Corona Chronicles: October 19, 2020

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 nanella133@gmail.com.

2020 – A Little Perspective
Peter Reilly

2020 – pandemic, social unrest, economic upheaval, political clashes – can it get any worse? Well yes, I guess it can, but put it in perspective – it’s not the end of the world nor will it be! Every cloud has its silver lining and so does this one. We’ve adjusted, we have new norms, we think differently about everyday events and life in general. Maybe gradually there’s a realization that it’s not the material things in life that bring real joy, but maybe (could it be!) the little things. A walk on a sunny day, connecting with friends and family, saying ‘Hi” to a stranger, picking up a piece of litter on the street, giving our time instead of money and on and on…

I’m reminded of the story of George Mallory, the English climber who died attempting to ascend Mount Everest in the 1920s. In the early part of the 20th century there was a kind of race or contest to be the first nation to reach and explore the Arctic and the Antarctic. England was not able to claim a victory for those endeavors, but instead put a premium on being the first to conquer the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest. They will organize three expeditions 1921, 1922 and 1924. George Mallory was the only person on all three expeditions. The 1921 mission was to find the easiest route to the top. At the time Nepal was closed to foreigners so the route used was the more dangerous northern side out of Tibet.

In 1922, the mission was to climb to the very peak of Mount Everest. This test of physical stamina was not for the faint of heart. This was still the time of wool and leather – no fleece, no light weight synthetic equipment etc. The use of bottled oxygen had been developed, but its reliability was always a problem. On June 7th, the climbers made a third attempt to reach the peak. It was met by a terrible tragedy. Caught in an avalanche, seven sherpas will die. The mission is aborted and the members return to England – very shaken, but still determined to return for another climb.

George Mallory and others will tour England getting audiences interested in the endeavor and also to raise finances. Mallory actually made a three month visit to the United States where he gave the famous answer when asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest: “Because it is there.”

BUT!! For many people there is a better quote, one that he elaborated, and speaks to life in general. It is as follows: when asked “why climb Mount Everest?”

“People ask me, ‘What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?’ and my answer must at once be, ‘It is of no use. There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behavior of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron… If you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to live. That is what life means and what life is for.”

That is a great quote. You can substitute any “Why do this in life …” for “What is the use of climbing Mount Everest.” It sums up so well why it’s the seemingly “little things” in life that are actually the “big things” in life.

At the age of 37, George Mallory died attempting to reach the peak of Mount Everest in the 1924 expedition. His body was not found until 75 years later in 1999. In 1995, his grandson, also named George Mallory and a climber, reached the summit of Mount Everest and placed a picture of both his grandparents on the summit citing “unfinished business.” It is still a mystery whether George Mallory actually reached the very top, but for him it might be the journey, not the finish, that may have been the goal.

Peter Reilly lives in Belfast and has taught several courses for Senior College in the last few years.


Pandemic Shut Down — Month 8
Rebecca Jessup

Another misspent morning
late in bed, doing puzzles,
reading, dozing, waking,
repeat — for hours.

I wake early enough, and argue
with myself. Get up. Write. Eat.
Do something useful
No, I won’t. No. Go away.

Sun pushes up. To-do lists go moot, messes increase.
The quilt climbs back up over my head. Dust bunnies
grow into sleeping dust dogs, then dragons.
Dishes in the sink procreate several generations.

Wake early, get up late.
In yesterday’s clothes and my best Goodwill slippers,
I tromp downstairs.
PB and J for breakfast.

Rebecca lives in Belfast, she has taught at Senior College and currently is Secretary of the Board.


Kitchen Corner
Nancy Perkins

Mississippi Pot Roast

  • 1 boneless chuck roast or top or bottom round roast, 3 to 4 pounds
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1-½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons neutral oil, like canola
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 to 12 pepperoncini
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon dried dill
  • ¼ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon buttermilk, optional
  • Chopped parsley, for garnish

Rub salt and pepper all over the roast and sprinkle with flour. Massage the flour into the roast and brown on all sides in the oil. Place roast in the slow cooker, add the butter and the pepperoncini. Put the lid on and set the cooker to low.

Make a ranch dressing by combining the mayonnaise, vinegar, dill and paprika in a small bowl. Whisk to emulsify, slowly add the buttermilk if you are using it. Whisk until smooth and then add the dressing to the slow cooker. Replace the lid and cook undisturbed for 6 to 8 hours until you can easily shred the meat with two forks. Mix the meat with the juices, garnish with parsley, and serve with egg noodles and roast potatoes, or on sandwich rolls. Leftover meat freezes well and is delicious with barbecue sauce.


American Luck
Rebecca Jessup

Luck was invented here,
along with jazz, Henry Ford’s production line,
the internet, and flim-flam. Anything goes,
everything sells, everybody buys.

Any lucky street kid could grow up to be president!
We’ve had them all — even one black guy.
Lucky he made it, lucky
he survived.

American businesses are lucky. Big, successful,
and lucky. Big on strategy, tactics and planning for
profit, profit, profit! Smart about
loopholes.

What can corporations do?
They can merge, but who would throw their wedding?
Can they give birth? If spin-offs are children.
They can end, after fifty or two hundred years,
but who gathers at such a deathbed to say goodbye?

We not-so-lucky wait at the end of the line
behind the wealthy hotshots, fat cats, cool kids at the front.
But we’re not living in cages, we’re luckier than those
who tried to rush the gate. They’re not so lucky now.