--Sheri Ritchlin, A Farm in Marin: Portraits in Time from Pangaea to Point Reyes
I spent a lot of time in the 14th century while researching for this book, though it was only one chapter. I focused especially on the Roman poet Petrarch and Boccaccio, who gave us a first-hand portrait of the decimation of his city, Florence. It was hard to imagine that 75,000,000 (up to 200,000,000 by some estimates), would perish from this pandemic. But the worst of times was surely after World War I when 500,000,000 people died of the Spanish Flu; more than had died in that terrible war.
How things have changed since then! There was no television, internet or iphone to spread the word, mobilize first responders, send out warnings and instructions—wash your hands, stay six feet apart!—and keep people who are ordered to shelter in place in communication with their friends and loved ones.
Technology has given so many people a role to play in this growing crisis. Democracies have given individuals a voice and many are using it via social media. Listen to the poignant call to his people of Irish prize-fighter Conor McGregor:
Speaking of Sky, here is an update: On clear evenings in the Valley, Venus is bright in the Western sky, not far below the Pleiades—the brilliant cluster in the shoulder of the constellation Taurus. Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are low on the southeast horizon as dawn begins, Jupiter the brightest. What can be seen only with a telescope or an astrologer’s eye is Pluto, sitting invisibly between Saturn and Jupiter. Saturn and Jupiter were heraldic combinations in antiquity. Some have joined Kepler in asserting that a conjunction of these planets in 7 BC accounts for the Star of Bethlehem. Other have described the conjunction during that era as denoting a change of Ages from Taurus to Pisces in the precession of the equinoxes. Actually, this conjunction takes place every 20 years, though in different signs of the zodiac. It is that hidden presence of Pluto that makes a difference. Saturn and Pluto were in conjunction in 1914-15, 1947 and 1982. Not the best of times, yet periods that brought global change: a new world order and the birth of international institutions after 1947 and in 1983, the birth of the World Wide Web and the Internet. My friend Sarah Livia Brightwood likes to speak of the Restoring Twenties, as the counterpart to the Roaring Twenties of the last century. Let's hope!
What is important to me here is that as our skies grow clearer with lack of traffic, and as we have more time in our isolation, we can find some analog peace by simply looking upward. Bright Aldebaran is shining just below the Moon and those three bright planets are together at dawn. You can follow the sky events here: https://skyandtelescope.org/observing/sky-at-a-glance/
As of today, March 28, Montana has 129 cases. So far, none in Powell County. Here is a map of counties affected:
Linda Barry, a film producer living near the hard-hit Los Angeles area, emailed that she is taking advantage of her family's isolation to finish a six-episode series she's been writing. Her daughter Aja is "partaking in the district's distance learning via Google Classroom, keeping up with her classes."
My friend Sally Mahe in Mill Valley has always been a great walker and finds her analog peace by walking nearby trails in a vast network of trails in Marin County. Point Reyes National Seashore alone has 150 miles of trails. (see https://www.visitmarin.org/things-to-do/outdoor-activities/hiking/ )
When the world opens up again, we can see freshly how beautiful it is.
Seeing Sally's photos of her walk filled my heart, as I hope they do yours.
Please take care and be well everyone!