Mary Beth Writes

Little Women Again: Louisa May Alcott volunteered as a nurse during the Civil War. She intended to serve three months but after several weeks she became deathly ill with typhoid pneumonia and went home. Typhoid was treated at that time with a medication made with mercury. She survived typhoid but would deal the rest of her life with an autoimmune disease possibly triggered by the mercury.  

After she recovered she wrote “Civil War Hospital Sketches” which became popular. Trying to support her always-broke family, she went on to write Little Women, the story of four sisters during the Civil War era.

The war affects the story. It determines who the players are, who lives in the house and who doesn’t. Prices are high and they can’t buy as much food and as many things as they want and need. People in their community are destitute and they try to respond.

But that is how the cataclysmic Civil War affects their lives. They miss their father and worry for his health and safety. Beth will help a poor family where she will catch scarlet fever. The war is in the background, but it doesn’t feel like the business of their daily life. It’s real but hard to see.

Hitler invaded Poland September 1, 1939. England was allied with Poland, so British bombers retaliated two days later. Germany would not directly attack England until a year later. For nearly a year, if English people didn’t know someone in the RAF, they didn’t feel as if they were in a war, except for high prices. They called that year their Invisible War.

Do you see where I am going?

Scientists tell us we are in an epic worldwide pandemic. Yet, this crisis seems invisible except for higher prices and weirdly inconvenient rules.

Because most of us we can’t see it right here right now, this crisis doesn’t seem genuine. Closed businesses, economic craziness, and bad politics are what we see. We don’t see the disease. We don’t see people coughing, exhausted, scared. We don’t see inside nursing homes under siege. The health crisis itself is invisible to most of us, so we don’t believe it and we don’t believe it has much to do with us or we have much to do with it.

It's weird that to be people of faith these days – we have to live and act as if a crisis exists. Because it does.

I’m just back from a walk. I hadn’t been out walking since before the Supreme Court struck down the Safer at Home protocols.

I was out not even five minutes when I began to notice that this is pre-Covid Waukesha. Lots of people are out and about. Small clumps of folks (maybe just family, maybe not) are relaxing at a park along the river. The restaurant and bar I walked past each had their doors open and there were lots of people inside. I didn’t check for masks. Not my job. I had to wait at intersections for the walk light because there is the regular amount of traffic again.

I hope I am wrong to worry. I hope everyone is okay and will stay okay. People are definitely out and about in Wisconsin again.

Along the railroad tracks near my house some random apple trees are blooming. When I was a kid moseying around the fields and woods near where I lived, I picked apple blossom branches in the spring. I never had a proper knife with me, so I would wrangle the branches off the tree, which was hard to do. I generally mangled the blossoms in the process. Whatever. I went ‘mano a mano’ with those trees way back in the woods, planted by settlers long gone. I saw history before I read it.

Now I take a photo with my phone. I still don’t have a knife with me, but my phone is handy.

 What seems more real in your life?

Newly blooming spring or the Covid-19 crisis?

...

 

A. E. Housman (1859–1936). A Shropshire Lad. 1896.

 II. Loveliest of trees, the cherry now

 

LOVELIEST of trees, the cherry now         

Is hung with bloom along the bough,      

And stands about the woodland ride      

Wearing white for Eastertide.    

 

Now, of my threescore years and ten,         

Twenty will not come again,       

And take from seventy springs a score,  

It only leaves me fifty more.       

 

And since to look at things in bloom        

Fifty springs are little room,            

About the woodlands I will go    

To see the cherry hung with snow.          

 

Comments

Yesterday I spoke on the phone for nearly 4hrs with that special person I met online 3 months ago... We've both decided covid or not to finally meet in person in the first part of June... He said that he just can't wait any longer and neither can I... We've both been careful about distancing ourselves from people, I because I caregive for someone highly susceptible to anything that can compromise his breathing... Him because he works from home and has a sister who's a nurse and is hyper vigilante to what's going on out there... Today I took my bike ride to the nice park in Kenosha only to find the wonderful trails filled with family's so I didn't do the trails and stayed far away from my fellow humans by choice... My sister sent me an interview a few days ago from a bar in Milwaukee of a ER nurse partying after the lockdown was lifted... Yesterday she said that the hospital had put this insane woman on a 14 day quarantine and she has to issue a public appology for her actions... This is insane...
Mary Beth's picture

I saw that woman also. thing is, she wasn't rude or threatening, she looked like a nice person. The bar was her sister's bar and, she said in her apology, "I just forgot to bring my mask and I'm sorry." It boggles the mind that people don't "get" this.

Oh, there is much more with her (the nurse in the bar) than I can tell here. Yes, I know her. Not a good situation at all and it seems to reflect poorly on many of us nurses. Some of my northern Illinois family and friends are feeling so happy that they can easily and conveniently head up across the border to bars, restaurants, and stores so they can mingle and share microbes, then head back here to share with everyone who tries hard to stay home except for prescription pick-ups, doctor visits, minimal shopping... all it takes is one careless, selfish person to change lives for dozens who didn't really invite the consequences. I'm so frustrated.

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Quarantine Diary #150 8/11/2020 Taking a Break

I’m depressed. How about you?  I’m not the kind of depressed where I should call a doctor. I’m more “Michelle Obama depressed.”  Things feel stuck, wrong, and getting worse. There’s the pandemic and the feeble, chaotic response to it. There’s racial strife. When, if ever, will the police police themselves? Teachers and kids are being thrown back into schools like spaghetti thrown against a wall - to see who will stick? There’s the angry self-entitled idiocy of too many people.

Quarantine Diary #142 Swimming Lessons

“It's a good idea to begin at the bottom in everything except in learning to swim.” Unknown author

I was well into my 40’s when I realized that one doesn’t have to wait for perfect weather if one wants to go into the water. 

Quarantine Diary #141 8/5/2020 "Red Dust"

I just finished reading “Red Dust – A Path Through China” by Ma Jain.  It is a remarkable book that asks more questions than it answers.

Ma Jain was born in the 50’s and grew up grew up very poor in a small Chinese city. He remembers when his mother would simmer stones for dinner so that the neighbors would see her cooking and not realize how poor they were.  (A whole different take on the children’s tale “Stone Soup.") The violent and terrifying Cultural Revolution that Chinese citizens lived through is over but memories of it are in everyone’s minds.

Quarantine Diary #140 7/31/2020 Wishing you a Merry Quarantine Weekend

When I’m in a certain mood I love how-to articles – and I’m in that mood right now. I think it happens at the intersection of reasonable weather and Friday ... when happiness still seems possible.

I googled “How to have a nice weekend in the time of Covid” and guess what? There are no Wiki-How articles on how to be happy in a pandemic.

Let’s invent this right here, right now.

Quarantine Diary #134 Written while sweating …

My best coping skill for appalling weather is to show it who is boss. 30 below?  Cool. Let me put on all my clothes plus a hat down to my eyebrows and another one up to my glasses, and I’ll go out there.

Quarantine Diary #131 7/23/2020 "Becoming Labrador"

Yesterday I forgot to write about a movie we watched which I think many of you might like to watch, also.  We’ve been talking here about what one can stand to read and watch these days when our spirits are stressed and anxious.

I thought I wanted to reprise some of our Canada travels.  FYI, if you’ve traveled in a place you loved, put that place into your streaming service Search window, find some great or mediocre documentaries about that place, and revisit your memories.  It’s fun.

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