July in Miami Beach, the tropical unrelenting sun, the afternoon violent downpours testing the roof, the humidity climbing each day and the thoughts of August and September daunting, intimidating, and just plain hot. Some mornings, the palms do not sway, other mornings they bend to the tropical breezes plowing through the lush, rain-soaked vegetation. The celosia bushes, their heavy leafs dropping into the yard and swimming pool, turn brown and are easily thrown, like little Frisbees, even against the wind.
Now in the fourth month of isolation, a phlebotomist came by to take blood samples from me and my wife, Catherine, because our doctor, herself isolated, said we were overdue. In addition to the normal markers, we requested Covid 19 serology tests, as we were sick in February and perhaps we bear antibodies. That would be cool, perhaps we could go to a non-existent sporting event. Turns out the lab forgot the test.
Hurricane season is here, always a fright for Floridians, bearing warnings from the National Hurricane Center, my iPhone hurricane tracker "whooshing" when a new storm forms, even if off the distant coast of Africa, posting maps of locations of dragons on the march, fire-breathing T-Rexes arriving to eat our air conditioning, lighting, spoil our food, and potentially evacuate us from our havens of safety into a more dangerous environment; coronavirus exposure, possible close encounters with germ-infested humanity, a reminder of impending mortality, of funeral cortèges taking the route to a soon to be climate change underwater, forgotten Atlantis of soggy corpses and gravestones. Davey Jones cemeteries where descendants cannot even visit. Inland mountaintop graveyards beckon.
Sleeping is difficult, requiring medication, despite a diligent dose of daily exercise. Face time does not do the trick with teenage grandsons, who, through monosyllabic answers, clearly prefer their video screens than chat with fossilized grandparents who are not as entertaining as "Grand theft Auto." Seems fair, though, as I did the same with my grandmother, a miserable woman, who never left her room in the house of my uncle to whom she did not speak for 30 years.
Politics, books, streaming video, zoom calls with friends, providing contact with inherent physical distancing. I stare at the computer screen or the little phone and wonder if the family and friends feel the same, the hunger for a return to real life, this nightmare promising to end when a vaccine appears on the scene. A grim tableaux of time running out stealing a few of our remaining years, a unmerciful heist of our most precious commodity--time.
Yet, in all this, hope shines anew. The opportunity of the United States to pass into a renewal of national unity. Polling promises a defeat for the pestilential president. Perhaps the virus, the commonalty of the experience, the diminution of polarization, the recognition of common values despite the racist disunion posed by some politicians and their sycophants will submerge into a new experiment. Our history, filled with such events, strengthens us. After all, Revolution, enslavement, Civil War, two World Wars, a cold war has not yet done us in.
Perhaps the toleration of systemic racism that has inhabited this nation will recede a bit further. Leadership does matter; compassion does matter; character does matter; honesty does matter, and as Dr. King has reminded us the arc of history bends toward justice.
But nature does not care.
The coronavirus, nature, and our little speck in the boundless universe responds to the care we give it, the dedication of scientists and abilities that are unbound by the whims of politicians, who, pathologically deceiving their countrymen, deny the world around them; nature has no bent, it is unsparing of species which ignore it. Viruses only wish to propagate; they are unthinking, uncompassionate and heartless children of mankind's disrespect, and perhaps the natural selector of who does and does not survive, humans included.
Only about 300,000 years have passed since the first fossilized evidence of our species appeared in Africa, and no more than 2 million years since homo erectus, our distant ancestor, appeared. The earth is about 4.5 billion years old. We are a millisecond, a firefly, a clap of thunder. We mean nothing as a species, a fleeting wave of life, just like the dinosaurs. If the world warms a few degrees, we are vanished.
Scientists predict that the sun is midway through its life cycle, created 4.5 billion years ago and probably remaining stable for another 5 billion years. Then the Earth will be toasted, as the sun becomes a red giant, encasing the Earth.
Our civilization has much to figure out, and we have a long time to do it. But one wonders if we will.
Many species have passed on and we may very likely will be next, whether we be white, black or yellow. Nature does not care.