The Birds Still Sing

GoGraphic illustration to characterize neighborhood songsters.

 A symphony of mourning doves greeted me when I took the trash to the curb at 6:58 am. Instantly thankful that Austin’s sanitation workers had not abandoned us, or the stench of the neighborhood might overpower the beauty of their song!  Their slightly eerie song requires getting use to–when I first came to Texas, it unnerved me with its perpetual moan, but now it soothes me every morning. A matter of accommodation, sort of like our lives today.

Welcome to the First Anniversary of the Past Becomes Present Blog, originally coming to you from a condo in Northwest Austin, Texas. A year ago, my perspective differed from what it is today. Writing about unique events in American history never got boring to me. From time to time, I talk about the here and now, recognizing that this is a historic time with the coronavirus pandemic touching nearly every corner of the globe. Americans have made it through some tight situations before, which we’ll examine over the next few weeks and months. Likewise, bravery comes from people in all walks of life and all ages, which we’ll point out if you keep in touch!

Today many people whose jobs we took for granted, those who seemed to melt into the background of our lives—barista Christine at the neighborhood coffee shop, mechanic  Brian who fixed my headlight, and Patti, my favorite checker at HEB– are now seen and appreciated more for the services they perform. Most of these now essential workers are pleased not to be among the more than three million Americans who have applied for unemployment after missing a paycheck.

Nurses, doctors, medical technicians and their staffs are even more vital than they were a few short months ago. Their well-being depends on how faithful we are in staying home and practicing physical distancing if leaving the house. This will give the medical community a chance to catch up before the next wave hits. Otherwise the people we depend upon may not have the medical facilities, equipment, energy, or in some cases be alive to treat new patients.

The job losses nationwide in March 2020 far exceed New York’s loss of 223,000 jobs after September 11—then a 5.7 percent drop. That occurred mainly on the East Coast with a blowback in tourism around the country when airlines weren’t flying, but people weren’t flying for just a month or less. In the last recession, in 1989, more jobs were lost–300,000 and we pulled out of that. Today (end of March) 3.2 million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits as their jobs have been suspended or permanently curtailed. To assist in jacking up the U.S. economy, Congress passed a $2 trillion stimulus package to aid Americans, key industries like the airline and hospitality, and provide loans to small businesses.

While we think of successful musicians as millionaires, here in Austin, musicians are mainly self-employed, earning a living from their performances. When these are cancelled, as 300 music festivals have been, including Austin’s mega South by Southwest, musicians make nothing and may even lose the cost of pre-purchased airline tickets.

Some of the musicians who uplift us and bring us joy appear to be on the frontlines of this pandemic, suffering or losing their battle with the disease, according to news reports. But it may be because people like country music’s Joe Diffie, 61, who died this weekend of coronavirus, travel constantly, which reduces their immunity. They perform for large audiences and come in direct contact with hundreds of people each week. If you have a favorite artist from your local community, this may be a good time to recognize their work by purchasing one of their songs if you are able.

Decide to Reach Out

As we enter the third week of isolation in hopes of preventing further spread of the coronavirus, we’re beginning to realize that we could be in for the long haul. A month has been suggested, but isolation has been longer in other countries. So, we need to make a personal plan to prevent ourselves from being isolated. Plan to call friends and associates, at least one person each day to keep up with their lives. Find a way to exercise each day—walking separately from neighbors, use the exercise equipment if you have some at home, or if you have stairs, making multiple trips or find a yoga or exercise program online that matches your level of fitness. No time to overtax your heart!

Imitate the Birds in the Shower

Belt out your favorite songs from whatever era.  Singing, even for those of us hard-pressed to carry a tune, is indeed good for the soul. No medical license here, but it seems to reduce stress, maybe in my case due to the comedy. Now’s the time to “sing to the music” in your head and forget yourself for a moment.

Daydream—Never Know What You Might Discover

YouTube is overflowing with videos that teach everything from car mechanics to computer coding, WordPress to Lasagna Gardening. Check it out and see what strikes your fancy. Even if you are working from home, it might feel good to try something new after your compressed workday is over.

This is an opportunity you don’t want to waste. Englishman Isaac Newton took advantage of his break from Cambridge University in 1665, when students were sent home during the Great Plague. He daydreamed, then gathered his ideas on light, calculus, and color to develop the law of gravity, which did indeed involve from an apple falling in his family’s orchard. Next Newton built the first reflecting telescope, later presenting it to London’s Royal Society in 1671. Use the time to daydream, inspire yourself. Be bold. You never known where it might lead.

As that American icon, John Wayne, said: “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”

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