Category Archives: Masks

What Will it Be Like?

I used to work in low-income senior apartment buildings. In addition to my duties as a landlord, I got to do some fun activities. Our local public transportation agency had a program where they would provide a bus if you had enough interested seniors, and take them to the museum, an afternoon jazz show, a tour of the local tea factory, a trip to the Italian restaurant with the seemingly endless buffet, and the like.

T-Rex skeleton at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
The Denver Museum of Nature and Science is one of the destinations of the RTD Senior-Ride program. ©clmcdermid

Seniors in low-income communities have typically been through a lot in their lifetimes, and they are still living under the grinding, relentless trauma of poverty. Many were hesitant to spend even the reduced rate bus fair and activity costs. They were worried about spending money on something they might not enjoy. They asked me, over and over, what will it be like?

My mind keeps returning to that plaintive question now. What will it be like has become the question on everyone’s mind. It haunts our national discussions, our private lives, and our dreams. What will it be like when the second wave hits? What will it be like if/when I have to go back to work? What will it be like to find work to go back to? What will it be like to live during an economic depression?

Unfortunately, no one can answer these questions, and we don’t have the option of not finding out.

I’ve written before about tolerating ambiguity as an important life skill that we are all learning and relearning together. Since then, the ambiguity has only grown. Can we open up safely? Can we address the staggering life and death iniquities faced by people of color in modern America? Will another documented instance of shocking police brutality, this time overtly murderous, finally lead to meaningful change? Will there be more legislation to help the states and individuals? Will they extend unemployment?

A painting of French and English troops fighting at the Battle of Waterloo.  Officers on horseback are in the foreground, and troops in formation are in the background.  One officer is in the process of falling off a black horse.
The Battle of Waterloo, by Thomas Jones Barker. Public domain, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

We aren’t used to this anymore. In 1815, it took news of the Battle of Waterloo four days to travel to London, a distance that can now be covered in about five hours by car. The whole continent was holding its breath. Now we get our information in near real-time. We never have to hold our breath for very long. And our forecasting in a variety of fields has become so sophisticated that we’re downright affronted if we don’t know about a storm ten days in advance. Forecasts in politics and economics are often inaccurate, but having constant access to them makes us feel better.

We no longer know what to do with ourselves when even the experts are careful to tell us that they don’t know what is going to happen. We’ve never lived through such a slow-moving crisis before. The repercussions of changes in policy now, as the country is opening back up, won’t be seen for weeks, even a month.

It’s hard to think of times in modern life when the question of what will it be like has been so central. I think about my nieces when they made the big leap from elementary school into middle school. And I think about that right of passage for Americans lucky enough to have the classic college experience. Moving into a dorm for the first time is still fraught with uncertainty, no matter that the campus has been toured and you’ve gotten to know other freshmen online.

But those are personal transitions and tell us little about something we are experiencing together as a society. I asked my parents, 80 and 81, about the uncertainties of the history they have lived through. My mother remembers an armed flight my father took to an unknown destination (it turned out to be Laos) while he was in the Marine Corps and things were heating up in Southeast Asia. Dad talked about the tension of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

A black and white cartoon turtle looks in alarm as a cheeky monkey hangs from a tree, holding out a stick from which is dangling a lit stick of TNT.
Bert the turtle knows how to duck and cover. Do you? Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

And maybe that can help to pinpoint something we are missing, now. Even my oldest siblings were far too young to duck and cover, but I have always marveled at how schools, parents, and children took the practice seriously. The unparalleled power of a nuclear blast was well known by then. The dangers of radiation were well established. How could otherwise intelligent people convince themselves that a school desk would protect them?

But what duck and cover did was to provide a veneer of control to protect teachers and students from their horrifying powerlessness. It was meant to protect the mental health of kids and adults, more than their persons. The feeling that you are doing something to protect yourself, no matter how farfetched, is crucial to the psyche.

That need for a self-protective ritual is manifesting itself in many ways. For some, the mask has become a talisman to protect from illness, despite most of its efficacy being in stopping the wearer from spreading germs. For others, not wearing a mask has become a sort of rain dance for the return to the old normal. An alarming amount of people believe that rejecting vaccines will protect them.

In this, the reckoning for allowing a vacuum of leadership to form in the country, everyone turns to their own magical thinking. If I disinfect my groceries, it can’t happen to me. If I microwave the mail I will be safe. It can’t hurt me if I have enough toilet paper.

Prince Charles in front of a projected map of the UK with temperatures superimposed on it, delivering a weather forecast.
Weather forecasting has become so sophisticated, even royalty can do it. Image courtesy of user Dunk on Flikr.

And perhaps some of that is a good thing. Rituals like wearing a mask, washing your hands obsessively, and keeping your distance can serve the dual purpose of making us feel a little more in control and having a public health benefit. Other practices, like my weird fixation on being sure to have a full tank of gas as often as possible (yeah, I know) are irrational, but harmless. And of course, some of these superstitions range from merely dangerous to outright malevolent.

Our own personal rain dances say a lot about us. We should choose them with care.

And of course, we have to reckon with the fact that any and all of those rituals don’t make us really safe (though hand-washing and distance are a great start.) Certainly, none of them can rescue us from the uncertainties that haunt us. So far the only answer to the question what will it be like has been that it will be like not knowing.

Duties, Rights, and Responsibilities

In the States, we are framing our national debate around our freedom to (leave the house, shop, get haircuts, go to work) versus our freedom from (COVID19, the unmasked, germs, non-essential risks). But what if this isn’t about our right to get a haircut, or our right to be safe? What if this isn’t about our rights at all? What if we’re asking the wrong question?

I’ve been thinking a lot about duty lately. It isn’t something we talk about much in the States anymore. It isn’t something we have talked about much for a long time. Maybe this is the time to re-emphasize that democratic citizenship and patriotism don’t just bestow rights, they also incur responsibilities.

Hands wearing blue medical gloves sew a calico cloth face mask on a white sewing machine.  Three other masks are on the table.  There is a stack of fabric on the table.  Many saw sewing masks as a duty.
Many undertook mask making as a voluntary duty at the beginning of the pandemic. Is it our duty to wear them? Image via Adobe Stock.

What are our duties in a democracy during a pandemic? What obligations do we have to our fellow citizens? To our government? To the economy? To essential workers? What duty do we owe to our most vulnerable populations, to our neighbors, to our friends and families? What should we be doing for our states, towns, and cities? For our healthcare workers?

We are in the midst of an existential debate about the role of government while in the midst of a pandemic. Should our federal and state authorities prioritize our freedoms from or our freedoms to? What is our government actually for? This debate has always existed in, and to an extent defined, the United States. But in the last 30 or so years the debate has increasingly come to define us as individuals. It has become particularly loud, aggressive, and destructive, and it has become about poles rather than a spectrum of ideas and opinions.

We’ve become so caught up in this debate about what government ought to do, we’ve forgotten about what we ought to do.

Wikipedia defines duty as follows:

A duty (from “due” meaning “that which is owing”; Old French: deu, did, past participle of devoir; Latin: debere, debitum, whence “debt“) is a commitment or expectation to perform some action in general or if certain circumstances arise. A duty may arise from a system of ethics or morality, especially in an honor culture. Many duties are created by law, sometimes including a codified punishment or liability for non-performance.

I posit that duties also arise from systems of government and social expectations. The duty to vote and be informed arises from democracy. Our duty to say ‘bless you’ when someone sneezes is entirely a social norm. (Now, of course, we all have a duty to try desperately hard not to sneeze in public at all.)

A Louisiana National Guard soldier on duty puts a box of food into the back of a white SUV at a food bank.
Louisiana Army Guard Soldiers with the 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team help package and distribute food to the local community at the Food Bank of Central Louisiana in Alexandria, La, March 24, 2020. Soldiers are assisting the food bank to ensure the supply of food for the needy is maintained and distributed during the increased demand from COVID-19. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Thea James)

Our challenge now should be to sort out, as individuals and as a society, the tangled priorities of our own personal responsibilities. Does our duty to stimulate the economy and support local businesses outweigh our personal responsibility to save for all the rainy days we are in for? Does our onus to maximize self-sufficiency surpass our obligation to leave some toilet paper for the next customer (hint, no!)? How do we balance our economic needs with our responsibility to protect our neighbors, coworkers, and families? Is it our duty to utilize our essential services to keep people employed, or to minimize our use to try to protect workers? What can we do? What should we do?

The people who sat at their sewing machines making mask after mask have been asking the right questions. The people putting bags of groceries into trunks at the local food banks are doing or exceeding their duty. The essential workers who keep us all fed and tend to our health are what a retired Royal Navy man of my acquaintance once referred to as ABCD. Above and beyond the call of duty.

Now, more than ever in most of our lifetimes, it is about what we can do for our country. It isn’t about us and our freedoms and rights, it’s about we. We the families and neighborhoods, the towns and cities, the states and the United States, the world. We the people, not we the persons.

Day Forty-Two: Opening

Did they wash those hands, before they let them cradle that house?!?

Colorado has moved to a “safer-at-home” footing, rather than a stay-at-home order, but my county, in coordination with five other metro area counties, decided to extend the stay at home order. That extension is almost up. On Saturday, Jefferson County will take its first tentative steps to reopen.

We can’t all stay home forever. And it seems like forever is how long it is taking to roll out a massive testing operation. But how many of us are really going to feel safe enough to resume some semblance of normal activity? What if Jeffco reopens, and nobody comes?

According to Axios, Colorado cases are declining, which is excellent news. Jefferson County numbers are also declining. However, most of our neighboring states have case numbers that are still rising. And without a ton of tests, I’m not sure we can feel confident about any of these numbers.

A lot of businesses are planning on taking patron’s temperatures when they come in. This does nothing for me. We don’t know the percentage, but it’s clear there are plenty of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic carriers wandering around. Besides, there are also people like me. I can be plenty sick, but I almost never spike a fever.

Interestingly, no one seems to be spouting any rhetoric saying “it’s safe to come out now.” Even the president has admitted that more people will die. Messaging in Colorado is that we should continue to stay home as much as possible, which I’m sure all those businesses who can reopen are just thrilled about.

So what is the responsible thing to do? I’ve said before, for me, not much is going to change. I live with a one-woman vulnerable population. But what about the rest of us? Where does one balance among supporting businesses, regaining a semblance of normalcy (we can’t all stay home, forever), staying safe, and stopping the spread?

How are you planning on negotiating this? If you are somewhere that has already opened up, what have you been doing? Leave a comment!

Signing off. Take Care and Take Care of one another.

Day Thirty-Seven: Costco

What kind of a lousy blogger am I? I forgot to take a picture of Costco. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. I think this one is in India.

I did a monster Costco shop on March 17th, and I hadn’t been back to the store since. I guess I didn’t really have to go today. We have beans and rice and frozen vegetables. But I was out of such staples as popcorn and breakfast and fresh fruit.

Costco was weird. Of course it was. I won’t go into that, because everybody knows by now.

What really became stark for me is what a struggle it is to determine what is rational. I wore an old dust mask with a cloth mask over it, figuring I could wash the cloth mask and use it to keep the dust mask clean. I sanitized my car door handle. I wore gloves and sanitized my phone when I got in the car, since I had been handling it in the store. I felt paranoid. I felt phobic. I felt absurd. I felt vulnerable.

We’re on day thirty-seven now of Operation Save My Mom, and we can’t stay isolated forever. If nothing else, when my county opens up again, I will have to get a haircut. I’m starting to get desperate enough to try cutting it myself again, and that never ends well.

I would feel a lot more confident if my Mom wasn’t already struggling with a sinus infection that is dragging on and on and on. She’s triply vulnerable right now. She’s 81, asthmatic, and her immune system is tied up with something else. I got a Costco of EmergenC to dose her with.

I made the unnerving decision to forgo wiping the groceries down. Was that sensible and rational, or have I doomed Mom? If you wipe down the groceries, though, where does it end? Can I just sanitize the bag that the sweet potatoes are in, or do I have to use dish soap and water on each individual sweet potato? After all, I don’t know when these were packed.

How careful is too careful? How careful is responsible? How careful is insane? How careful is dysfunctional? I feel like we won’t have answers to these questions for a long time. I worry that, as this drags on, we will all let our guard down and wind up overwhelming the hospitals again.

I’m making decisions that actually, factually, literally might be life or death, within an insane dearth of information. So are we all.

Signing off. Take Care, and Take Care of one another.

Day Thirty-Three: Verbal Emoji

In a mask, this looks cranky af, but it’s actually quizzical.

Being out on the trails carries, realistically, a very small chance of infection. But I wear the damned mask anyway, in great part to normalize it. The more people see others masked, the more they will do it themselves at the grocery stores and in other, higher-risk venues. I also want to normalize it for myself, as just something I put on when I am going out. And I don’t want to scare people with my seasonal allergies. I know I’m not sniffling because I’m sick, but nobody else does.

But going around masked causes a new set of problems. Yesterday, I was on a trail near my house that has become by unspoken and somewhat sneaky consent a sort of informal off-leash dog area for the neighborhood. I was running, and Dog stays on the leash when we run. I can’t keep track of her and my footing and run up hills all at the same time. But there was another dog who was having a free-range moment. She ran right up to us.

I have learned the hard way that when we encounter a loose dog when Dog is leashed, it’s best to stop and let the sniffing happen. Pulling Dog along just forces her to retreat without following dog etiquette, and often leads to unpleasantness. So I stopped and waited for this other dog’s humans to come along. When they were still some distance back, the guy started calling his dog, who totally ignored him. I smiled as he came closer and said “I see she’s super obedient, like my dog.”

This was a cheerful social gambit, not really funny, but lighthearted, and typical on the trails. I got nothing back. The guy wasn’t masked, so I could see that he didn’t smile. He may as well not have heard me.

It didn’t occur to me until after we had all passed each other that he couldn’t have seen that I was smiling. He could have interpreted my comment as sarcastic. I thought I infused a smile into my voice, but it might have been rough from breathing hard. He really had no way of knowing I wasn’t trying to be snarky.

Of course, maybe he was in a mood, or just isn’t a friendly type. But it would be a lot easier to tell if I knew what kind of signal I was giving out.

If we’re going to do this mask thing for real, we’re gonna need some face to face emoji. The technology is out there for a t-shirt or hat with LED light emoji, but that has never seemed very washable to me. I think we need something that we don’t have to replace part of our wardrobe to use.

That leaves us two obvious options. We can make some hand signs, maybe borrow from American Sign Language, although facial expression is a big part of signing, too. Or we can insert our smiley faces like a verbal tic. “I see your dog is super obedient, like mine, LOL face.”

This can have all kinds of applications. When you see family you are socially distant with: “it’s great to see you, Dad, hugging face.” Creeps who can’t leer effectively will have to say “eggplant” or “peach.” When someone gets a little too close in line, you’ll say “great social distancing, there, side eye.” After you get a great call from your doctor, you’ll tell your roommate “I tested negative, cold sweat relief face.”

If masks actually catch on in a big way, it will be interesting to see how face to face communication evolves. Maybe we won’t all develop a verbal emoji tic or start hashtagging everything à la John Oliver, but we’ll find some way to convey nuance, possibly by exaggerating our vocal tones or waggling the hell out of our eyebrows.

Or maybe by something completely different.

Signing off. Take Care and Take Care of one another.

Day Nineteen: Staying Positive

Pollution has massively decreased.

The human brain is wired to give more weight to negative developments than positive ones. It makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. We form vivid memories of bad experiences as an essential part of learning, which gives us a chance to correct actions that could be hazardous to our health.

It is worth noting here that this is especially powerful when it comes to social interactions. In the evolutionary environment, our status within a group could literally be a matter of life or death. That’s why bullying devastates us, gaffes are excruciatingly embarrassing, and we’re always hungry to impress someone we perceive as higher status.

Some things have changed in the short time since humans domesticated themselves. Now that we are much safer than we used to be, or at least were until recently, our fixation on the negative isn’t always adaptive. It can be part of a wide array of mental health problems.

Perhaps we are at a point when a little negativity is suddenly a good idea, again, if bad news will help us stay home and flatten the curve.

But there is a real danger that the combination of relentless negative news and our social isolation will provoke rumination, depression, and anxiety. Counteracting that with positivity is not only super-cheesy, it’s hard! Nevertheless, it is worth brainstorming a list of positive things going in our lives. I’ll start:

  • How happy my dog is when we go for a walk.
  • It doesn’t look like it today where I am, but it really is spring.
  • I’ve been able to reconnect with a great Instagram community, and am working on a fun photography challenge.
  • The curve really is flattening in many places.
  • All those people making masks.
  • All those people keeping our food supply going.
  • All those kick-ass doctors, nurses, janitors, lab techs, and other medical personnel.
  • All those letter carriers and other delivery personnel.
  • I’m getting $1,200 pretty soon. It might not really make ends meet, but I didn’t have to do anything for it, and I don’t have to pay it back.

And those are just a few. Please leave yours in the comments!

Signing off. Take care, and take care of one another.

Day Sixteen: It’s an Outrage!

Two of ’em aren’t even facing the right way!

I had to alter my run for the second time in a row today. Jefferson County Open Space tells us that their parks are open, but that if the lot is full, you have to move on. As tempting as it is to rationalize, I have to assume this means me, even though I am not bringing a car to the party. Others are making different decisions.

A lot of folks in my town are upset because people from the city 30-odd miles east of us are coming up to use our parks. A lot of people are upset because so many are ignoring the mask rule, and hoarding groceries. And it is upsetting, too, to see groups on the trails that are very unlikely to be from the same household. They’re taking a risk, not only for themselves, but for the rest of us.

When I was a kid there was a bumper sticker kicking around that said: “if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” At the time, whenever I saw this I would think “damn right!” Now I think it should read “if you’re not outraged, you’re either not paying attention, or you’re just too damned tired.”

Humans do love to get outraged. It gives us a lovely feeling of self-righteousness. The quick and dirty way to make yourself part of an in-group (a necessity in our evolutionary environment), is to define someone else as the other. Dogging on the out-group is like the quikcrete of social bonding.

But I ran across this meme online yesterday. I’m not normally one to engage with sappy content, but this is important.

A lot of us are outraged by people who, it seems, are not taking this as seriously as we think they should. The thing is, if someone is trying really hard to pretend things are normal, they’re scared. If someone is violating self-isolation to spend time with friends and family, they’re probably scared, too. If someone is in denial, they’re scared. If someone is poo-poohing the science, it’s probably because they’re scared.

So I have to give myself the advice I gave to the kindergarten kids when I was subbing. Who do I have control over? Just me, and sometimes even that is arguable. I can’t control what anyone else does in this crisis. All I can control is how I react and what I do. And so I smile at the people without masks, and I smile at people going out in groups that have way too many adults for them to plausibly live together. I smile at the people coming from cars parked alongside the road.

All of this means all of nothing, of course, because no one can see me smiling behind my mask. But it does make me feel better.

Signing off. Take care, and take care of one another.

Day Fifteen: Non-Genetic DNA

I had a professor once who called culture non-genetic DNA. He argued that it is just as determinant as more conventional DNA, regulating our behaviors, thoughts, and ideas. And one of its neat tricks is that it can change much more quickly than standard DNA. When the world changes rapidly and natural selection can’t keep up, cultural changes can help us survive.

Dog has been acculturated, by her friend Oscar the Husky, to be proud of her holes.

I was reminded of this by this article this morning. We humans tend to assume we have a monopoly on culture, but there is more and more understanding that it is found throughout the animal world, and plays a similar role. It made me think of my dog, who wasn’t particularly interested in digging holes in the yard or eating packages until the dog from up the hill kept getting out. He was a bad influence. Together, they created a mini-culture of canine mayhem.

Something found widely throughout the animal world is clearly something that works. Culture is adaptive in both senses of the word.

I think part of what we are grieving now is the sudden upheaval to our culture. Now it is in a state of flux. We aren’t quite sure what things will look like in the future, just that they will look different.

It was already a time to grieve in the United States, and in many other parts of the world, as national cultures have bifurcated. When our political divide started really heating up in the 90s, the term culture war was popular. You still see it in places. And it is apt. It’s not so much that we have evolved different cultures. The US has always hosted a variety of cultures, large and small. It’s that our political cultures now largely revolve around conflict with one another. We’ve lost the overarching American identity that used to encompass our political differences.

In American politics, the culture has become maladaptive.

It can’t be a good sign when an adaptive trait turns on its organism. A national crisis seems like a good bet to reset a national culture, but we don’t seem to be going in that direction.

Will we diverge into one country wearing masks superimposed on a country that is not? In a world where it is already hard to ascertain the truth, will we all become expert liars, our tells hidden under two layers of tightly woven cloth with a piece of furnace filter slipped between? Will you be able to tell which party a politician belongs to by whether he reaches out to shake hands at rallies? How will we reassure one another without physical contact?

Change is hard, and not knowing what we might be changing into is its own kind of agony.

But we can hope for the best. We can hope for a resurgence of compassion that encompasses the other. We can hope for a shift towards unity. We can hope for renewed faith in the usefulness of good science. We can gain a new, visceral understanding of how interconnected we are. We can set a new default of decency. We can use this crisis as a reboot, not just to reprogram our rituals of greeting and popularize fanatical hygiene, but to start again on tackling problems that we cannot overcome alone.

Here’s hoping, anyway.

Signing off. Take care, and take care of each other.

Day Fourteen: Ignore It and Ride Anyway

a) old bikes are heavy. Really heavy.

b) the handlebars are duct-taped.

c) I’m badly out of shape.

d) I have a strong suspicion that low gear has gotten a lot lower in the last twenty-odd years.

e) my dust mask means I’m re-breathing my own carbon dioxide.

f) no suspension means the bike is actively trying to bounce me off.

g) the world as we knew it isn’t coming back.

h) the old-school seat chafes parts of my person that really don’t need chafing.

i) masks make it hard to stay hydrated.

j) I’m scared to touch anything, even rocks.

k) ignore it and ride anyway.

Noccaea fendleri

Today I saw a woman walking three dogs, two medium, one small, with their leashes trailing in the dust of the road. I saw a tower of granite standing alone. I saw the sunlight, filtered through the trees, illuminating a carpet of pine needles. I saw people wearing masks and people going barefaced. I gave them all a wide berth. I saw places where the trail is getting distressingly wide from people trying to avoid the ice in winter. I saw a man and a woman with heavy backpacking packs, technical clothes, and an itty bitty dog. I saw Noccaea fendleri, or Fendler’s Pennycress, one of the first flowers of spring.

I saw low, white, wispy clouds moving and changing quickly in a high wind on a still day. I saw a majestic Juniperus scopulorum or Colorado Cedar, standing isolated on a slope, that may be as much as 300 years old. I saw a man basking in the sun, sprawled on some rocks in the middle of the trail. I saw people stepping far to the sides of the trail to allow me plenty of space to get by. I saw myself do the same thing. I saw a family, mother, father, daughter, son, riding their bikes wearing bandanas. I thought they should rob the bank together. I saw a neighbor bringing in their trash and recycling bins. I saw a crow who waited for me to get my camera out and only flew away once I turned it on.


Signing off. Stay safe, and take care of each other.

Day Thirteen: John Donne

For Whom the Bell Tolls

This is how Americans like to think of themselves. Image by license from Adobe Stock.

John Donne

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

I don’t spend a whole lot of time on Facebook, so I don’t know, but I’d guess I’m not the first one to think of this piece of prose, often reinterpreted as a poem, in connection with recent days.

American society celebrates individualism. It is an integral part of our psyche, imbued in our national mythology. We like to think of ourselves as latter-day cowboys, out riding the range, with nothing but a good horse, a bedroll, a pot, and some beans. (Oh, and our guns. Always our guns.) And if our saddle has been replaced by an office chair, we still feel like we are going it alone, dependent on nothing but our own wits.

There is something romantic about this idea. Perhaps it is that it paints us as supremely competent. Perhaps it is only that it reminds us of pleasant interludes of solitude in our lives.

But whatever its appeal, rugged individualism is a myth. Cowboys came back to the chuck-wagon eventually. And we, in our office chairs, are dependent on a gobsmackingly large supply chain for our food, clothing, and miscellany, to say nothing of the (crumbling) infrastructure needed to transport it, and us.

Image licensed from Adobe Stock.

In this time of pulling together by staying apart, it is worth remembering that we aren’t the Marlborough Man. There never was a Marlborough Man. We are utterly dependent on grocery store clerks, warehouse workers, delivery personnel, and farm laborers, to mention just a few of the professions which are suddenly on the front lines.

And, as part of an interdependent species, our actions impact others. It is one thing to choose to accept the risk of going without a mask for yourself, but something else entirely to force everyone else to accept that risk (especially since masks are more about keeping your germs to yourself rather than keeping other’s at bay.)

Because this is a public health crisis, control measures depend on what we do as members of the public. And make no mistake, we are all, individually, important parts of that aggregate. What we do ripples out and impacts a startling number of others in a startling variety of ways, even if it is something as simple as being an example.

It is not just Donne’s explicit message that every death diminishes us all that we need to be mindful of here, though it is a stark reminder that we must all grieve together right now. It is also the idea that we are part of an ecology, and that our choices and actions in this time of crisis diminish or enrich the whole species.

Signing off. Stay safe and take care of each other.