Sunday, June 28, 2020

Life on the Delta

No, I haven't moved to New Orleans, or to the mouth of any river that flows into a sea, or even to an alluvial fan--like the ones that characterize the foothills of the Eastern Sierra.

This delta is, instead, symbolic. Back when I was still a scientist wannabe, I took myriad geology and astronomy courses, and used common note-taking shorthand symbols that included ☉ (the sun), ⊕ (the earth), and a Greek letter delta (Δ) for change. 

This is the delta I'm referring to in the title of this post.  Technically, I suppose, it's used in maths as a symbol for difference, but I just subbed it for the word "change" whenever I was describing the phenomenon of change (usually over time). So no it wasn't used particularly correctly (although my fellow students commonly did the same), and no it doesn't have anything to do with the Christian notion of trinity. The symbol has quite a range of uses and the Wikipedia article covers them in its usual quick and easy fashion, so you can fact-check me if you like. 

But I've been thinking rather a lot lately about change (and difference), as many of us probably have over the last four months or so. We on the Farm are still pretty much locked down, going out only to places that offer geezer hours or that provide curbside pickup. We use Amazon more than we ought to, but try to take advantage of free delivery to order stuff we can't easily get without shopping around. Just this week I ordered oven liners (after trying in vain to keep spills off the floor of my oven), a three-pack of Anti Monkey-Butt Powder (we're doing a lot of outdoor-work in the increasingly hot and humid now-summer in north Texas), and a two-pack of Lady Grey tea not carried by the grocery sources we use. I can also get freeze-dried minnows in six-packs, which makes my cat very happy, and Cutter unscented insect repellent cans by the dozen. My current anti-coagulant regimen includes both warfarin and generic Plavix, the combination of which makes me exceedingly attractive to the local mosquitoes, and an easy mark.

The biggest commercial change in our lives, though, is the now-regular use of a local farmers' co-op, which I'm sure I've mentioned before, and the probability that this will be an ongoing practice. I'm hoping that in the larger picture, this may become an alternative to the old Big Ag food distribution system (the one that includes mammoth farms and enormous meat-packing facilities, along with feed-lot cattle ranches and dairies).  Most of our groceries now come from local farmers (eggs, meat, cheese, produce, fruit, bread, and even some goodies like marinade and salad dressing). They keep adding items to the list through the order-period, and I'm trying something new almost every week. The stuff is delivered to a cooler we leave on the front porch, with notifications of when it's going to arrive (within 30 minutes) and after it's been delivered. 

This model of food distribution seems ripe for widespread adoption. Several online companies have been offering meal kits and meat assortments for some time, but this particular arrangement was developed in response to area restaurant closings as a way for farmers to stay in business and get their products to customers in lockdown. 

The most significant cultural change is, of course, the reaction to the cruel deaths of George Floyd and others, which have collectively ramped up the Black Lives Matter movement and may well have finally effected real change--or at least the promise of it. The large-scale reform of police departments that seemed probable thirty years ago, may finally come to pass. I have long preached to my classes about the fallacy of the idea of race, although I have embarrassingly few black friends (actually, I don't have many white ones either), and haven't marched for equal rights in forty years. But I do vote, and will probably go to the polls in person in November. The Beloved Spouse is under 65, so he can't vote by mail in Texas, so we will vote together, early, and properly attired, in the runoff next week, and will do so again on Election Day, unless the Texas legislature wises up and allows ballots by mail.  

I used to carefully examine each candidate's qualifications and positions and vote accordingly. I can't imagine not voting for a Democrat or a person of color this time, however, for any reason. My days of giving Republicans a fair viewing are over for the time being. None of the ones running even vaguely resemble the people I used to vote for, back when being a conservative (little c) didn't mean being a religious or racial bigot, or a science denier. It will take a different administration to keep the positive changes in motion.

And then there's the climate. We didn't have a winter this last year, and spring was simply more of what we'd had since last fall--except that we couldn't get out and enjoy the milder weather. The good fortune that allowed us our little respite down in Palmetto State Park seems like a lifetime ago. Porco Rosso (our trailer) sits all shiny and clean and ready to travel, all dressed up with nowhere to go.

The stormy season is getting longer, and May and June brought us intermittent week-long thunderstorms. We had the Preservation Tree folks come up and take care of dead branches and dangerous limbs overhanging the house and our power lines. They opened up the canopy nicely and the difference is apparent even in casual photos like these (taken about three weeks apart).


The operation left us with a pile of useful hardwood mulch, which doesn't look like much here, but The Beloved Spouse and I have been at it for over a week, moving a few dumper-wagons full per day to the back, spreading it over the muddy bits in the back quarter-acre, filling in planting beds, and dressing up bare spots (under the picnic table and around the seating area where no one can gather any more in these troubled times).

One of the advantages to anarchic gardening is the gift of occasional wonders, such as this clump of rain lilies. Like the wild gladioli I've featured elsewhere (and which were reduced significantly by some varmint or other last fall), these appeared unplanned and unannounced  several years ago, but they do not bloom predictably. The torrents of rain we got this year, however, made them bloom in abundance; the photos were taken nearly three weeks apart. This time I salvaged some seeds, and will plant them in front, in hopes of propagating them.

And so, for us, life goes on. There's no sign that things are getting or will get better, even though where we live has been little affected by the Plague itself. In-office doctor visits have returned, but about the only place mask-wearers don't get any grief around here is in health care facilities. We even bought cute Porco Rosso and Totoro masks from Redbubble in hopes that they'd publicly affirm our commitment to safety. But Texas is being really stupid about opening up (there were four garage sales on our street last weekend, with nobody wearing masks and certainly not staying two meters apart), so we can only do what we can and be really careful ourselves.

I can only hope that real change comes about sooner rather than later: that people stop being stupid about the virus, start listening to smart people (doctors, nurses, scientists, and responsible adults); that people begin to realize (again by listening to smart people who know about these things) that race is an artificial social construct initiated millennia ago by people seeking power, but that has no scientific basis; and that we learn to temper our desires for unnecessary commodities with restraint and wisdom so that we don't destroy the planet before today's grandchildren get a chance to enjoy what it has to offer its stewards.

That's for the next post, though. The newest round of thunderstorms has arrived, and I should probably get off the computer.