Sunday, March 15, 2020

Life in the time of Corona

My father calls my blog Dispatches from the Void, which is astute and also referential to the tagline at the top of these entries- Writing, Hiking, Staring into the Abyss.

My subtitle has never been more accurate than now, as I report from the epicenter of Corona in the U.S. We're all living in the void of the unknown (though, weren't we always?..) Lacking factual answers but, thanks to social distancing, brimming with more personal space than many know what to do with.

This isn't as jarring a transition for me as it is for others, since I thrive on alone time. I'm also incredibly grateful to have jobs that I do from home. Despite the burgeoning pandemonium catapulting into a frenzied paranoia of Costco proportions, I decided to stick with my plan of flying to Tucson for a meet up with Dad & friends.

I have a bevy of beautiful photos to share from hikes in & around the Babad Do'ag, the native Tohono O'odham peoples' name for what is now called the Catalina mountains; A range renamed in 1697 by a Jesuit priest in honor of St. Catherine (Santa Catalina).

As far as desert hiking goes, I think it's safe to say that Utah is the grand apex. However, this was my third trip to Tucson and it does not disappoint. The area is home to a surprisingly impressive mountainous region (Mount Lemmon- the pinnacle point of the Babad Do'ag- is higher than Mt. Olympus of the Olympic range here in Washington). On my last trip, we hiked in Madera Canyon and I was astonished to see high-elevation aspen trees. Tucson is not the flat and barren wasteland that some connote with the desert.

On our first full day together, Dad and I met up with the lovely and badass Mark and Bobbie for a hike just outside their (RV's) front door. We sauntered along saguaros swollen with winter rains, cholla and ocotillo, as well as boulder gardens reminiscent of Joshua Tree National Park.

Crested Saguaro

Ocotillos approaching their bloom

After the humid hike, I started a book called In Search of Snow by Luis Alberto Urrea. I love reading narratives set in the area I'm visiting or traveling, and I picked this one up at my local bookstore the day before I left. I'm a HUGE fan of mystic realism. If you're not familiar, it's a literary genre in which realistic settings or tone are interwoven with surreal or fantastical elements. Most of the famous authors who epitomize this field of writing are Latin American: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, Jorge Amado, and Paulo Coehlo to name a few.

This blending of real and surreal themes is so appropriate for what we are all collectively experiencing at this moment. The Corona outbreak and its social impacts are almost absurd by nature-unreasonable, illogical. Like a cataclysmic natural disaster, pandemics rattle our concept of reality. They are a bleak reminder of how vulnerable and tender existence is, and how much we frame what is "real" around a predictable and controllable set of circumstances.

“Courage did not come from the need to survive, or from a brute indifference inherited from someone else, but from a driving need for love which no obstacle in this world or the next world will break.” -Gabriel Garcia Marquez (author of Life in the Time of Cholera, the inspiration for this blog's title)

The truth is our lives hang in suspension every day, and are as soft and fallible as they ever were. The threats just feel more real now than they may have before. 24/7 news cycles don't help that, and neither does constant rhetoric. It's perfectly okay to be scared when the container of reality changes before your eyes, though. There's no shame at all in that.

“Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.”
Jorge Luis Borges

Magic realism speaks to a core belief inside of me that things are not, and never have been, as they appear. Instead, life is layered with aspects, qualities, and dimensions that we must believe to perceive, rather than see to believe. We are always on a quest, as is a central theme to the genre. Fables, myths, and allegories are safe spaces to explore the improbable and unfathomable - before they potentially converge with reality.

"Sometimes like Santiago, at crucial points in my novel, my only logical option was to transform into the wind." - Jay Electronica, referencing Paulo Coehlo's The Alchemist

I'll be here, in the eye of the storm, blowing in the transient wind and striving to keep my impact positive. Reading books, listening to music, and taking long walks with my canine companion.

While you practice social distancing, it might be of great benefit to also practice newsfeed distancing. In dealing with fear and anxiety, it helps to stick to logic and reason. Be preventative, be well. Take care of yourself and your mental health.

And if these really are the end days-well, I spent them with the right people.

*Tucson part 2 coming soon*


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  2. Though abbreviated, it was a pleasure to share a couple trails with you last week. Thanks for braving the "virus" by boarding a plane to Tucson. That said, you might have been safer there than at "home." Till next time...
    Mark...self-quarantining in the Klondike Hills north of Moab.


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