Not to be … or to be?

Not to be …

This minuscule thing happened. Many things changed. So many things!

But my health has not changed, nor that of my wife and family. Not much else matters more in the big scheme of life.

Since the middle of January I began reading with increasingly febrile concern about the novel coronavirus. As February progressed and the Covid-19 virus ravaged Wuhan and marched so quickly beyond, I began to fear that my pilgrimages were increasingly unlikely. As March was about to begin, I understood so many reasons I shouldn’t go. By the Ides, I’d determined beyond a doubt I wouldn’t.

Not the virus! … The spadix of Skunk Cabbage, our first flower, that often literally melts snow to push up this stinking skunky gorgeous flower. 2020 April 07, Shaw’s Creek, west of Orangeville.

I’m going to miss a lot. I’ll not be hugging my most-wonderful niece in London. I’ll miss the north coast of Exmoor, especially the ancient oak woodlands and the view of Hurlestone Point. I’ll miss a medieval experience with Rob & Gillian as well as Rob’s guided tour of the Forest of Dean. I’ll not get to meditate on Charles Darwin’s Sand Walk. I’ll not be able to do a day of official botanizing contributing to the modern updating of Gilbert White’s Natural History of the Parish of Selborne. I’ll not experience the rewilding of Knepp Castle. I’ll not walk in the hollows and the ridges of the medieval pilgrimage into and out of Canterbury. I’ll not dance the Sun up on Bluebell Hill in Rochester this coming Friday. I’ll not be eating and drinking lunches in rural pubs. I’ll miss experiencing the English landscape at the strolling speed of shanks’ mare.


I am grateful that I will be with my partner of over 50 years. We will be together through this time of stress and sadness, supporting each other and our family.

For six weeks now, we’ve been on lockdown. Only twice have I left town — for very brief isolated forays. Nobody has entered our home other than the two of us. Remarkably, our communities, our province, and our whole country have done very well, adapting to ‘living in our bubble’ and ‘flattening the curve’. Not without issues, mind … Serious issues, especially since this pandemic has exposed so many weaknesses of our society. Seniors in long term care ‘homes’ have especially suffered and died at shameful rates.

Canada, ‘from sea to sea to sea’, has wisely given remarkable voice and power to public health experts, many of them women. Our governments have stepped up, and continue to ramp up, a myriad of supportive programs and funds.

Community Spread … a spiky ball found beside a public path …

To Be!

We’ve switched gears. We spend a lot of time doing daily video chats with our daughters, laughing, sharing stories, planning projects, sharing ideas, offering each other support. One of the girls organized a porch-drop off/pickup of excellent scones and clotted cream a couple of weeks ago. When I completed the driving and got back home, we had a ‘virtual’ shared meal.

A magnificent scone and very thick clotted cream. No strawberries …

I’m most proud of the ways my wife and daughters are using their considerable crafting skills to sew face masks, and head scarves, and PPE bags, donating them to friends, first responders, and out-patient clinics. Both daughters are making wonderful use of social media, using blogs and videos and photographs to knit (and sew!) like-minded communities together.

We’re reaching out to our choir community, working to keep them together with video chats of almost 50 of us, organized by our excellent Director. My wife is using social media to tie us together, sharing favourite musical selections, and having trivia challenges.

Our Morris group meets in virtual space every week to have an online sing-around. Many of us are finding new voices and learning new songs.

I’m working with others to rejuvenate our local field naturalists group. Even though we can’t get together, we’ve been promoting ‘Vitamin N’ (Nature). Weekly online bingos based on current possible observations have been one positive tool. With great success, we’re promoting the active sharing of field observations through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. (My compatriot just published 16 photos of wild “It begins with S and ends with T / I know what you’re thinking and we could call it that / But let’s be scientific / And call it SCAT”, with the challenge of identifying each kind. I’m setting up an iNaturalist project for our club to build an online Citizen Science database of our local floral and faunal observations. We’ll be using that for our planned Butterfly Blitz later this summer — if we are able to congregate by then … (So in a way, I am contributing in the manner of Gilbert White to the Natural History of the parishes of Orangeville …)

Our Pussy Willows are only just beginning to shed pollen in this long slow cool Spring. 2020 April 25

To Be Continued!


I don’t know about the pilgrimages as planned.

Not a long way from home without effective treatments — which are hopefully possible …

Not out of Canada until solid and universal ‘herd immunity’ — if that’s even possible with this virus.

Not out of my country without a vaccine — if that’s even possible …

A trail around one of the ponds in Orangeville. This pond has hosted Buffleheads for the past week and more. People come out daily to watch these striking ducks — and to get their daily dose of ‘shinrin yoku’!

Now, right now

I’m writing this post in my hammock in my backyard at 2:45 A.M.

I just got out of my hammock for my middle of the night ritual. The Big Dipper is straight up above me in the clear and calm night. Scorpio is in the south, Pegasus is setting, Vega and The Summer Triangle fill the sky to the east over the town. There will be a good frost by sunrise. No bugs. I’m wondering about staying awake all night and drinking in this glory?

(… I didn’t stay awake. The warmth and comfort of my hammock and backpacking quilt took over …)

One thought on “Not to be … or to be?

  1. The keys to life; recognize the current, make adjustments for challenges and limitations and plan for the future. Stay safe brother. Lyab

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