from Shannon in Seattle, WA: the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone.

Capital Hill, Seattle

My 13 year old son, Wren, and I made a visit to the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone in Seattle,WA. It was both inspiring and peaceful with a festival + BLM protest + collectivist atmosphere. We wore masks as did most people. Groups of people sat at good distance in the park ( there were dense crowds in places). People seemed happy and supportive, just walking about.

The carport door to the East Precinct police station
social distancing taking place in Cal Anderson Park

from Shannon in Seattle: Warming and Warring in America

“I think the beach is a healing place.  I think it’s fine as long as they social distance”

All this sunshine is stirring up problems.  It’s spring in America.  We have a weirdly seasonal life – where much of the country goes indoors from Thanksgiving through Spring – and by Memorial Day School starts to wind down to HOLIDAY SEASON.

In Seattle the blue skies of spring and 60 degree weather are a sign to enjoy parks and run and lose winter fat and shop at the Farmer’s Market.  In other parts of the country people go hunting, to the beach and out to fairs and plant crops and do all kinds of Not Inside The House things. So the Stay at Home Orders are a problem for people, particularly those without much space at home.

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On the other side there is tension in the business community. Retail businesses small and large are facing an historic crisis and many want to GO BACK TO WORK.  At the same time Amazon and Microsoft have told office staff as many as can may work from home till October, the grocery and service industry wants to get their employees back right away.

And nobody is making sense.  It’s interesting that states that are pushing to go back (either due to business, political, or (fake?) protest pressure from businesses) are seeing a public loss of confidence in their state governor.  Individual people don’t want to rush to work and spend.  They just want to go to the park and the beach. The pressure is cominn=g from somewhere else.

Trust in Govt

I DID go to the Farmer’s Market this weekend. I preordered 10 lbds of bacon from a family farm. They had it in their truck. As a preorder I got to skip the line and walk straight to the stall to pickup.  The line was very long (70 people) because they limit the number of people who can enter the market at one time, and you can only walk one way and must wear a mask.

The bacon was much appreciated, and I also bought some lovely fresh garlic.

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The street is closed and you have to line up 6 feet apart to enter the Farmer’s arket. Everyone is wearing masks. There is a special fast-trak line for online pre-orders.
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Here is the line reaching round the blcok at 10.30am.
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My mixed-bag of garlic.

From Shannon in Seattle: A visit to the doctor.

Until recently we have been very good.  My car has sat there, and I have read articles about the danger of RATS living in the engine. I’ve shopped infrequently, used delivery services and wiped down delivered groceries.  Then, over the weekend, my son developed an abscess on his ear.

This was a problem because nobody goes to the doctor if you don’t have COVID-19.

I mean, the stats show that people aren’t even having heart attacks anymore, nor strokes.  It’s a miracle how we don’t need doctors except for Coronavirus issues.  Anyway, due to this conception of medical facilities in meltdown and contagion, I didn’t want to take him TO the doctor, especially not an Emergency Room where all the really sick COVID19 people would be.

So we called Telehealth.  This wasn’t easy because he’s just 18 and barely has a doctor.  We tried three services before finding the parent practice of the college health service had a Telemedicine appointment on Sundays.

The doctor was an Italian African.  He was very efficient.  We sent a photo of the abscess.  He asked if he had a fever.  Then wrote a prescription for an antibiotic and told him to see a doctor next week. It took 2 minutes.

We got an appointment at the University Health Clinic on Monday afternoon. It was not the pit of infection I expected.  It looked like this.

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They gave us a health screening before we entered the building, and then let us go into a nice socially distant waiting area, wearing masks.

Frost received more attention than usual although the appointment did not allow us to keep a 6 foot distance due to the small exam room, necessity of expelling pus from the boil and the fact my mask had a structural failure (and was put on inside out).

Afterwards, we walked through campus. It was beautiful and empty.  The only people there were a few runners and skateboarders.  The Rhododendrons are in full bloom. I might come here and walk the dog later in the week.

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This is the famous Quad, known for spring cherry blossoms
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The empty paths usually full of students in Spring quarter.
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A quiet glad with a monument to Grieg.

Notes from Melbourne up to April 2, 2020

1 April Here is a poem I thought I would share with you:

30 March            Local networks – not that simple. Eleven days ago, I found a note in the letterbox from an unknown couple living in the street suggesting we set up a street contact list to support those who might need it.  Malvern Grove Neighbours was launched. Ours is a small road of 80 houses 40 on each side. Like so many urban citizens without children at home, we (in our house) do not know many neighbours, except the few to say “Hello” to on either side of us and across the road.  So, this new neighbourliness based on proximity, has proved interesting.

The first controversial issue was introduced by a woman who stated “the father of my children is Jewish and we love the community but” and went on to state that certain members of the Orthodox community were flouting the official gathering restrictions and as a result, we should all give the Kosher shelves in the supermarket a wide berth. A heated debate ensued including from a history teacher “that kind of attitude is not far from blaming Jews for causing the plague” to advice to “only shop when the Orthodox Jews are observing the Sabbath”! It only ceased when one of our close neighbours, a haematologist, working in a public hospital, said she was the person most likely to contract the virus.

The next bombshell came when someone suggested we ask the Council to make the walking and bike riding path around our local park a one way- street because social distancing was too hard to practice when people were walking towards you. “Just walk on the grass”, “take evasive action”, and “we will all be trapped by the slowest person in front like walking to a funeral” were the responses.

So much for neighbourliness. Is proximity enough to promote social cohesion? Would it have been easier if we had met at a street party before the lockdown and at least recognised each other? Perhaps there are many lonely and anxious people wanting to be part of group?

On a lighter note someone posted an invitation last night for passers-by to pick the rosemary and bay leaves from his front hedge.

 We have taken to entertaining by Skype; a 4year old’s birthday party, dinner with a daughter provincial town and a another with a friend a few suburbs away. It has worked well and helps us stay connected.

26 March   Quoting the Cricketer. I mentioned on 24 March that there is confusion regarding the communication and the regulations, surrounding Covid-19; that our politicians speak in platitudes, contradict themselves, as well as one another. I never thought I would quote our most infamous cricketer, (quite a lot of competition). Yesterday, in reference to the hour-long ramble of a speech made by the PM on TV on Tuesday night, Shane Warne tweeted: “Listening to the PM like everyone else in Australia what I understood was: ‘It’s essential unless it’s not. Then it’s essentially not essential. I can’t be clearer.’” Another comment from a media strategist was “Convoluted waffle.”This is laughable if it wasn’t serious. This confusion just hampers the effort to educate the population and sets back progress on the need to act in unity. Oh, for Jacinda Adern! a compassionate Leader, who makes tough decisions and doesn’t speak in riddles.

On a lighter note. The sun is shining. My ankle was miraculously better this morning. Still swollen, but I am not hobbling. I no longer wonder if this is an unusual symptom of the dreaded virus.

25 March. Closer to home. Last night watching the 7.30 Report after the news, we saw Andrew’s nephew Pascal describing his Covid-19 experience. He is an opera singer based in Munnster, in Germany. He said he, and the whole cast of the opera, some 25 people, have come down with it. He didn’t feel too bad in the first 5 days but then he felt seriously ill for some time before he felt well enough to give an interview. He is still in quarantine and boredom is the main problem.

I suppose the reality of someone you know contracting the virus, even if it is on the other side of the world, is concerning. The fact that he and the rest of the cast were healthy 30-40year old’s is also disconcerting. Especially in Germany which I thought had such a strict regime regarding isolation. Just a reminder that no-one is immune.

Having had a great day in the garden yesterday, I decided that I would cook today. I have no pretensions to being a domestic goddess, but I do remember hearty bone broth being cooked in emergencies. I reckon I am channelling my grandmother.

I was somewhat hampered by the fact that I woke up with a sprained ankle. I have had many sprained ankles in my day but always knew when it happened. The thought that it could happen in my sleep, even if I was dreaming, is a worry. I hope I wake up tomorrow to find it fixed itself while I slept.

 

24 March. Yesterday was much more interesting than today, as the Premiers (of the most populous states, (also the ones with the most cases) Victoria and New South Wales, shut us down. Pubs, restaurants, coffee shops, and schools were closed.

All the other Australian states have imposed borders on people from other states, or from their own citizens returning, who must isolate themselves for 14 days when they cross the border. Tasmania has gone one better by stating “We have a Moat”.! You wouldn’t think so, but Australia, is a Federation with a Prime Minister who should be calling the shots. These recent events are examples of the confusion and frustration where everyone is an expert an even the word “isolation” seems debateable, neither do we know exactly what a “shut-down” is.  Is it the same as a lock down?

Today was much more tranquil, I worked in my small garden. Sowing seeds of snow peas, broad beans, leeks, silver beet and Bok Choy. I also divided and replanted irises and felt all was well with the world.

 

We Want to be Settlers with Internet

Tonight I have sore hands. It’s not only from washing them a lot, but from a mistake in the dilution of bleach I was using to wipe down the kitchen counters.  I was kind of eyeballing 10%, which is the recommended dilution, and spilled some.  Bleach is HARD to wash off!  It’s silly, I mean, I have no experience with bleach. I’m more of a apple cider vinegar and dirt kind of person.  But here I am figuring out the sanitizing power of bleach and sneaking around after the family goes to bed to sanitize things.  Go figure.

One of the things sociologists do to understand trends is to ask everyday people “What are you doing MORE of today, and what are you doing LESS of?”

When we ask that today in time of Coronavirus pandemic we get lists like this:

MORE:

  • cooking and baking
  • reading news
  • using social media
  • thinking about securing my food (growing it, having chickens, storing it, hoarding it, hiding it, leaving the city)
  • wasting time online
  • reading books
  • shopping online and getting delivery
  • watching shows
  • worrying about money
  • worrying about hygiene and health
  • washing my hands
  • dreaming about travel
  • realizing who my real friends are
  • walking the dog and spending time with animal companions
  • connecting with my family
  • exercise inside
  • feeling I need to keep my house safe

LESS:

  • Hiking, camping, being out in nature
  • Spending time with people
  • Shopping for fun
  • Shopping in brick and mortar stores
  • Planning for expensive items or travel
  • Eating out
  • routine medical trips
  • wasting time in traffic
  • Connected with others
  • Feeling safe in the world

The things that people are doing speak to this cocooning or building a fortress home.  In the past weeks I have gone from less frequent trips out, to viewing the doorknob as a danger zone.  From going skiing outside and considering that “Safe” to not leaving my neighborhood because of the principle of not having “fun” in potential crowds of any kind.

In this home fortress, the things we turn to are celebrations of self reliance.  It’s as if we an illusion of agency in planting seeds to grow some lettuce, or baking bread from flour we’ve bought in bulk.  Look, I’m going to be okay because I have 10 lettuce and some squash in fall!  The irony is that the stores are full of bread.  The chicks that are all sold out at the feed shop won’t lay an egg for 5 months. While we do well to stay home, our contributions to safety are passivity. Do nothing. Go nowhere.  The action is elsewhere – testing, tracing, treating.  We can’t bake that.

Tomorrow, I plan to make bagels from scratch.  Because I can’t do anything else.

Night in Seattle – March 28, 2020

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10.30pm: Rain is falling heavily, invisible in the darkness except under the street lights. Across the street, I can see the porch light of the neighbors home. It is dull and partly hidden by the bare branches of a tree, not yet come into leaf. I can hear rain, and sirens. Every night we hear some sirens. I don’t know what this means because in a time of Pandemic the meaning of everything is mysterious. You have to think about it. Are sirens fire trucks or are they ambulances coming to take the sick?

In Italy, the hospitals at the center of the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic say that patients come in two waves. The first wave is at dusk. The second wave is early morning. The nurses imagine that the morning wave are people who have survived a terrible night and have waited for dawn to seek help. The dusk wave are people who have had a terrible day and are afraid of what the night will bring.

Now, another siren comes. From the other direction. Is it the same one returning or another?

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I live in the dark orange spot where cases are most concentrated. It is called King County and includes Greater Seattle

Me? I am not in Italy. Just Seattle. We are a little famous for having one of the first community transmissions of this Virus in the USA. You probably heard the story? This guy came back from Wuhan on Jan 15th. He got sick within days, so went to the doctor. They found he had Covid-19 and he was put in an isolation tent designed to contain Ebola – he never even touched a doctor. He had his own medical team and medical robots. It was High Tech. But the low tech part was likely his ride from the airport home. Someone was missed in the contact tracing. 6-weeks later we had many community cases with Viral Genomes matching his specific strain. So, the fact that people were not tested after that was a big mistake.

I stopped working from the office over 3 weeks ago, and am now working and baking and living at home. Right now, it’s raining. I’m sitting here feeling muffled. Muffled by distance from friends, muffled from seeing what is going on in my own city, muffled from the rain, wondering “What do the sirens mean?”.