Discarded masks loop from twigs, catch in drains, press mouths to grass. My litter-conscious husband recently stooped to pick one up, halting when I yelled at him. I was thinking of those molecules of breath caught in the fabric. Alien litter, as untouchable as dry ice.
Released from our sequestration, we are as cautious as deer in hunting season. Wear a mask or don’t? Not necessary if you’ve been vaccinated, but sharing enclosed spaces continues to pose a danger. Or does it?
Advice is all over the place. The Curves gym that I’ve gone back to asks you to please wear a mask if you’re unvaccinated. And gloves for all. Most of the women go unmasked. Which worries me. I know people who have refused the vaccine. And I suspect some of them, out of arrogance or ignorance, go around unmasked.
There’s the new Covid-19 variant to worry about, so much more contagious than the one we’ve been vaccinated against. Word is the vaccines are still pretty protective against the Delta variant, but maybe not quite as much? I heard that Pfizer may be asking for a go-ahead on a third booster shot. This virus is wily, and we still have a lot to learn about it.
I know of two people who caught Covid-19 after being vaccinated. They suffered mild cases, but any case of Covid-19 is worrisome. Too many horror stories about the long hauler syndrome, how the virus can return in devious forms – causing brain fog, extreme fatigue and heart problems.
We want this thing gone. As obliterated as polio and smallpox. We want our lives back. We want freely given hugs and days at the beach. We want normalcy. But what was normal before is no longer available. A year of lockdown delivered a sucker punch to businesses we liked, cafes we loved, theaters, museums and markets. Suddenly and inexplicably gone, they leave gaps that may never be filled.
Such a tough term – lockdown. It’s what they do in prisons when trouble erupts. This year of extreme isolation stressed many to the breaking point. Several of my friends got sicker and not from Covid-19. Worn down, hopeless and fearful, cut off from loved ones, exercise and restorative routines, they/we all became more vulnerable.
So we gather again with a degree of caution. The vaccine has conferred an assurance of safety. We are a communal people, and we are hopeful. We want our children to grow up fearless even after we’ve spent a long “winter” fearing for our very lives. We will go back to celebrating birthdays and weddings and reunions of all kinds because we haven’t forgotten how those things make our hearts glad and our souls bigger.
I’m grateful for the return of farmers markets just in time for fruit season. I miss the sweet market on Linden Avenue, but the one I go to now in the Camino Real marketplace is joyfully satisfying, right down to the fresh baked goods from a bakery in Fillmore.
That market is where I ran into my old friend Rodney Chow who had copies of his book “American as Apple Pie” for sale at his booth. I wrote a piece on Rodney and his apple farm for Carpinteria Magazine a few years ago. Now in his 90s, Rodney has been working on his autobiography for a few years.
“American as Apple Pie” is his love song to the country of his birth, an America that challenged him as an Asian at every turn, even though his family (early workers on the railroad) had been in this country almost 200 years. Raised in Los Angeles’ Chinatown, Rodney served in the military during the Korean War, worked his way through school to become a civil engineer, taught college classes, became a land developer, had a family and finally retired in Carpinteria to become a farmer.
Reading the book, I realized what a thoughtful observer Rodney was throughout his life, garnering lessons from every situation. Witnessing the Watt’s riots helped him “become more tolerant,” he says. “America was slowly awakening and realizing that perhaps our purpose on earth is to learn that all human beings have feelings and rights, and we must not let greed overcome good behavior towards each other.”
One good thing: Taking Rodney’s words to heart, learning from our mistakes and practicing tolerance.