The World That Was

Think for just a moment… or for even a moment after that first moment. What happened in 2020? Two things made news: the COVID-19 pandemic, and Trump with his Republican Party cohorts. That’s all that made the news. But think; what else?

So much more happened which we can barely fathom, but which never made front page. We heard about a few other things, but not being boisterously apparent like Trump, or as deadly as COVID, we probably passed aside those other things that made only the back pages of the newspapers.

The press reported the total number of deaths effected by the virus, but did not publish the names of the 300,000 people who, with their deaths, left at least double that many people grieving and wondering how they would manage to fend for themselves in a world gone haywire. How many of those people were mothers or fathers to multiple children, were aunts or uncles to a multitude more. The unknown number of affected people tears at the heart.

That is news.

In your lifetime, certainly not in what remains of my lifetime, Oregon, Washington, California, Colorado will never display the beauty of their once magnificent forests. The parts of each of those states that we most enjoyed are gone: beautiful lakes stipped clean of the trees which once stood watch among their shores are gone, trees which, if sturdy enough, stand only as charred sticks in the brittle ground that may wash away in the floods which will come with the spring thaws.

How many notable deaths――scientists, musicians, literates, conservationists, proponents of human equality? The list seems longer than those of the previous five years:

• Mario Molina―received the Nobel Prize for his work on the effect of CFCs on the Earth’s ozone.
• Julian Bream―master of the classic guitar.
• Eva Szekley―survived the Holocaust to win the gold medal in the 200-meter breaststroke in the 1952 Olympics.
• Arthur Ashkin―invented the “Tractor Beam.”
• Debra White Plumne―defender of the Oglala Lakota Tribe.
• Barry Lopez―naturalist and conservatiuonist writer…
… and the list goes on: Bill Withers, Terry Gilliam, David N. Dinkins, Priscilla Jane, George Bizos, Charlie Pride… .

How many of us know these names? How many of us understand the significance of these names. They were reported, but only as an afterthought of political spewing and the virus that hacks at the guts of the American Dream――chops away the dreams of so many people on this planet.

But what is it that holds us all together, as one people, stuck on a rock circling a star that glimmers in a universe so infinite that time does not know we exist, never needed a reason to care that we inhabit a mote that has never made the news?

My hope is that the “lockdowns” of COVID have given us enough time for introspection, a study of ourselves that reveals each of us is a part of larger whole that seeks to survive amidst the turmoil we inflict upon ourselves.

Ignorance

The profoundness of ignorance becomes a devastating tsunami when we look around — to the front, to the sides, then over our shoulders — and realize without having to think about it we did not know. Ignorance pervades, because, after looking around, we do not recognize where we are and have no clear recollection of how we arrived. It is our own fault for always moving. We know that, we admit that (“back in the good old days”), then we “keep on truckin’.’

Yet along the Oregon coast, islands of rock, so steadfast in their defiance of the never-ending surge of a rough sea, have stood against the loneliness of midnight for more ages than man has memory. Still, we cannot sit still in one place for more than a passing thought. Each new idea that seeps into our collective consciousness, or that strikes us like a bolt from a heavy sky, sets us again in motion, embarks us once again upon our mortal pilgrimage toward unknown destinations we hope will ease our loneliness, or will be spectacular enough to ease our pain.

How long has it been since humanity stopped to hear the song of the trees? There was a time when the people of the land understood the language of the forests and of the brooks.

It was common — long ago — to walk through the forest and experience things that can never happen again, or to see things that will remain eternally hidden, and for which we cannot piece together a rough recollection. Some things about the forest could never happen, though we were there and saw it, because we stood motionless in awe and wonder.

But we no longer sit to breathe, we try to authenticate our existence only with movement — leaps and bounds — which we justify as progress. Still, we ain’t goin’ nowhere.

To Her Lost Breath

My wife made a good run of it, but then was done. A month after the second anniversary of her yoga studio, the world shut down to acquiesce the COVID-19 virus. The government mandated "temporary" closure of her studio, along with every other business not deemed "essential." A damned shame, because her studio had just begun to take off: five teachers, twenty-one classes of various techniques―with plans to add more―and a membership that began to grow weekly.

People in the area had begun to realize the benefits of yoga in their hectic, Silicon Valley lives. My wife was excited; her dream was coming true.

Then... nope... the virus... doors closed... indefinitely.

I continued to manage an office supply store. My work selling plastic crap that did not work long enough to invoke an extended warranty was deemed essential. Seven of us worked ten to twelve hours a day, while nine of my employees opted to use their accumulated sick and vacation time to remain at home until the end of the "Shelter-in-Place" (SIP) mandate issued by the State of California, and vehemently enforced by Santa Clara County, where my wife and I lived and worked... or rather, where she had once worked.

The end of March, the mandate was extend to June. My wife made a decision: her studio could not last four months without income. She closed her studio permanently. We cried endlessly for several weeks. For awhile my wife wondered if she had closed prematurely, particularly when the State said it would do an an early re-assessment of the restrictions on businesses. May 1st it did, though business owners were stunned by the restrictive restrictions that remained in place. Gym and yoga studios were not included in the re-assessment; were to remain closed until the next re-assessment the following month.

For the next two weeks, my wife and I could not count on our four hands the number of yoga studios that closed their doors permanently. A husband and wife, who I knew, closed their gym and left town. June came, and "fitness" businesses were allowed to reopen, but only at a third their capacity. Once again, my wife and I could not keep track of all the yoga studios that decided to close permanently. The yoga studio owners group she belonged to online dwindled from thousands to hundreds.

My wife and I felt sorry for how much it cost the other studio owners who thought they could hold out. By closing down when she did, my wife saved herself a heavy financial loss. The yoga studios that remain open in California offer classes outside. It has cost them a ton to do so. Unfortunately, the smaller memberships they now experience will dwindle even more when the winds and rains of October and November remind people that yoga and working out ain't all that and a bag of chips when the temperature outside drops to 46 degrees Farenheit.

Will the restrictions on yoga studios be fully lifted by then? My wife and I don't think so.