RISING OR SETTING SUN?
Way back when, at our nation’s beginnings, George Washington used a particular chair for nearly three months of the Federal Convention’s continuous sessions. On the backrest of the chair, there was a carved sun on a horizon. James Madison reported Benjamin Franklin as saying, “I have often looked at that behind the president without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now I know that it is a rising sun!” So, where is old Ben, when you need him?
I thought that a short optimistic, upbeat anecdote was in order after my brooding limerick at the start. So, at the top of this blog entry, I also posted a picture of a sun on the horizon, dark storm clouds in the sky. But, is it a rising sun, like on George Washington’s chair, or a setting sun, like my limerick?
Well, all symbolism aside, it is factually a setting sun. I have posted several pictures in the past of the sun setting behind those trees (like the one to the left here), which are behind the house I live in. Sorry about that. But, take the fact that it is a setting sun literally and not symbolically. The sun also rises!
I titled this blog post with a riddle. You can probably see that the English and German lit major in me is coming out in all of my boredom. The last sentence of the last paragraph is even a Hemingway book title. So, when is a long walk not a long walk? Well, back to symbolism! When it is a long slog, perseveringly through difficulties. I am slowly climbing back from my second bout of leukemia, and now I – like most of the world – am waiting out a pandemic, and there is no telling how long it will take.
Covid-19 is, in my view, far worse than the SARS coronavirus or the Ebola virus, other epidemics of my times. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the closest parallel in my lifetime, when it progresses to AIDS. According to the WHO, 32 million people are estimated to have died of HIV since the beginning of that epidemic. That is horrific.
We can only hope that Covid-19 will not be near so deadly. However, Covid-19 is different from these other viruses in one big way – it is completely stealth in its contagiousness. Symptoms often take a number of days to show, so a large number of people at any given time can be carriers, especially if they are what you call “asymptomatic”, i.e. they never show obvious symptoms. Then, on top of that, it is highly contagious. They are now speculating whether just walking through the breath “vapor trail” of someone can pass the disease. The virus appears to survive, without a live host, on surfaces for hours or days. This virus is virtually designed to spread! Social isolation is vital to getting through this. If you are not socially isolating, and you are not a healthcare worker or other essential worker, you are part of a big problem – sorry, but it’s true. So, behave and this will be over sooner! But, all of my readers are behaving, I can just feel it!
I already “worried” in my last post about writing a blog about taking a long walk, when it seems right now so far off that I can actually take a long walk. I wrote in my last post, what I was planning for my next long walk. Check out that post if you haven’t already. I am not repeating any of it here. So, until I get closer to the walk, I will perhaps need to write about my long “slog”. I desperately need to get my fitness back, so that will be a part of what I write. Happily, spring has sprung, so maybe that now gets easier.
My days, I spend painting, plus trying to take brisk walks, either on the path behind the house here or up the road a bit on the White Pine Trail. I am gearing up to start bike-riding again as well. I do play a lot of internet chess. I don’t consider that, by the way, physical fitness. I have to stop internet chess. I am obsessive-compulsive about it. However, I would like to stop playing after a winning streak. I oscillate back and forth. First, I win a bunch of games in a row and get my online-rating up to some marginally respectable level, then I lose a bunch of games in a row. Today, I lost and lost and dropped about 100 rating points. So, it looks like I won’t be stopping just yet.
There is a medical concept called “chemo-brain”, the mental fog that many experience after having chemotherapy. I use that as a rationale for my online chess playing. It is a kind of fog test. When I do well, I think, “no chemo-brain.” When I lose, like today, I think, “Damn! Chemo-brain!” So, I can’t stop until after my next winning streak!
I do other things, too. I am reading a lot, and I am trying to make sure that I stay in contact with people – friends and family – remotely. That is important in these strange times of forced isolation.
My kids are in Switzerland, stranded. They returned from their university semesters – my son in Holland, my daughter in England – early because of the virus. But, my seeing them soon is not likely, probably not this entire summer, and maybe not for the rest of the year. This makes me melancholy.
In my restlessness about trying to do something, anything, to feel like I am preparing for my next walk, I have been thinking about photography. I bought a very nice camera for my last walk, but I have a cousin, Donna, who is traveling the States in a nice RV camper with her husband. They are self-isolating right now down on South Padre Island, not sure when they can start moving again. She is posting amazing photos, especially, telephoto shots of birds. See the one-legged bird to the left!
I asked her what her camera is – I have asked her this same question a dozen times and keep losing and forgetting the answer. She told me that it is a Nikon Coolpix p510. She bought it years ago. My very expensive Sony compact camera can’t zoom like that. I began thinking whether I shouldn’t have a second camera for these kinds of shots.
Now, what I am going to write is very telling about my personal psychology, and I am not proud of it. I googled the Nikon Coolpix p510 and it is pretty reasonably priced, because it is an older model. So, my thoughts go immediately to the question of this camera’s successor. Have they improved even more on the camera? Well, of course, they have an upgraded version with “enhanced” features. That is just what companies do. Naturally, the successor model costs twice as much, BUT it has an 80x optical zoom. My cousin’s camera has a 40x optical zoom. For several years, I have been marveling at her photos. That “should” tell me that the 40x optical zoom is all I need to take great bird and other telephotos. However, I can’t let go of the thought of the 80x zoom, now that I know it is out there! But, what do I want to do with it? Do I want an 80x zoom in order to get a photo of the bird’s nostril hair, or what? Or, is it beak hair? Well, yes, I guess…well, of course, I do! So, what pathology is this? I don’t know, but I have it.
At the bottom of this blog post is my cousin’s photo of an Osprey with its fish catch. It is a great shot. Why do I need more??? She is also just a good photographer.
Now, fast forward a day from the last paragraph – breaking news! In between then and now, I took my first bike ride of the year! The sun was out and the temperature climbed to almost 60⁰F. I hit the White Pine Trail in direction of Cadillac. I have three turnaround points on the route to Cadillac (I don’t know the trail south, direction Grand Rapids, as well). The first point, I call the “Small Water,” pictured – and recorded – just below (the image of which I can’t seem to make smaller). The second point, I call the “Big Water,” also pictured below, left.
In fact, the Big Water is likely smaller than the Small Water. The Small Water is a swamp or marsh and covers a lot larger area, but not with open water like the Big Water, hence my names for them. The third point is an even bigger water, but I don’t call it “the Big Big Water.” I call it, like everybody else, “Lake Cadillac.”
The Small Water is about an 8-mile round-trip. The Big Water is about a 15-mile round-trip. And, Lake Cadillac and back is about 30-miles.
I had no ambitions to make it to Cadillac and back on my first ride, and would have been okay with the Small Water and back. Happily, I got to the Small Water before I knew it, still feeling good, so I headed on to the Big Water. I made it, and the only casualty was my butt, which hurt something awful in the final home stretch and for hours afterwards. My bike seat is as hard as a rock, which is likely the way hardcore cyclists like it. Me, I am thinking of keeping a narrow seat, but going over to a gel seat, or something with a slight amount of give to it. The seat I have shows no mercy. But, I have been using it for several years, so it is clear that the muscles in my buttocks need some toughening up. However, they can also toughen up on a softer seat. Our bike shop in Cadillac is closed for the pandemic. I guess I will tough it out.
The swamp noises above, I posted to my YouTube channel. Yes, I have a YouTube channel. I actually forgot I had one. I have 3 short clips posted, and, I think, two subscribers – my daughter is one of them. My award-winning first video was of sheep baaing in a valley on my Coast-to-Coast Walk in England. To reminisce, I have posted it again here.
Besides getting stronger, besides researching my next walk, besides attempting to master incorporating videos and recordings in my blog posts, in order to prepare for my next Long Walk, I also need to drop 12 pounds. Yes, only 12 pounds. I weighed myself today and I was, actually, pleasantly surprised to see that it takes only 12 pounds to get down to the weight that I have always considered my ideal weight. What is that weight in absolute numbers and where am I now? I am not saying. I will report on weight differentials, but not on my absolute weight, which is written in invisible ink and locked in a safe, which is locked in a vault, which is sitting in Fort Knox. If I don’t tone up while I drop my weight, then I probably need to lose closer to 15 pounds.
So, the title of this post is When a Long Walk is not a Long Walk. I knew that I had to write a post like this, in order to go on with the blog. I thought, first, that I should just start it up again a few months before the walk. What more can I do? However, I was talking about it with a friend, who said, “You should keep on writing it. You are on a long walk even now, recovering from leukemia for the second time. You walked across England after your first round of leukemia. You are on a very long walk. A healthy and fit 30-year old could walk across the US and that would be impressive. But, coming back from cancer and walking across England has every bit as much drama to it. Write about that.” And, that is approximately word for word what he said. So, I will widen my definition of A Long Walk to cover my recovery from leukemia and my walk-preparations, BUT there will be a true Long Walk at the end of this – I promise.
I was going to end this post on that last note, but I just heard news that has affected me deeply. John Prine died only a few hours ago of the coronavirus. I have been a fan since I was 21 years old, when I was on my Junior Year Abroad Program in Freiburg, Germany – at the time, West Germany. A good friend there, Michael, would sing his songs in the Student Bar (Siedlungsbar), and before long we all learned the lyrics and sang along. I have more than a dozen of John Prine’s songs on my current main playlist. I feel that part of my youth has just died with him. Damn this virus.