So, I’ve kept my articles that might be classified as political to a minimum, because, let’s face it, people are pretty wound up now days about politics and not speaking very objectively. COVID, however should have never become politicized as it is a public health issue. Nevertheless, people have become polarized over this disease, while many many, many, many bodies pile up.
I was on LinkedIn the other day and a fellow RN had posted that she was seriously considering changing her career because of the stress of yet another wave of full ICUs, all COVID patients, and most beds filled with the unvaccinated. Beside patient census and acuity, she’s dealing with short staffing, and with just plain witnessing too much death.
Most of the replies were very supportive, but a few went off the rails in my view and actually started attacking her. The attacks accused her of abandoning her chosen profession and with providing inferior care to patients that were unvaccinated. Now nowhere in her post did she say she was delivering different or an inferior quality of care to any class of patients so those comments came from nowhere other than bizarrioland.
As for abandoning her career, I mean anyone can change a career or job at any point in time. Who’s business is that? Only the person who is changing their source of livelihood.
One gentleman tried to make a comparison to his military career, saying he fought for his country and would never abandon his fellow soldiers. Ok, so? That’s not apples to apples at all. That’s strawberries to hand-grenades.
So what do you think? Should we be trying to dictate people’s career choices? Should we deny there is such a thing as burn out and force people who have RN degrees back into service? I hope not because I’m an RN and I’m happily retired. I’m also an attorney so don’t start talking about rights unless you’ve consulted one or actually know something about Constitutional Law 🙂
Thoughts? Perspectives? Fire away. I can dodge bullets pretty well.
FeaturePhoto: I chose one of my wildflower pics for this post. A field of Red Poppies lines this road in Washington State. I enameled them to make them look more like an oil painting.
Flowers are always soothing and the poppy has been symbolically associated with military veterans – specifically the sacrifice made by those who served and died in all of our wars. It does seem like we’re at war right now. With a disease and with each other.
More than 800,000 Americans have now died from the coronavirus, the highest recorded national death toll from the global pandemic.
It comes as the US reached 50 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 on Monday.
Most deaths have been recorded among the unvaccinated and the elderly, and more Americans died in 2021 than in 2020.
The US is again seeing deaths rising at an alarming rate.
The last 100,000 deaths came in just the past 11 weeks, a quicker pace than any at other point aside from last winter’s surge.
“The waves of illness that we’re seeing will continue until the population-level immunity is high enough to prevent them. Quite simply, we’re not there yet,” said Dr Keri Althoff, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
It has been more than 650 days since the first American patient dying from Covid-19 was reported in Seattle, Washington (public health officials have since attributed earlier deaths to the virus).
Since the Pfizer vaccine – the first jab to be approved in the US – was rolled out last winter, nearly 300,000 more fatalities have been recorded.
In April 2021, two more vaccines – Moderna and single-dose Johnson & Johnson – were approved, and all three vaccines were made available to adults of all ages.
The 800,000 total exceeds the populations of cities such as Boston or Washington DC. The milestone means nearly twice as many Americans have died during the pandemic as in World War 2.
The US death toll far exceeds the official tally of any other country, but experts believe many recorded death counts are under-reporting the true scale of the tragedy.
The next highest are Brazil, with more than 616,000 deaths, and India, which has had over 475,000 deaths.
In terms of deaths per capita, the US currently ranks 20th in the world, trailing several South American and European countries, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Each country in the chart below – except the UK – was initially slower to roll out vaccines than the US. Vaccinations levels in all have since surpassed the US where 61.6% of the population is fully vaccinated.
Deaths from Covid-19 have come in three main waves.
The first – which hit New York City especially hard – peaked in April 2020, before lower rates of infection in the summer and autumn.
A massive spike then occurred last winter after people had travelled and gathered during the holiday season. At its peak in January 2021, more than 3,000 deaths were confirmed a day.
The number of deaths fell significantly last spring as vaccines became widely available, but it soared again by July and through the summer as the highly contagious Delta variant spread.
The elderly have always been the most vulnerable, and despite being the most vaccinated group one in 100 Americans over the age of 65 has died during the pandemic.
Breakthrough cases aside, unvaccinated Americans have made up the vast majority of deaths over the past few months (trends identified in the chart below come from health departments in 24 of 50 US states).
President Joe Biden began calling Covid-19 in the US “a pandemic of the unvaccinated”.
Dr Althoff contends that the US had “a lot of barriers” to overcome.
“Trust in science has waned, trust in government has waned, vaccine hesitancy is a powerful force, misinformation is rampant,” she told the BBC.
“We have to do more than just trying to educate; we have to try and understand. That takes conversation and trust-building.
With death rates rising once again in much of the country, she said Delta remained a serious problem,
Public health experts are still figuring out what impact the new Omicron variant may have this winter, but officials are urging Americans to get booster shots to combat waning protection.
While I’m not addicted to the stats on our blogs, I do find them interesting at times. I recently passed my 4-year mark of being on WordPress and I was notified that the blog had received over 50,000 all-times views. While I’m sure that those who blog more regularly than me have far exceed that number, it does have a nice ring to it. And viewers came from 135 different countries.
I currently have 306 “published” posts, and I’ve taken down some 200 or so. All-in-all, not bad for four years, but not particularly excellent in terms of numbers comparing that total to those who blog more consistently.
I’ve generally written about the things that inspire me, where the writing feels more like channeling, and there are definite periods where the well has run dry. Particularly in 2021, when I got a bit ticked off at social media plundering, and I found myself residing more in my COVID cave rather than being out in my usual mode of exploration.
Like I say, I’m sure many of you have long passed these milestones but for me, it’s new. And I plan on kicking off this new year with something I don’t usually do at all – a book review. I’m not quite finished reading it so I can’t give you an exact date when I will post, but it will be coming soon.
I feel compelled to write about this book, not because of its wonderful quality, but because of its profound racism and the author’s apparent inability to see it as such. A story of epic proportions for sure, but I don’t believe I’ve seen an author so oblivious to this undercurrent. In fact, at one point he tries to explain it away in a manner that can only be described as face-palm worthy.
So onward into the new year . . .
Feature Photo: This is a pic of a Marina I came upon in Blaine, Washington, right on the border with Canada. The year I arrived, I had intended to cross the border to visit Vancouver Island, but alas, the border was closed, COVID and all. I ran the photo through the editor and enameled it to make it appear more as an oil painting. And I guess I chose this one for this post because, well, I liked it, but also because it can represent that nebulous line between true art, say a painting by a renowned artist, and myself playing about on a computer. It is pleasing to the eye no doubt, but it does lack the painstaking work that a painter must engage in to produce a masterpiece. It serves as the contrast I’ll be exploring in the upcoming book review.
I had to cut the pic way down to get it to fit somewhat with WordPress’s formatting, so here is the full image.
Rabbit-hole: You may have noticed that I put the term “published” in quotes, like I just did now. That is because I find this term very loosely used throughout social media. When I think of being published, I think of a publishing entity, not of our own design and ownership, finding something we have written worthy of being included in said entity’s publication. I don’t think of self-publishing as being the same as being “published.” I see many folks out here identifying with the term “author” and they use this term in conjunction with that word “published,” whereas I would choose the word “writer.” Although I do recognize that the definition of “author” is loose enough to cover virtually anything we pen, thus: “a person who writes a novel, poem, essay, etc.; the composer of a literary work, as distinguished from a compiler, translator, editor, or copyist.” Using these terms loosely means we are all distinguished “published authors,” even if our work is but one line scribbled on a piece of toilet paper. 😊 I guess I’m in my critical judge mode today so I will have a nice belly laugh at myself, pet-peeves and all, while it’s time to hit the “publish” button😊
There is a Place in the Heart where Everything meets.
Go there if you want to find me.
Mind, Senses, Soul, Eternity – All are there.
Are you there?
Enter the Bowl of Vastness that is the Heart.
Give yourself to it with Total Abandon
Quiet Ecstasy is there,
And a steady, regal Sense
Of Resting in a Perfect Spot.
Once you know the Way,
The Nature of Attention will call you to Return.
Again and Again,
And be saturated with Knowing,
I belong here, I am at Home here.
As I attempt to understand the Nature of our Existence, Our Essence, I naturally try to define it with terminology. And I then end up chasing other terminology to define that terminology. This process repeats and stretches on into infinity . . .
At least it does for me.
So, do we really get an answer to those time-worn phrases? Terminology dissects and divides, which is one of the basic problems with understanding just who and what we are.
I began a tradition a couple of years back. A tradition of repeating words. Words that I had written to describe the day and the season we were entering into. I’m a bit late this year as November slipped by, and that’s when I usually re-post this. This November wasn’t as Gray as last, but December is pulling that cloak over this Northern Hemisphere.
While Winter is not officially upon us yet, the days of Autumn have definitely past. Grandfather Sun is still moving South. And the atmosphere is shifting into Gray.
I wrote about this “Gray.” It’s “color.” It’s feel. It’s taste. It’s sounds. It’s moods. And eventually, it’s brightness and it’s “Inner Fire.”
So as we enter this season of hibernation, before the awakening and emerging from the Dream Lodge into the new life of Spring, I share these words again.
Teach me how to trust My Heart, My Mind, My Intuition, My Inner Knowing, The Senses of my Body, The Blessings of my Spirit. Teach me to trust these things so that I may enter my Sacred Space And Love Beyond my Fear, And thus, Walk in Balance With the passing of each glorious Sun.
– Lakota Prayer
Rainer, The Elk – Stamina and Community by Harold Stearley
Long before Sunrise. Route 431. Leaving Tahoe. Headed North. Some say it’s the direction of Manifestation, others the Coldness and Darkness of Winter.
As per usual, I stumbled upon this fine quote today while I was working on another post. Lovely words, and the picture I chose was from Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park.
As you ascend the Ridge, you must pass through these clouds. It is actually raining in there. And when you emerge, you find yourself above the clouds feeling Grandfather Sun’s rays warming you as you peer back through the valleys. It appears that you could simply walk across these clouds, as is the nature of Love . . .
I didn’t really feel the scope much. It was a tiny tube and there were expert hands guiding it. The camera transferred the images to a screen in the doctor’s view and to one on the other side of the room where I could watch.
There is always something fascinating about health care, especially when you get objective data. The pictures on the screen wouldn’t lie . . .
Who, then, is “animate” and who “inanimate”? Within the assembly of the Lotus, all are present without division. In the case of grass, trees and the soil . . . whether they merely lift their feet or energetically traverse the long path, they will all reach Nirvana.
— Zhanran the Sixth Patriarch of Tendai Buddhism (1711-82)
As I was walking along the creek’s bank, my head was in a swirl. So much internal noise, while the outside world remained placid. Utterly calm and quiet. The only noises came from the trickling, crystal-clear, emerald water. The hum of seventeen-year cicadas. The occasional bee, wearing a cloak of pollen and having a belly full of sweet nectar, barely able to carry its own weight on its flight path back to the hive. And from the trees swaying, or rather dancing, in time with the Chief Western Wind.
A Black Swallowtail fritters past, in complete silence. Not a care in the world.
But, oh so much internal clatter. An orchestra of out-of-tune instruments each playing a different symphony. Does this tumult of turbulence comprise what we’ve come to call our Consciousness? Does all of this internal noise make us “Aware?” And “Aware” of what exactly?
Colors blind the eye. Sounds deafen the ear. Flavors numb the taste. Thoughts weaken the mind. Desires wither the heart.
The Master observes the world but trusts his inner vision. He allows things to come and go. His heart is open as the sky.
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 12
Traveling North, threading my way midway between the paved-over urban communities and the many Woodlands, I was about to make a right turn, East. To a land that can only be described as Magical.
The terrain changed from golden rolling hills and densely planted fields to Forests.
The roads shifted from their North-South Axis into the Serpentine. Slithering along in ever-repeating S-shaped fractals, undulating upward and downward as the terrain became more and more mountainous.
It’s hard to paint of picture of how the coniferous forest just popped up from nowhere. But there you were, facing Incense Cedar, Sierra Juniper, Pine, Hemlock, Fir, and Yew.
Intermixed with these cone-bearing, needled-leaved Souls stood Birch, Alder, Dogwood, Laurel, Maple, Oak, Poplar, Black Cottonwood, Willow and the Quaking Aspen. A thriving, diverse Universe that puts us humans in our tiny place.
A bit of perspective on just how small we all really are.
And as I climbed in elevation on those roads without shoulders or guardrails, looking into those endless valleys, the Northern landscape suddenly turned black and barren. The result of a wildfire having scoured a portion of the gorge-lands. Bleak and ever so reminding of how acting recklessly with Coyote’s stolen gift from the Gods could devastate such an expanse of habitat for all of the many Medicines of the Forest.
But rebirth was beginning to reclaim all that was lost. Being born from the ashes. As we can be in our own lifetimes, if we’d only set fire to all that unnecessarily burdens us. Artificially self-generated and perpetuated boulders and boundaries that can be cast aside, returned to the ash-pile, freeing our Minds. Our Bodies. Our Souls. And if you can’t do that consciously on your own intention just drive through that “Tunnel.” “Wawona Tunnel.”
A corridor to another space and time.
And when you emerge, it takes your breath away. Completely. And you no longer need oxygen to sustain you.
The “Valley.” Yosemite in all its grandeur.
Sure, you’ve seen pictures, even my own with this post. But the first-hand experience is totally different. Hypnotizing. Intoxicating.
Touching, tasting, hearing, smelling – you can feel it in every pore all at once. Like a simultaneous explosion of awe and love. Sight is something altogether different when our senses are flooded with such vastness. Such majesty.
A place where you can hear Colors. Taste the Air. Bathe in distant Waterfalls. Trace, by touch, the oblique and climbing Mountain Slopes. Traverse the expansive Woodlands through your Mind’s Eye. Speak, without sound, to the Bear and share in its introspection.
A cross-threading of neural pathways. Electrifying every cell in your Brain.
And all while standing still. In silence.
If there was anything that could convey the underlying transcendent Unity of all Truths, that Perennial Philosophy, the Quintessence of all Spirituality, it is Yosemite.
“Ahwahnee,” or “Mouth,” as it was called by the mixed renegade members from the Southern Miwok and Paiute Tribes because the Valley Walls appeared to be an open Bear’s mouth. They called themselves the “Ahwahnechee,” or dwellers of Ahwahnee.
“Yohhe’meti,” as known to the Central Miwok Tribe, translates to “Those who Kill,” and referred to the Yosemite People, the Ahwahnechee, who were greatly feared by the surrounding tribes.
Ultimately, as a result of mistranslations of Yohhe’meti and the phonetically similar Miwok word “Uzumate” meaning Grizzly Bear, the U.S. Military named the valley “Yosemite” – “Grizzly Bear.”
And before I leave word translation, I should mention that the word “Wawona,” that is borne by that tunnel, came from the Miwok Tribe’s word “Who-Who’nau.” Which refers to the hoot of the Owl. Considered to be the Guardian Spirit of the Giant Sequoia Trees. A Spirit I’m very familiar with.
It was here, in the former land of the Grizzly, that I’d embark on a few “jaunts.”* My base would be a tent awaiting for me on the Valley Floor.
Now the word “jaunt” implies ease, and it was easy making the drive to Glacier Point. Looking out over or down from this vantage point, one can see Yosemite Falls, Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, Half Dome and another dozen or more major rock formations.
It looked as though you could simply reach out and touch those waterfalls. Feel those cold, clear waters between your fingers. The distances miniaturized in the expansive landscape view. But the hikes up to those falls, would not be a mere “jaunt.”
In fact, while the hike up to the top of Yosemite Falls was on switch backs, it’s essentially straight up. One of the hardest three and a half miles I ever trekked with a total elevation gain of 3900 feet.
I guess I was sandwiched in the middle of the hikers that day. Between a mixed-aged group leaving me in their dust, and groups of “youngsters” in their 20s and 30s who were in my dust. Seeing the pain in their faces, and hearing their labored breathing when taking breaks, many wisely turned back.
Look, and it can’t be seen. Listen, and it can’t be heard. Reach, and it can’t be grasped.
Above, it isn’t bright. Below, it isn’t dark. Seamless, unnamable, it returns to the realm of nothing. Form that includes all forms, image without an image, subtle, beyond all conception.
Approach it and there is no beginning; follow it and there is no end. You can’t know it, but you can be it, at ease in your own life. Just realize where you come from; this is the essence of wisdom.
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 14
Each day in this wonderland, I was visited by my brothers and sisters Deer, a never ceasing reminder of the Medicine of Gentleness that I was receiving throughout my days on the road. One morning, five juvenile bucks took their time crossing the road in front of me, by a pedestrian crosswalk no less, giving me ample time to enjoy their company.
The number five, in numerology, represents being versatile and actively awaiting change. And, indeed, change was manifesting. A change in myself and my direction.
It wouldn’t be long before this group disbanded, the males all seeking solitude intermixed with brief encounters with the matriarchal doe clans. I too was seeking solitude, and it can be found even if standing among a million faces.
Adding to the Deer’s Medicine of Gentleness was the Medicine of Introspection I previously mentioned. I saw its representatives here during my hikes – two Black Bears. They had obviously been out from their hibernation for some time and had duly brought their weight class back up from Winter’s rest. If you want to feel the insignificance of your own power, get close to a bear.
I embarked upon a new adventure daily, and my first major hike was to climb up to the top of Vernal Falls and then on to Nevada Falls. I got off to an early start, but found myself rapidly enveloped in a sea of people.
Yet the further we climbed, as with all of my hikes here, the less people made the journey. But there were some that were prepared to travel even further. Past Nevada Falls to make the hike up Half Dome, an adventure I wasn’t physically prepared to take on this trip.
Now I’m not sure if my words can convey the majesty of the views there, but looking down into the Valley from on top of these falls was simply incredible. Water, one of the four major elementals that gives rise to all life, was truly in its raw form. Not hampered by human interference, these rushing waters continued to carve that Valley, much like the glaciers of ancient times.
Nothing in the world is as soft and yielding as water. Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible, nothing can surpass it.
The soft overcomes the hard; the gentle overcomes the rigid. Everyone knows this is true, but few can put it into practice.
Therefore, the Master remains serene in the midst of sorrow. Evil cannot enter his heart. Because he has given up helping, he is people’s greatest help.
True words seem paradoxical.
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 78
There’s something very satisfying about making a high climb and then looking down. An exhilaration which might explain the addiction I have to such activities. This exhilaration is also contagious, spreading to all around and feeding into an even greater high for everyone “present.”
Present in Awareness.
Once I passed Vernal Falls and reached the top of Nevada Falls, I violated one of my steadfast rules. I always spot a turn-around point. A place on the trail where my gut tells me is unsafe to cross. I usually detect some sort of sign marking that point. It could be a Butterfly, or a falling leaf, or just a shadow, or movement in my peripheral vision. But there is always a clear line of demarcation in my mind where I just know it’s time to stop.
As I prepared to do just that, stop and turn around, I decided to take a just a few more steps on the trail that leads up to Half Dome. A huge mistake on my part as I tripped on a rock concealed by loose dirt and fell.
I shifted to my left to avoid my right shoulder instinctively because of rotator cuff tears and landed square on my left side. On all of my previous injuries from my fall in the Canyon.
But if there is one thing positive to be said about pain, it’s that it forces you into the here and now. It brings you into the realm of immediate experience and pulls you out of the dream state of mind.**
It was during my descent that I met some real hikers, much younger men carrying 60-pound packs. They had stayed in the Wilderness for 4 days and hiked some 70 miles in the Sierras. My hike that day was ten miles with my 14 pound day-pack, and that was sufficient for me.
There was, however, something of import that I did begin to feel on these ten miles. Perhaps more significant than what those other hikers experienced. I’m not sure if it was in the way I walked. The spring in my step. My bountiful strides. The way I held my head up. Smiled more. Greeted everyone with the shining in my eyes.
Or was it simply the Wondrous Souls I was meeting along the way.
Whatever it was radiating off of me, the people I was meeting were all receptive — looking and responding to me differently than others had in years past. I felt a glimmering kind of kindness. Of appreciation. Of Love. Love of others and love of self. Love of Nature and all that surrounded us.
Being on the road, on the trail, seems to be, for me at least, what brings out that shine. And I was rebounding from some years of trauma in both my personal and career lives. This constant motion in Nature was the Medicine. And I was receiving just the dose I needed.
I was healing, but it was a different kind of healing. It was a healing of the Soul. And I believe that when our Souls are whole, we radiate unconditional love. And unconditional love, from any source is an all powerful healer of any ailment.
Needing a more restful day before tackling Yosemite Falls, I headed North to Luken Lake,
and Tuolumne Meadows.
Such contrasting landscapes make you feel as if you are constantly being transported to different worlds.
I spent my early mornings and my evenings along the Merced River. A perfect place for peaceful meditation.
And when the day came to ascend Yosemite Falls, I felt prepared for the inner battle that would take place. The fight to maintain stamina. To use will power when physical strength began to fail. And I would need it.***
The views on the hike up were amazing.
And they keep getting better as you reach the top to see Yosemite Creek, where it takes its mammoth 2,425 foot plunge to the Valley below.
There are signs at the top of the Falls to remind people to stay away from the edge as there are “No Second Chances.” Actually, this is not a bad statement to keep in mind as we face each day.
We can never reclaim the time that’s passed.
Being a wordsmith, I didn’t really expect that I would run out of words to describe this place of healing, and there is just too much to relay with words, or in a single blog post, so I will leave you with a few more pics . . .
“As the soft yield of water cleaves obstinate stone, so to yield with life solves the insolvable.
To yield, I have learned, is to come back again.”
-Lao Tzu Chapter 43
All my words and pics are copyrighted and cannot be used in any manner without express permission of the author – Me 🙂
Quotes: All quotes from Lao Tzu and his Tao Te Ching came from the Stephen Mitchell translation of the Tao.
Photos: All of my photos are captioned with the exception of the feature photo – that being an old bridge over the Merced River. And the final pic, which is of Vernal Falls.
The imagery and metaphors associated with “Bridges” and “Falls” are just too numerous to list, so have a little fun with your imagination and think about how those analogies and metaphors fit into this story or perhaps your story. 🙂
* The reason I say the former land of the Grizzly, is that Grizzly bears were totally eradicated from California by 1924. When the European Alien Immigrants arrived it was estimated that 10,000 Grizzlies occupied the territory that came to be present day California. It didn’t take long for them to murder them all. See The California Grizzly .
** My Previous injuries from the Canyon. For those of you who missed some previous posts of mine, I took a little spill down some unforgiving rocks while in the Grand Canyon before I arrived at Yosemite. In short, the worst of it was five cracked or severely-bruised left ribs. When I left Yosemite, I had the opportunity to go swimming and when I tried to swim underwater my rib cage would start collapsing from the pressure. It took a few months to totally heal, but I couldn’t let that stop me from enjoying new adventures. 🙂
*** Stamina is the Medicine of the Elk, something that I plan to address more in a future post.
Moving On – The Medicine of the Deer by Harold Stearley
I was unlacing my boots at the end of a long day. As I zig-zagged the laces in reverse to free them from their hooks down towards my ankles, I could feel the heat escaping, the pressure lifting.
Loosening the remaining half of the laces that extended through the half dozen grommets to the boot’s toe, I then lifted them, one at a time, off my feet and let them drop to the floor with an oh-so familiar thud.
My right ankle throbbed.
Ten hours on the road wasn’t that bad because I love being in motion, but I was in Bear country now. Absolutely everything had to be emptied out of my car and carried to my room. And I had packed for four months. More than I needed on a daily basis, but I was prepared. As were the Bears.
Bears are smart.
They’ll tear up a car trying to get to a cooler, even if it’s empty. Nothing that emits an odor can be left behind. Leave a tube of sunscreen in the glove compartment and you’ll awaken to one ugly mess of an automobile.
The title to his post, like most, should immediately tell you what I will be writing about. Or at least give you a clue. And I must admit that sometimes my writing veers way off course and can be meandering through multiple topics that my weird brain somehow links together.
So, I took a short break from writing after my most recent experience in having my words ripped off. That sounds funny, almost literal, as though the page I had written upon had been torn from my journal and pasted into another’s. I suppose that’s as literal a vision as it gets here in this digital world. One of mysterious computer languages. Encrypted hieroglyphics. Translated. Captured.
As of the day of this writing, I had actually begun working on another travel story but my mind was pulled in multiple different directions.