Hello from a quiet Halfshell,
I am sitting in the dining room and I have worked at the table or walked back and forth to the kitchen since getting up after about a 3 1/2 hours of sleep. I left the house last night with Anton for the Baltimore airport. It was raining and a steady wind of 35-40 mph made the initial trip both uncomfortable and a bit hazardous. After a drive of about 8 1/2 hours round trip, with a stop for gas, he is currently over the Atlantic toward Frankfurt as I write this. The previous 36 hours were a bit of a jumble trying to get him home to Humlebaek. However, we were finally able to get him on a flight from Baltimore to Chicago to Frankfurt and finally home to Copenhagen. It is quiet, and that is okay because I have also been able to nap and throw myself into work. A couple of phone calls and a reach out to help a colleague or two with a variety of things and it is all as well as can be.
Last night as we got into the car and began to drive toward Baltimore, Anton noted that he could remember the first ride with me from Philadelphia to Bloomsburg in great detail. He remembered me standing at the bottom of the stairwell as he came into the baggage area with my sign with crossed American and Danish flags and a small, but succinct statement, Anton Velkommen til Amerika (in fact, he left that sign on the kitchen table before he left Bloomsburg for me). He noted that I seemed like a nice person and he was happy because he did not want to have to live with an asshole all year. We laughed. We spoke about his worrying about his language and he noted that he had to think about everything he wanted to say so much more carefully. We agreed we could not have been matched better had they specifically tried to do it. Later this morning after walking up, I spoke with our YFU person and I told her there was nothing I would change from the year; it was about as perfect as I could want. As I got back to Strawberry, it was good I was so tired, I merely went to sleep for a few hours. The rest of the day, I have thrown myself into my work, and some cooking. It has been productive and I have considered staying up, but I think a good night’s sleep with serve me well . . . and back: I did sleep pretty well last night and slept in a bit this morning. Anton is finally home. I got a picture from his mother. He had one last snafu, and was rebooked 7 hours later from Frankfurt to Copenhagen, but he is now home. He will probably sleep for a day. While I am here in Cape Charles, there is not a lot to do: work, cook, walk, sleep, and repeat. That is not a bad thing. I am spending extra time on each assignment to give my students as much feedback as I can.
It is sunshiny here on the shore today, and I think a long walk is definitely in store for before the sun goes down. Maybe some pictures of the sunset. As I listen to all of the reports, I try to limit and focus. Contrary to what many of you may think, I have been impressed with the briefings the last couple of days. Further, while I fall into those who struggle with many things currently happening, it does seem we are finally all getting on the same page (save 5 states , three of which are close to my heart because it is where I grew up. They still have no social distancing guidelines from their governors). I particularly appreciated how both Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci provided as clear of an understanding of why and how we approached things the way we did as I have heard to date. I believe they were thoughtful, measured, and honest in the what-ifs and the where we are. Also, to my sister-in-law (who really is like a sister), this will shock you, but I am even impressed with how the President has conducted himself over the last few days. This is what I believe we need as a country. One can be optimistic and truthful at the same time. I think perhaps he has gotten there. I do believe we are in for a rough haul. This is not an issue of fault or specific actions, but it is the reality of a virus that is virulent, pervasive, and deadly. I have never been a conspiracy theorist. I generally refuse to go down such paths. Maybe it is my core idealism; maybe it is I do not want to live my life overshadowed by fear, suspicion, and a general isolation that would occur from such a position. In part, my rejection of that is because it is how I grew up. My life had a price tag on everything. There was the saying of my father, which I do believe is true: there are no free lunches. That side I could, and can abide. The otherside, however, held a readily apparent price tag, and, unfortunately, the cost was beyond anything you could repay. It was a sort of psychological/emotional indentured servitude, exacerbated by a meanness that made my servitude incredibly painful, hurtful, and demoralizing. Regularly during this past almost month, the specter of a pandemic has really been at the forefront of my thoughts. The way I have thought about it, however, has focused on the human cost, not only in a loss of life, but in how it has changed how we see each other. This returned me to the idea of decency, compassion, and justice. The upper estimates of mortality, in just this country, are staggering. If we hit that mark, that is slightly over 7 percent of our population. I doubt there would be a single family in our entire country who is not affected by such a scenario. Then there is the economic cost on all sorts of levels. First, something I have considered, perhaps from being a pastor, if the majority of those who pass have life insurance, what will that do to the insurance industry, and those companies insure more than our lives. Second, there is the employment (now becoming unemployment) figures, which are also staggering. Third, there will be bankruptcies, foreclosures, health costs. And all of this is the tip of the iceberg.
Over the last days, the New England Patriots sent a private jet to China to get a million masks, the Russians have sent us an entire cargo plane of medical supplies, and God only knows who else has offered to help us. It is reminiscent of some of the goodwill I believe we received post 911. The 2.2 trillion dollar package of subsidies from the Federal government is socialism; this is the economic reality of what has happened, and it is necessary, but let’s be honest about what we are doing. We are working both on democratic and socialist principles. Socialism in its purest form provided housing, a safety net of some job and the necessities of life. I realize there is more complexity to all of this, but . . . That is precisely what we are trying to do right now. Many who are arguing against such processes or any socialist tendencies are at the front of the line demanding the government save them. My point is not to say this should or should not happen, but philosophically, let’s be honest. Again, in a sense of transparency, I am fortunate beyond words. I can do my job from my table. I can keep my health insurance. I can pay my bills and I am incredibly fortunate. I have access to others by phone, social messaging, and even video. I have taken the time to reach out to many and yet, I believe I should do more. I plan to use my cooking enjoyment to help others. I think it is something I can deliver, maintain, distancing and make a difference. Thinking about how to manage that as I am shuttered up here in Cape Charles.
While this previous paragraph might sound less than optimistic, I am feeling positive. I think this compels us to think about the other in ways we often should, but frequently do not because it requires intentionality. I also spoke with a former colleague who has incredibile intuition. She is one of the most talented and brilliant women I have ever been blessed to have in my life. She is spiritual and insightful in ways that sometimes cause me pause, but her ability to use what she does for good has always been apparent. She shared some important thoughts about our earth and the consequences of our actions. I can say everything she noted makes profound sense. We have abused our environment. Perhaps this is both our earth and creation’s way of forcing us to rethink our selfishness, our arrogance, or our practice of doing what we want with no consequence. For so long, I have been somewhat schizophrenic (not intentionally) or less than disciplined about caring for this world. Maybe all of this is our own personal wake-up calls.
What I think I can say with some surety at this point is simple: our world is changed by this. Whether it is an example of an “in-your-face,” slap along the side of our collective heads or something more profound, I believe the idea that we will go back to business as usual is a bit misguided. We cannot be unprepared in the future, but if we do not take better care of ourselves, each other, and our planet, I believe we could find ourselves on the receiving end of a serious ass kicking. I have noted that each generation since I was small experienced an event that has transformed our understanding of our world. For me as an eight year old, it was sitting in front of my television watching the aftermath of an assassination. In 1986, it was a generation of teachers and students watching the Challenger explode after a chilly morning take-off. For those who are now are approaching their 40th, it was the attack on us in New York City, Washington, D.C., and in a field in Pennsylvania. The previous three were more a national phenomenon, though felt beyond the country. This is something beyond the proportion we have known since WWII. The belief that we are in a war might be accurate, but this is a different enemy. It is an enemy that attacks all of us; it is an enemy that has no feelings, no morals, no discrimination. It is an enemy that cares nothing for or about us.
As I write this, I am still optimistic. I continue to learn. During this past 7 months, I was taught so much by the presence of an incredible young man. Anton was the ideal son, house guest, and person. He is brilliant. He has an incredible heart. He is thoughtful and has a goodness to him that is unmatched by many. He brought me so much joy. While I am happy beyond words he is safely home in Humlebaek, the acre will be quiet when I get home. Yet, the person I am because of him continues to be a better person. Du kom ind i mit liv med en vis frygt, men du rejser med en amerikansk forælder. Jeg er ærefrygt for dig, Anton, og jeg elsker dig dybt. Tak, charmer!! It seems our world is calling out and it is time to listen.
Thank you for reading; now back to work.
One thought on “From Days to Hours to Alone”
Excellent writing Michael. You were a lucky man to have Anton with you & he a lucky young man to have you as mentor. God bless you both. Enjoy Cape Charles. Be safe. ❤️🙏🏻👩🦰🙏🏻