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In Thinking About A 'Return To Normal,' Let Us Pause And Consider Our Old, Reckless Ways

Photo Courtesy of MO DNR

In this segment of These Ozarks Hills on KSMU, longtime Ozarks storyteller Marideth Sisco ponders whether the days pre-coronavirus are really what we should aspire to return to. 

You can hear the audio segment here: 

This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills. That was some storm the other night, wasn’t it? I was sitting in my little cubby with bedroom and bathroom doors shut tight, keeping me and my dog away from windows, not chancing the basement because the stairs are steep and both I and my dog are getting more rickety by the day. And I was thinking. Not about the whistling wind, nor the hail hitting the roof. But about music. About its soothing effects amid times of turmoil. Actually I was thinking about Dave Brubeck.

The Brubeck Quartet was still popular in the wake of their hit single “Take Five” when they performed at a town nearby, and I went to see them. I don’t remember the town or the year – somewhere in the mid 70s, I’d guess.

All I remember is the storm that accompanied them, and the size of the crowd that turned out in spite of the weather. It was a full house. And the concert was not in a theater or concert hall. It was more like a gymnasium, with tiered seating and tall windows between the seating and roof, so that as the storm approached, we were treated to an impressive light show.

The band was, as expected, smooth and wonderful. The music seemed to match the incoming weather, becoming more intense  as the lightning flashed and the thunder began to compete with Joe Morello’s drums.

Then all at once there was a blinding flash and a massive thunderclap, and the lights went out. This was before cell phones, so the darkness between the lightning flashes was total.   We didn’t notice that, because at that instant, the music, without a pause, shifted tempo, and the chords morphed smoothly into a slow, deliberate intro, and an invisible voice began to sing:

Don’t know why, there’s no stars up in the sky

Stormy Weather.

Well, some people laughed, some let go the breath they were holding, and slowly some started to sing along. By the time the song was over, everyone was singing, the storm’s center had moved  on, the wind settled, and just as we finished, the lights came back on. The band, of course, got a standing ovation.

Stormy weather. How’s that for a metaphor, not just of Tuesday night’s storm, but for our ongoing dilemmas in the age of Covid 19. Don’t know why, indeed. There are just too many roads to go down from there.

It’s a mystery, the why of this enormous shift in our world. The staggering number of illnesses and the damage left behind. Even even as most survive, many do not recover completely. And then the many thousands just gone. This seems way more than a pandemic on our doorstep. It’s a full stop. A shutdown. One observation, sometimes as a blessing and sometimes a complaint, is that this worldwide pause in business as usual has really given us time to think. Some folks don’t think much of that, others have relished it. I notice that without the impulse to run to town for this or that, I’m getting lots more work done, while finding sweet and unexpected pauses in my day to just stroll out to the garden or onto the porch and breathe the springtime air. When I think about going back to normal, my first thought after that is What’s the rush. Let the days play out. Let nature have its say. And science. In my experience of time to think, I’m thinking we still have a whole lot to learn about a lot of things.

Im not surprised that most of us are unwilling to rush right out and restart, reboot, and possibly re-expose ourselves to this dreadful disease. I mean it’s not as though we have developed some miraculous shield against it. It’s still there. People have not stopped dying.

So is it really time to push the reset button?  And more important, Do we really want to go back there, back to just the way it was. To what we once thought was normal.

Have you seen the photos of the sky over Los Angeles today? Or Calcutta. Most of mainland industrial China? And has it occurred to you as it has to me that this beautiful gem of a planet just might be better off without us?

It also occurs to me that perhaps we might hold off on that reset button for a bit, at least until we have learned what there is to learn from this. Yes, humanity has suffered a huge blow. Yes, we have lost friends and family and people we will never get to meet. And yet the skies are clearing. The waters are coming clean. Everything is open to view, including the consequences of our past poor stewardship. Our  throw-away thoughtlessness. Our arrogant avarice. Is this really the best we can do? I hope not.

For better or worse, we have been granted time, and we should take it, to learn to feel more, think deeper, consider our reckless ways, respond to what is before us, and ask, just ask ourselves what we might do now in the service of Earth our mother. First thing I would suggest is that we tuck our pouty little lips in, muster some courage and seek ways to leave this place better than we found it. It’s not the end of the world. And if it were, we seem to have inadvertently hit the pause button on that. It’s just stormy weather. Here in these tough old Ozarks Hills, we know how to weather that. Another version of the song might go like this:

Life goes on

Not everything is gone

It’s just stormy weather

And we can weather this one together

It ain’t rainin’ all the time.

This is Marideth Sisco, weathering the storms out in these Ozarks Hills.

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