|Our local mountains, Carolin Frank, photographer|
It might very well be the most beautiful day of the year. After four days of serious rain in Central California’s foothills, the air had a fresh, earthy smell, nothing like the heavy scent in late summer that is all too often tinged with smoke. The sky was that sort of blue that transcends “sky blue”. With puffy, white cumulous clouds, that blue produced a calming feeling as I stared straight upwards. A red-tailed hawk with either a gopher or mouse in its talons gave its cry reserved for when it wanted to tell the world, “I’m happy! I’ve got some food!” Anna’s Hummingbirds, in the midst of the breeding season, were dive-bombing through the air as part of their courtship dance--making a shrill whistling report.
I closed my eyes for a few minutes in the warm sunshine, letting the beauty of the day flow over me. Green is taking over as the color that can heal the real struggle that grips the world. A lone California poppy had unleashed its first orange flower. Popcorn flowers carpet the area where we held our wedding renewal ceremony back on a cold day in November. The earth, in spite of everything, was regenerating.
At noon today, I met online with the eight students in my freshmen seminar class. Together we’re reading the book “Drawdown” by Paul Hawken, with 100 essays on how to reverse global warming. I thought I’d given up teaching, but since all classes are now taught remotely, I’ve had a chance to step in and help out. I’m glad I did. These students, many of who are environmental science majors, are well spoken, engaged, and can write decent short essays. I’ve taught freshmen seminars five times in the past. This class is the best and a breath of “fresh air”.
|Explosion of poppies, Carolin Frank|
To start the class, we do a “check in” to see what people are thinking about, how their classes are going, and how they’re dealing with isolation, something foreign to college freshmen. We were brought to the reality of our time when one student revealed that her mother had just been diagnosed with COVID-19 and that she had to care for her. While I had a thousand questions I wanted to ask her, I had to hold my tongue, tell her I was sorry to hear this, and offer what help I could.
Sunday was my mother’s 93 birthday. Three years ago, I have a photo of her dressed in a beautiful outfit standing next to a flower arrangement sent to her by her senior “boyfriend”. She’s got on a big smile and looked like a million bucks. The years have taken their toll. She cried when I called this year, had trouble remembering who I was (Your Older Daughter), and asked me why no one could get together. I lamely reminded her that she’d made a special trip just a few months ago to California for our ceremony. I couldn’t tell whether it sunk in or not.
The next day, all hell broke loose and she lost control when her caregiver came in the early morning. No longer able to recognize who is “good” and who is not, she panicked. After a flurry of anger, calls to 911, she dropped into a fitful sleep. My worried brother and his wife have born the brunt of taking nightly phone calls about their mother. In a normal time, they’d have taken her to lunch, she would have seen her grandchildren, and perhaps kept things together.
Because of COVID-19, her primary care physician was no longer seeing patients. He suspected “something” had happened—maybe another small stoke, but who in their right mind would want to go to a hospital emergency room at a time like this to confirm this? It's a very weird time, frustrating to say the least. We’re hoping that she’ll be able to move into a memory care facility ASAP. What a way to end your life—going from the party girl to the crazy lady.
|Bush Luppins, Sierra Foothills, C. Frank, 2020|
Earlier this morning, Joni, the woman who is helping out with my health care needs, came with her facemask guarding us from any outside germs. We’d cancelled her visits here for the past two weeks, but all three of us—Joni, Chris and I—were anxious to get her help again. I stayed away well out of reach, while Joni folded laundry, swept the floors, and spiffed up the kitchen. We talked from across the room about the other two ladies she helps care for and the situation at hand. As of today, only 67 people in Mariposa County, where we’re living, have been tested for the virus—all of them negative. But we’re not letting our guard down. It’s in the Central Valley all around us. It’s a matter of time.
That fresh air, the wildflowers, the sound of rain falling softly on our windows the past few days has helped to instill some sense of normalcy. Chris wondered aloud as he scanned the nearby blue oak tree for signs of the female hummingbird coming to its nest, if 2020 would be the year everything would change. What would the world be like as the months advance?
I tried to put off thinking about it and watch the clouds sweeping westward toward the horizon, noticing the absence of jet contrails in the sky. A small plane, then a turkey vulture swept over. I embraced the good feeling from that clear sky.