly small things that gave spirit lifts!
When we’re looking back, in days yet to come,
We need to remember just where hope came from.
The phone calls that said, ‘do you need anything…?”
The email that shared, “I heard a bird sing”.
Hard times indeed, but please, let’s recall,
The echoes of kindness we heard through it all!
And in days yet to come, may our memories remind us
To be grateful for those who helped put this behind us!
The doctors, the nurses…we know who they are….
Each one a warrior…each one a star!
So let’s recall days when we all joined forces,
And with ‘socially distanced’ inner resources
Stepped up to the plate and went to great lengths
To be focused on positive, kindness and strengths!
Heroes and Helpers #2
They’re ALL our heroes…every one….
And when these times are gone and done
I hope we look back and say “THANKS”
To all the grocery stores and banks—
To drug stores…all those employees…
They’re front line soldiers, all of these!
In this horrible situation,
The trucks that rolled across the nation
Kept supply lines full and strong
As drivers drove and moved along!
Gas stations to supply those who
Had to drive…they’re heroes, too.
Post Offices and UPS
Amazon and of course, Fed Ex!
Delivery people of all sorts,
In trains on tracks and boats in ports!
Schools that sent out lesson bunches
Also breakfasts and kids lunches
Schools fed both body and the mind,
So that, next year, they’re not behind!
Doctors…nurses…all of those,
But others, too…do you suppose
Health care could have kept on track
If custodians hadn’t had their back?
Everyone who worked inside
Hospitals that dealt with the tide
That flooded city and small town,
And threatened to bring us all down.
These heroes all had families too,
And they were scared like me and you…
But bravely they stepped to the plate…
They didn’t hesitate or wait…
They’re soldiers…heroes…every one …
Remember that when this is done!
Their lives on line…at risk each day,
They saved us…kept the doom at bay…
And now…to them we lift our voices,
To give our THANKS as the world rejoices!
Sue Shaw has lived in Penobscot with her husband and cats since 1974. She taught Physical Education and Health for 37 years, retiring from Ellsworth High School in 2002. Sue enjoys the creative process in many forms, dabbling in watercolor, pen and ink, pottery, wood carving in the form of birds and decoys, writing poetry and various crafts. In addition to art, she enjoys birding, kayaking, biking, and playing outside in general with her group of close friends.