Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Mobile, Alabama: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 8888: A Mental Reset

 

Mural, Navi Mumbai, India. Source: Think Global Health
Mural, Navi Mumbai, India. Source: Think Global Health

My old assumption:  The pandemic will end.

My current assumptions

COVID, because it is a virus, and (arguably) a life form, has an innate drive to survive. On top of that, COVID seems to be extraordinarily talented at adapting to new obstacles to achieve its mandate to survive, thrive, and reproduce. I am reminded of an old article from the Atlantic Monthly, which considers new-at-the-time thinking on infection in Parts 1, 2, and 3 of the series, A New Germ Theory, which focuses on the work of scientist Paul Ewald. Pretty damn fascinating, which is why I have remembered it all these years. 

A core concept from the series: 

"Say you're a disease organism -- a rhinovirus, perhaps, the cause of one of the many varieties of the common cold; or the mycobacterium that causes tuberculosis; or perhaps the pathogen [for] diarrhea. Your best bet is to multiply inside your host as fast as you can. However, if you produce too many copies of yourself, you'll risk killing or immobilizing your host before you can spread. If you're the average airborne respiratory virus, it's best if your host is well enough to go to work and sneeze on people in the subway.

"Now imagine that host mobility is unnecessary for transmission. If you're a germ that can travel from person to person by way of a "vector," or carrier, such as a mosquito or a tsetse fly, you can afford to become very harmful. This is why, Ewald argues, insect-borne diseases such as yellow fever, malaria, and sleeping sickness get so ugly. Cholera uses another kind of vector for transmission: it is generally waterborne, traveling easily by way of fecal matter shed into the water supply. And it, too, is very ugly."

 

A conjecture: There are ugly surprises ahead for just how pernicious this virus is in its skill at insinuating itself in the nooks and crannies of our neurological and cardiac systems, irrespective of the mildness or severity of a person's infection(s). We already know it goes into these areas. We already know it does have some effects, for some people, some of the time, to a greater or lesser degree, for a longer or shorter duration. 


A wild-ass thought experiment: As an almost-life-long science fiction fangirl (and before that, before I knew science fiction existed, a fairy tale and mythology fan) ....... 

Sometimes I wonder if any ancient pandemics such as this, created by novel-at-the-time viruses, changed the course of our anthropological, i.e. biological/sociological/intellectual trajectories, as a consequence of mutations that occurred from viruses that wormed their way into our brains, modifying them. 

In other words, are we who we are today (well, who we were in 2019), as a result of one or more ancient novel viral inundations?  And if the answer is yes, then wouldn't such a phenomenon be possible again?


Saturday, August 13, 2022

Stuff: Five Things I'm Really Glad I Bought

 There are a few items that have proven their right-of-place to this minimalist's small space.

The bottle sling

This stretchy, over-the-shoulder bottle sling bag accompanies me on almost every outing. I bought it at the White Sands National Monument back when I lived in Alamogordo. So 10 years ago. Specifically, it is a Chico Bottle Sling (made from 100% recycled materials). 

Not only do I put a bottle of water in it when I go out, but there's a roomy pocket where I usually insert a small bottle of sanitizer, a paper towel, and salt packets. These items cover three very important bases: 

Sanitizer: Good not only for COVID-care, but for cleaning my hands after using a public toilet, which, if I'm wearing my bottle sling, is likely to be a porta-potty. Or a wilderpee.

Paper towel: Not only useful for its intended purpose, it also serves as ersatz toilet paper for the aforementioned porta-potty, where one frequently discovers the lack of toilet paper. 

Salt packets: Getting something to eat when out and about, and not having salt to season it is a cruel bedevilment from the gods. (I've even written a poem about salt.)

Chico over the shoulder bottle bag. Bought at White Sands National Monument, New Mexico. Credit: Mzuriana.
Chico bottle sling. Bought at White Sands National Monument, New Mexico. Credit: Mzuriana.


I also used it during my Lost Summer of 2021, when camping, to carry cleaning wipes to disinfect the toilet and sink surfaces. Trust me when I say I'm not a germphobe, but ... COVID.


Chico bottle sling. Buccaneer State Park, Lousiana. July 2021. Credit: Mzuriana.
Chico bottle sling. Buccaneer State Park, Louisiana. July 2021. Credit: Mzuriana.


The folding table

Well, I've featured my folding table many times in the past decade+. It's my office, my dinner table, and my campsite work table. It's the table I bought for $6 at a friend's moving sale. It is exactly the right size and weight for my needs, and fits into my car beautifully. 


My folding table. Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017. Credit: Mzuriana.
My folding table. Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas. October 2017. Credit: Mzuriana.


Terry wristbands with zipper pocket

I originally bought a trio of terry wristbands for when I went dancing in South Louisiana. 

Terry zippered wristband
Terry wristband with pocket. Credit: Amazon

But after COVID hit, the wristband really shined for me. Instead of carrying a wallet and a purse to most activities (during the early-days lockdown) and shopping forays, I could just wear this, tucking in my driver's license, a credit card, and some cash. I use it almost daily now. 


A beat-up ol' leather waist pack

My beat up ol' waist pack. August 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.

Oh, how I am so ready to release this! I continuously look for a replacement, but thus far, like Goldilocks, I can only find ones that are too large or too small or too something else or not enough something else. 

I did, actually, buy another one, but it's too bulky for my everyday wear.

So my unlovely, worn, black leather waist pack stays with me. I bought it at a thrift store, hell, probably close to 10 years ago. The damn thing. I don't love it at all, but I can't part with it. 

It's just the right size to fit:

  • Phone
  • Camera
  • Glasses
  • Pen

It only has the one pocket. A zipper closure.


The wheeled tote 

I bought this for a very specific purpose, not imagining just how multi-purposeful it would be. And it's goshdarn pretty, too. And it's insulated-ish and water-proof on the inside.

Blue floral, insulated, rolling market tote. Credit: Mzuriana
Blue floral, insulated, rolling market tote. Credit: Mzuriana

I bought it especially for the Tucson Food Rescue program, the fruit-and-vegetable mecca I visited every week. 

But then I put it use as an excellent weekend travel bag. Being wheeled and lightweight, with an exterior pocket - perfect! 

Prius caRV camp bed and market tote. October 2019. Credit: Mzuriana.
Prius caRV camp bed and market tote. October 2019. Credit: Mzuriana.

 

In Mobile, I use it every week to schlep my groceries up a short flight of stairs to my building, then the elevator, then to my apartment. 


My caRV dining table

My steering wheel dining tray. August 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.
My steering wheel dining tray. August 2022. Credit: Mzuriana.

 

I press this into service on every road trip for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Slides easily into the open crevice between my console and the front passenger seat when not in use.

It's especially good for dining al Prius on rainy days like this:


Some other posts on stuff

2010: Just Stuff (a sad story from when I prepared to go rootless)

2010: Progress Report: Stuff Divestment: Did I Make the Deadline?  (On "guerilla stuff divestment" and "how interminably tedious it is to divest myself of the most mundane things")

2018: Ferguson, Missouri: Winding Down (nostalgic views of my rooted home)




 

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Mobile, Alabama: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 8888: An Unwelcome Passenger

 

St. Blown Apart, Trinity Park. Taos, New Mexico. October 2007. Credit: Mzuriana
St. Blown Apart, Trinity Park. Taos, New Mexico. October 2007. Credit: Mzuriana

I was going to call it the Dark Passenger, which I first heard from Dexter. Except when I looked it up, I learned the Dark Passenger is a demon that makes one do bad things. So, not that. 

Then I thought to call it an unwelcome roommate, but no, really it's entirely an internal thing. It's a head fuck, to be frank. 

My unwelcome passenger is anxiety.

I loathe what it is doing to me. 

There are the physical manifestation - the clutch in my belly and the tightening of my shoulder muscles. 

There are the mental manifestations - the reluctance - even paralysis at times - to address routine problems. The sensation of irrational worry or fear, which convinces me to stay home instead of explore, because it's so much easier to do so.

The anxiety is a tick sucking my blood, engorging itself on my confidence in all areas.

I don't even know for sure if it's connected to COVID - and all that COVID has wrought - but surely it must be - when one considers the entire spectrum of the pandemic experience since early 2020: 

Add to that an accumulation of other variables since 2016 (!), with:

  • Daily dystopian assaults by Trump, delivered personally to our screens at home by what I can only characterize as both his witting (e.g. Fox) and unwitting (all other news media that gave  him so much free publicity prior to his election, probably in the belief that he was entertainment and not real news) co-dependent collaborators;
  • Fallout from some scary situations centered in South Louisiana; and
  • Family and friend crises, including the deaths of my mother, two uncles, four aunts, and a friend 

Does it even matter what the origin is? 

But that could just be magical thinking on my part, because pointing a finger on a causal agent would suggest that - hopefully - it shall pass at some point, and not burrow in as a new, permanent part of my psyche. And not a function of some organic, incurable neurological thing - whether wrought by COVID or via some other origin, more prosaic, yet just as devastating, progressive condition, as yet to be diagnosed. 

It hasn't helped that just yesterday, I had this startling thought: I am actually going to die. This is a thing that is actually going to happen. To me

OK, so don't laugh. Of course, I've always "known" this. But whereas before it was sort of abstract, the other day it was concrete. Which, I don't have to tell you, is a hard surface.

At this point, if I hope to pluck off my unwelcome passenger like that bloodsucking tick, I've got to take action. It's not going to go away if I just close my eyes tight and count to ten. Or a hundred. 

The two actions that are to receive my immediate focus are: 

  1. Sheer force of will to resume explorations. To make them a priority. To get into my car and fucking go. 
  2. Build a daily meditative routine. 

Ewww. Pulling a suckling tick off (out of) one's body is icky.

This reminds me of what a reader wrote to me once, and he was quoting someone else: "You should do one thing that scares you every day." I was thinking it related to this experience on the Navajo Dam, but no. And then I was sure it must be this. But it wasn't that scary thing, either.  ....... And because one's memory edits real history, further research reveals that what the reader really said was this: "One thing that scares you per day keeps apathy at bay." And it was for the Navajo Dam experience, after all. 

Methinks I want to change that last to: Doing one thing that scares you per day keeps apathy anxiety at bay.

 

Sunrise on Grand. Las Vegas, New Mexico. October 2007. Credit: Mzuriana
Sunrise on Grand. Las Vegas, New Mexico. October 2007. Credit: Mzuriana

 

Other posts with scary stuff

2012 (October): Alamogordo, New Mexico: Oliver Lee Memorial State Park: I Am a Wuss

2012 (November):  Cloudcroft, New Mexico: Salado Canyon Trail, and a Whistle Killer

2015 (May): Fear and Adventure: A Skydive Story

2020-present: Collection of COVID-19 Unfolding posts


Saturday, August 6, 2022

Portable: Personal Archeology

 

Personal archeology. July 2022. Credit: Mzuriana
Personal archeology. July 2022. Credit: Mzuriana


In my preparation for moving at the end of August, as per my tradition, I have been consuming consumables so I can lighten my relocation load. 

I had two scented candles. One was small, and I luxuriated in its fragrance for the three or so days of profligate use. 

The next candle was rather large. Honey nectar. An intoxicating perfume that filled my space. To burn it, I sought a suitable surface. 

Ah, I have two pieces of black slate, painted with a flower design. I selected one to place under the candle. 

Now I needed something to put the candle and slate on, which would be out of the breezeways of my ubiquitous fans or open windows. 

Ah, I have my djembe drum. 

I placed the candle on top of the painted slate on top of the djembe drum, on the floor. 

After I did that, and after I lit the candle's two wicks, and after I breathed in the delectable scent, I saw something. 

Each of these items represent past lives. 

The drum I received from a long-time love. I played this drum at the drum circles in El Paso.

The slate I received from one of my two best high school friends, which she had received from a best friend in her old home town; the original gift-giver is who painted the flowers on that slate, and a second one that I also have. Years ago, I gave these two slates to my mother so she could use them on her living room end tables, for people to place their drinks upon. After my mom died, the slates returned to me.

The candle I'd bought to add to the ambience for a nice little interlude with someone just prior to my Lost Summer of 2021

When I saw that tower of memories, it prompted me to add another item. A pair of yellow finches I'd embroidered, for which my husband-at-the-time made the frame, and which I'd also given to my parents at some point, decades ago. I retrieved this, too, after my mother died.

 

Personal archeology. July 2022. Credit: Mzuriana
Personal archeology. July 2022. Credit: Mzuriana

The year I embroidered the birds was the Year of Massive Domesticity. I learned how to bake bread (before there were bread-making machines), both white and whole wheat (the former a tremendous success; the latter a flat, uber-dense brick, but still tasty). I taught myself how to crochet. I made at least six full-size afghans, each of a different stitch pattern, knot size, and color palette and design. These were all gifts to siblings and parents one Christmas. 

It may come as no surprise that this was also the year I incubated, produced, and fed a baby human. 

That's a lotta history packed into a small space for this minimalist.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

10 Years Ago: New Mexico Enchanting Me

 

Some time ago, I posited that New Mexico fills my spirit, while South Louisiana fills my heart. Still true on both counts. 

Ten years ago, when I was about to begin my year in Alamogordo, New Mexico, I wrote this post, drawing an arc between a book I read in my adolescence, a couple of short visits as an adult, and then a time to make it my temporary home. 

The enchantment of New Mexico is very much on my mind of late, too, because there is a spanking new series called Dark Winds. Tony Hillerman's book, The Listening Woman, is the basis of this premier season's episodes.  (Note: a 1991 movie was based on Mr. Hillerman's book, The Dark Wind.)

Seeing the series' New Mexican landscape and various city scenes is like a visit back home, in a way. 

The Navajo puberty rite of passage for one of the young girls in the movie reminds me of a similar rite that Mescalero Apache girls undergo. 

Ah. Instead of tarrying too long on Memory Lane, here is my post of 10 years ago

 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

New Mexico Enchanting Me

Tres Piedras, New Mexico. Pink Schoolhouse Gallery.


When I was in high school, I read a book that made me laugh out loud many times. It's about a kid who moves from Alabama to this foreign, inter-cultural community in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of New Mexico circa 1945.

The book was Red Sky at Morning.


Taos, New Mexico. Holy Trinity Park.


Author Richard Bradford's characters were vividly drawn, as was the geographical stage of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on which all of the events played out. The images of a fantastical New Mexico that Mr. Bradford planted in my mind took root.

It wasn't until many years later that I first set foot in New Mexico. Since then, in 1999, I've visited New Mexico two or three times more.

Montezuma, New Mexico. Scarecrows.
 
In some locations, I relished the sensation of having been there before, because they so strongly evoked Red Sky at Morning:

  • At the Chama Visitor Center, talking to a volunteer who explained that although she and her parents and grandparents and great-grandparents were New Mexico natives, English wasn't her first language.
  • In a wooded lot in Taos, the Holy Trinity Park, decorated with that New Mexican outsider art that fuses Roman Catholic iconography, naturalism, magic, and perhaps a dash of schizophrenia.
  • In Tres Piedras, the Old Pink Schoolhouse Gallery (sadly gone now), a cacophony of bright color and media in the middle of nowhere
  • Desperate hope, visible through cruciform prayer offerings left at the Santuario de Chimayo.
  • The mountain-hugger road between Las Vegas and Tucumcari.

Desperate prayers left at Santuario de Chimayo, New Mexico.

New Mexico is American, but it's also a foreign land. There are layers of language, ethnicity, traditions, religion, art, climate, geography, and light that I haven't found anywhere else in the U.S., and I feel drawn to it.

And it's got the Spaceport, you know.


Road from Las Vegas to Tucumcari, New Mexico.




 


 

Monday, August 1, 2022

Word of the Year: Disciplines 8: Gone Dark

 

Going dark. Sunset. On I-70 between Bachelor and Caldwell, Missouri. December 2006. Credit: Mzuriana.
Going dark. Sunset. On I-70 between Bachelor and Caldwell, Missouri. December 2006. Credit: Mzuriana.

 

 

It was a healthy decision to create a work schedule that lifted my creative activities to the same level as my income-producing activities.

The next decision, which came upon me suddenly, was to amputate my connection to almost all news-and-entertainment platforms and feeds. 

I stripped away ....

From my laptop browsers:

  • Google news feed
  • Four streaming services

From my laptop's start toolbar:

  • Microsoft news feed

From my phone:

I kept my Feedly news feed app, but I chopped all of the news media, leaving less than a handful of person-driven columns that I enjoy. 

I don't have a television, so that's not an issue while I'm still in Mobile. In Missouri, it will be a different story, so I'll see how that goes then. 

Replacements:

  • Print books
  • Print newspapers that I can enjoy in air-conditioned comfort at the library only four blocks away (for now). 

 

Library books al fresco. Portal, Arizona. March 2013. Credit: Mzuriana.
Library books al fresco. Portal, Arizona. March 2013. Credit: Mzuriana.






Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Mobile, Alabama: Salt-Clumping Season

 

 

COVID Salt. Tucson, Arizona. March 2020. Credit: Mzuriana.
COVID salt. Tucson, Arizona. March 2020. Credit: Mzuriana.

Yes, it arrived about three weeks ago, I reckon. Salt-clumping season. Which some might call the rainy season or the impending hurricane season.

When the salt crystals in my shaker decide to organize into a unified group against their customary freefall onto my waiting dish, upsetting the proper order of things.

When I must introduce a union buster to show 'em who's the boss. A cracker. Some rice grains.


Other seasons

2011: On Mangoes: The Mango Season is Here (original source in Cock and Bull Stories by Ngishili here from the Wayback Machine)

2012: Caucasus, Georgia: The Tutebi Are Here

2013: The Seven Seasons of New Mexico

2013: New Mexico: The Windy Season

2014: Lafayette, Louisiana: The Mardi Gras Season Begins

2016: Antigua, Guatemala: Ant Season is Coming