Year two of the COVID pandemic was a wild ride, and once again we have to just count our blessings that we stayed fairly healthy, and did not experience any existential hardship. All four of us received our vaccinations in the first half of the year and we experienced no unusual or lasting side effects to the vaccines. Restrictions are fairly minimal around here, not much beyond mask mandates, and so this year was a real improvement over 2020.

family watching elephant
Visit to the NC Zoo in October

I was back at he gym (the local YMCA) exercising with a cloth mask, which is not ideal, but better than no exercise. Yes, I can go for runs in the neighborhood – and I did that, but I like going for some laps in the pool and taking a round or two in the sauna. Staying fit and healthy has certainly never been more important than now. Once again, it was possible to meet friends for lunch in town, go out on a dinner date with Laura, go to public events, and have (a couple of) friends over some drinks around a bonfire.

The Eno Park during the Festival

In July, Laura and I even worked as volunteers at the 43rd edition of the Festival for the Eno at West Point on the Eno in Durham. In October, we visited the NC Zoo in Asheboro. Trips to the zoo used to be a family favorite when the kids were little, and this year Julia requested a family trip to the zoo in celebration of her birthday. In November, Julia and I also joined the Katina celebration at the NC Buddhist Temple. At this yearly event, the local Sri Lankan community presents the monastics at the temple with new robes, which is a tradition that goes back to the Buddha’s time.

dog in pasture with tree
Patou guarding the pasture

The animals were mostly doing fine last year. Wally, our gelding, is getting old, and he can’t chew the hay anymore, so we started feeding him re-hydrated alfalfa and beet pulp to keep some weight on him. The other geriatric critter – Koklo the cat – also needs special, high-calorie food to keep some weight on her bones. But besides some of the usual hoof abscesses, the animals have all been pretty healthy. Patou is doing very well, and she got to eat an entire deer in the fall, when a 4-year-old buck died from a gunshot wound on the neighbors property. No idea who shot the poor animal, but the neighbors were happy to donate him to Patou’s meal plan. I just had to collect the carcass and cut it up, which took the better part of a Saturday afternoon. But we got 75 pounds of nice, lean deep meat out of this, plus a bunch of bones, which I have been cutting up and feeding to Mel (the emu) as a calcium supplement during her egg-laying season.

I was as busy as ever at work, and Laura’s business is flourishing. Julia moved back into our home, after finishing her bachelor’s degree at the University of North Carolina, and she helped Laura a lot with the holiday season sales. Jacob started a job at a local Home Depot; he works at night with a team re-stocking the store. So were were all keeping pretty busy, while at times it felt like the world was in a tail-spin.

Laura expanded her line of products last year with new lamp designs and with a line of window decals. She also started selling her products in 2 local stores: at Womencraft in Carboro and at Artisan Market in Durham. Both are small stores where local artists and artisans sell their products. Womencraft was founded in 1973, and it is one of the oldest artisan cooperatives in the country. Artisan Market in downtown Durham was started by owner Karen Casey in 2017 and provides a great storefront for around 50 local artists. Laura has been very active at both stores, doing shifts at Womencraft and helping Karen with the inventory system at Artisan Market.

My work shifted back more or less to my old job over the course of the year, with the telehealth team dwindling, as people were returning to their research and admin jobs. By the end of the year only one of my colleagues was left doing active support shifts, and I still keep tabs on any issues he encounters in or weekly meetings. On the other hand, the research groups I support all ramped their work back up. New protocols are in place to reduce in-person contact, and when in-person visits are needed, hygiene protocols are in place to minimize the risk of passing on the virus. Most of the year I was back in the office about 3 days a week for anything between 2 and 8 hours, working on troubleshooting computers, imaging new machines and rebuilding older ones. Most of the sys-admin work I do I can do from at home, and I still do a fair amount of troubleshooting remotely via Zoom or RDP. The biggest change in 2021 was the news that my department would definitely leave Brightleaf Square, which means I have to leave the office where I had been working for the last 20 years. I have another office in another building, but very little space, so I will have to shed a lot of ballast in the process.

I remember a year ago thinking that maybe 2021 would be a better year … the vaccines were looking very promising and Trump had lost the election … and then on Jan 6 a bunch of idiots storms the U.S. Capitol. So much for hoping for a quieter year. No, it was a year of Q-Anon nonsense, anti-vaccine conspiracies and COVID panic. So confusion, misinformation and broken promises became the theme for 2021 on the political and public health realm. Hmm .. so what is new, right? Well, maybe the intensity and visibility of the misinformation made it all even more obvious last year than ever. One side was sowing distrust in the government’s management of the pandemic, and even in the vaccines (that were funded by the previous administration that they supported!). On the other side we had (and have) the COVID panic machine that ends up putting healthy vaccinated college students into a hard lockdown and mandating outdoor masking of high-school kids. There is very little middle ground left for sensible risk-assessment and risk mitigation. Instead a marginally beneficial measure like masking at the grocery store has become a form of binary virtue signaling when this is a fluid situation that requires nuanced discussion of risk and benefit.

A positive effect of time of crisis is that sometimes we get a new look at the people and institutions around us. It can be surprising to see who remains calm and rational when the world goes a little nutty, versus the people who get sucked right into the craziness. It also helps weed out your sources for information. While it’s not always clear what is true and false information in this situation, sometimes it becomes clear who is pushing an agenda by what narratives they promote. This can stand in stark contrast to information sources who don’t shy away from nuance and complexity. I’d much rather take advice from someone who changes their opinion when new information becomes available than someone who doubles down on their outdated position.


Comments are closed.