Friday, April 10 – I Pray for My Fellow Humans

by Dara Mac, PEI, CANADA

A quiet, gentle spring snow falls today. Quite a contrast from yesterday’s grinding and painful chainsaw slaughter. Maritime Electric seems to have it in for my beautiful 30-foot tall spruce trees. But it doesn’t take much listening to the news to realize what an elite problem I have. I own my land, have trees to protect, live in a tiny mansion, and I enjoy good health and nutritious, delicious food. My family, friends, and community are staying home and, to my knowledge, are all safe. I am grateful for so much.

To date, here on PEI, 25 individuals have tested positive for COVID-19, and 17 of those have recovered; there have been no hospitalizations and no deaths. The Chief Medical Officer took the time to let the children on PEI know that she has deemed the Easter Bunny an essential worker and that he has a powerful immune system and is in good health. The Land of Anne is somewhat of a dreamy escape amid the extreme hardship, cruelty, and pain that much of this world is now subjected to. I pray for my fellow humans.

I continue my daily walks, sometimes just up and down my road, on the Confederation Trail, and other times to the nearby village of North Rustico when I need a change and to refill water jugs. The other day in North Rustico, I walked my usual route along the boardwalk and harbor, but things looked quite different. The lobster and crab traps were all stacked up along the water’s edge. I noticed a fisherman to my left and said, “I guess fishing’s a go!”; “We have to be ready to go just in case,” he responded. The season usually starts May 1st, but some local fisherman have had some serious concerns about not being able to keep social distancing on a fishing boat. Once the provincial and federal governments got involved, the season was postponed until June 1st.

Last May, I made a point of making Mother’s Day a very special one for my 90-year-old mother in Ottawa. Although she has lived most of her life off-island, in the city, she has never lost her taste and love of PEI lobster. So I booked a flight from Charlottetown to Ottawa and arranged to have a special box prepared by the local fishermen containing lobster and frozen scallops that I could carry onto the aircraft. Within minutes of arriving at mom’s, she had a cooked lobster on a plate and inhaled it without even taking the time to sit down. She enjoyed one lobster a day for the next several days while I was visiting. How different things are this year, so hard to believe!

Unfortunately, our mother/daughter relationship is not always so smooth. Recently, my mother disclosed to me that my brother in law wanted to retire from OC Transpo but that my sister was discouraging it. My mother was siding with my sister; why should he just sit home (like the two of them?). I sharply responded that this is none of my business; retirement is a very personal thing. This was well before we really even knew about the Coronavirus; interesting how existential crisis changes our perception. Only months later, I heard that my brother in law had retired from driving the city bus.

I was very saddened to hear of the death of 50-year-old Jason Hargrove, a Detroit bus driver. Jason Hargrove took to Social Media to vent his anger about a coughing passenger and how some folks just don’t care, as bus drivers try to make an honest living. Four days after that coughing, Jason Hargrove fell ill, and a week later, he died of COVID-19. Black people in the U.S. are disproportionately being affected by COVID-19 because of race, inequality, and poverty.

This global pandemic has forced everyone to rethink everything. There is no “normal” and no going back. This is it; it’s up to each of us to figure out new ways of living, coping, and surviving pretty much on our own. My son, Kai, often shares his observations about the differences between Chinese and Canadian culture. He often remarks on how in the West, unlike China, each person is left to their own devices to survive and figure out each day. Social distancing has only amplified this reality and is perhaps ramping it up even more profoundly. Yet, on some levels, many are reaching out, and social media has allowed for some very interesting ‘gatherings.’

I enjoyed a live Facebook concert with Bill Coon, a fabulous jazz guitarist living in British Columbia. I attended his CD release “Too Much Guitar” over ten years ago with Kai, who was living in Vancouver at the time. I had flown from Cape Breton, where I was working in Eskasoni First Nation and studying jazz guitar with Joe Waye Jr in Sydney, NS. Music is medicine to my soul. I am missing our weekly Island Jazz concerts here at Baba’s in Charlottetown. They offer a wonderful opportunity to socialize and feed the inspiration that keeps me practicing my drumming all week. Although there are more distractions and daily routines to take care of, I continue to sit at the kit daily. I watched an online lesson with Sean Jones, trumpet player, who offered an excellent way to set up a daily practice schedule. I also watched an online lesson with John Riley about the fundamentals of jazz drumming. And no, I don’t want to be a one-armed drummer, so I need to develop coordination and independence in my left hand. Lots to work on!

My “sushi and a movie” friend called because she was having a difficult day. Her best friend, Webbie, a 12-year-old male rescue cat, died suddenly of a ‘mysterious’ respiratory illness. He apparently had trouble breathing and died within 5 minutes! Before that, he was healthy and did not seem to have any lung issues. It makes me wonder how much transmission of the virus is really going on all around us, that we are completely oblivious to.

Another friend called to let me know that her 30-year-old daughter, a nurse in NYC, had tested positive for COVID-19. Fortunately, her symptoms were mild, and she recovered quickly. Thankfully, she chose to stay in NYC and not come to PEI to stay with her mother and 94-year-old Grandmother, as my friend had initially hoped.

I have a telephone counseling session to provide in a few hours and need to be grounded. So I drive to Hunter River to walk the Confederation Trail. I notice a Social Distancing sign at the entrance. Wow! This is really a thing. It’s beautiful, and I’m alone on the trail, but I’ve never felt totally relaxed walking alone on the trail since that young woman was murdered on it ten years ago. Nonetheless, I get a 50-minute walk in and feel slightly better than when I started out.

Three women have been murdered in their homes in Canada in the last few weeks. Many more are living with their abusers suffering mental, emotional, sexual, and physical abuse. It’s too painful to spend too much time thinking about it.
Again, I take the opportunity to feel gratitude for all that I have; for all that I am, I am free.

For the most part, I am much more easily able to practice daily mindfulness. Meals are more carefully eaten and prepared, and more than ever, I savor the punchy taste of my morning coffee. I am truly grateful to be able to take deep breaths of fresh, country air while allowing all thoughts to simply pass through. The real challenge, however, is how to practice peace and presence in the midst of chaos, uncertainty, and discomfort. I’ve really never been very good at that, but it seems that this may be the perfect opportunity to really nail it!

I listen to the news, and the situation in Ecuador is absolutely unbelievable. They are building graveyards in place of hospitals while families house the dead in their homes for up to a week in the intense heat. There are so many deaths, and they cannot keep track of identities. So families have to look through hundreds of body bags to identify their loved ones. Hunger is much stronger than social distancing and fighting an invisible enemy. It’s business as usual on the streets, where it may not be safe to walk with a bag full of groceries.

I’ve run out of onions, carrots apples, and celery and have just a third of a jar of peanut butter left. Still, I have lots to eat (mostly grains, beans, frozen blueberries, and microgreens). I heard that the stores are all out of onions and that shopping is crazy anyhow. On my most challenging day, I received my care package from the local G.F. dry goods producer. After dinner, I decided to make a small G.F., chocolate cake. There was no need to add more sugar on top; it was comforting and delicious all on its own—a perfect end to a stressful day. I am blessed.