In September, smoke from wildfires shut down activities in much of Oregon. An eerie mustard colored sky shrouded the community of Hood River. The burnt smell of the air created a vacancy reminiscent to March/April’s sheltering in place. Eyes itched and stung; throats seized up dry and scratchy. People were dispossessed of how to pass the time. One could not/should not go outside but staying indoors isolated a populace that yearned for engagement after months of hibernation due to Covid-19.
Adding to the overall discombobulation of this moment in 2020’s harrowing year of extraordinary events, I experienced two health issues related to treatments for my cancer, multiple myeloma: an infection in my jaw and breathing problems. 😩
Serious side effects from long term use of certain drugs are a consequence of survival. As a cancer veteran, I adhere to the idea that the illness is like soft luggage. There’s always room for one more complication. The issues resolved somewhat thanks to attentive care from my doctor and a dentist. It’s inaccurate to say they have disappeared, but I can stuff these problems into the backpack of my disease and move on with the journey.
Autumn rains arrived just as these developments moderated. The wet weather drenched an Oregon parched by wild fires. The devastation of forests and wildlife and the loss of human structures and dreams put on trial the concept of resilience. This natural disaster occurred along with the threat of disease from an invisible pandemic. Covid-19 plucks us indiscriminately from health to illness, often fatally. Additionally, millions remain unemployed due to restrictions to contain the virus. How much more must some endure?
So, too, one must hold on against the politics of 2020. Each week, failure and scandal of the current administration is degraded by a more ominous distraction. Before one can process their outrage, a new revelation of incompetence or a fascist threat stuns us.
Take your pick: Covid deaths, law and order debacles, the Russian bounty on US soldiers, “tell all” books by relatives, associates, and respected journalists. To this we can add tax malfeasance and the president’s debate performance with its shame of a “stand back and stand by” statement aimed at white supremacist groups. Then, there’s the persistent sowing of doubt about our country’s election integrity coupled with the menacing refusal to accept a peaceful transition, should he lose. It’s exhausting. It’s sad. Yet, citizens are left to wonder, “What next?”
Covid’s unrelenting presence accelerates as our nation careens toward the confinement of winter weather. The president, himself, tested positive, yet he and some of his associates continue their reckless dismissal of Covid-19. They deny science, common sense, and thwart the credibility of both the CDC and FDA.
My hope is that a free and fair election will bring the chaos under control. But until that date in November, our topsy turvy news cycle will continue to fill us with dread.