Notes From a Pandemic: April 18th, 2020

by Miles Raymer

Greetings, dear friends of the present and curious citizens of the future.

Up to this point, these journals have focused almost entirely on how my habits and modes of thought have been disrupted and recast by a powerful pathogen. I’d like to take a moment now to reflect on the myriad ways in which life is the same as it’s always been. In the grand scheme of things, COVID-19 has tipped the scales just slightly, but in a way that seems to make all the difference.

I’ll draw an analogy here to my experience with psychedelics. One of the striking features of a mushroom or LSD trip is how a tiny dose of a certain chemical can cause me to feel as if my brain has been completely rewired––a perception that persists for hours and transforms itself in unpredictable ways. The change, however profound, is purely internal in the end, and no matter how far off the world’s edge I slide, my mind always rights itself, and the requirements of everyday life reassert their mundane and urgent needs. I carry some of the trip’s lessons and impressions back with me into sobriety, but the world itself remains constant, implacable. The trees stop their merry dance and simply sway again; the earth’s intense vibration smoothes out into the familiar palette of light and shadow. Boundaries unblur.

As with a drug trip, we’ll have to get through this pandemic in order to learn if and how it has changed us. But we can rest assured that the world will be waiting for us on the other side. Perhaps not our world as we recognize it, for much artifice may be adapted and reorganized in the meantime. But nature itself––its laws, its wonders, its terrors––are carrying on and will confront us once more when we awake from our present nightmare. I don’t always find this comforting, but right now I do. It’s good to remember that flowers bloom and bees buzz and gophers dig and waterfalls roar and predators hunt and prey evades and babies cry and glaciers flow and rain falls and winds howl and waves crash and leaves unfurl and branches break and birds call and fish dart and caverns drip and rocks erode and grass grows and everything that lives also dies. We are thrashing, but the universe remains calm.

Okay, let’s go to the numbers. Between this moment and my last journal one week ago:

  • The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world increased by a factor of  0.32 (32%)
  • Confirmed US cases increased by a factor of 0.41 (41%)
  • Confirmed California cases increased by a factor of 0.37 (37%)
  • Confirmed Humboldt County cases increased by a factor of 0.04 (4%)
  • Total US deaths increased by a factor of 0.98 (98%)
  • The US death rate is doubling every eight days
  • The US is now home to 31.14% of the world’s total confirmed cases, and 23.78% of the world’s total confirmed deaths

I don’t have much commentary on the statistics this week. It feels safe to say that we’ve exited the initial phase of exponential case growth and are now riding the curve’s flattened crest, at least as far as the United States, California, and Humboldt are concerned.

US Daily Cases

United States Daily Cases

CA Daily Cases

California Daily Cases

Humboldt Daily Cases

Humboldt Daily Cases

[Graph sources: COVID-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University, Humboldt Health Alert]

This is a great achievement, but as I discussed in my last journal, we’re going to have to stay vigilant and not foolishly fall back into our normal routines to stay ahead of COVID-19 and prevent new surges.

Colleagues stepping up

As the cannabis company I work for continues to battle its way through this crisis, I’ve been continually impressed by our Department Managers and their respective teams. The efforts we’ve made over the years to build solidarity and mutual trust are paying off right now. We definitely could have handled our initial COVID-19 response more gracefully, and have made additional mistakes since enacting a partial company shutdown on March 16th, but overall the company has remained strong as operating conditions have become more and more challenging. We won’t be out of the woods anytime soon, and the future is still riddled with uncertainty, but it feels good to start each new week knowing that we’re all doing our best and that we’re all in it together.

I have two colleagues in particular whose contributions stand out. The first is Ella, our Processing Manager. Ella is a lifelong Humboldt resident from a family that’s been here many generations; her connections and commitment to this community probably exceed that of any other employee. She leads our Processing Department (trim crew), which is by far the largest labor pool in our workforce. As such, Ella understands the gravity of the situation both in terms of what our survival means for the local economy and (most importantly) how our choices right now affect the livelihoods of our Manicurists. Her commitment to her team’s safety is second to none, and she has heroically devoted herself to reinventing her Department’s operations in order to bring it back online in a responsible and sustainable fashion. Somewhere along the way, she also found time to make beautiful masks for everyone.

NE Masks

The other colleague who has blown me away recently also happens to be my best friend, Tyler. In late 2018, Tyler left his position as one of our Head Cultivators and was promoted to Chief Operating Officer. This greatly increased his scope of responsibility, putting him in charge of four Departments that all have to coordinate smoothly: Cultivation, Processing, Packaging and Distribution. A year and a half later, I can say with absolute certainty that this is the best personnel decision to have been made in the company’s history. Not only was Tyler roughly a month ahead of the curve when it came to studying COVID-19′s global progress and modeling how it would impact our business, but he also created a Pandemic Preparedness and Response Plan that should allow us to safely operate in this strange new world. This emergency has tested the skills and capacities of this already-admirable man, and he’s tackled each new problem with his hallmark combination of good-naturedness and acute calculation.

What’s keeping me sane?

I’d never heard of the poet David Whyte until he was interviewed on Sam Harris’s Waking Up app some months ago. When I started listening, I was immediately entranced by Whyte’s elocutionary elegance, and by the grounded, growth-oriented tone of his poems. So I was thrilled to see that Whyte recently recorded a series of meditations for Waking Up called “Contemplative Action”. These guided meditations are my favorite of all the different styles I’ve tried so far. Each focuses on a single poem, which Whyte reads at least two times. His centering emphasis on repetition invites depth of thought, and he also provides commentary on the creative motivations driving each poem. As a neophyte meditator who often struggles to quiet his mind, it’s a joy to start the day by relinquishing my cognition to Whyte’s sonorous voice and poetic prowess.

I was honored to learn that my dear friend Danielle (AKA MsMerri) recorded my first pandemic journal and posted it on YouTube. She did a lovely job and I’m really grateful that my work provided her with some useful content. If you’re interested in learning more about this compassionate and sprightly lady, you can check out her YouTube channel here and her Patreon page here.

Like so many others, I was saddened to learn of John Prine‘s recent passing due to complications from COVID-19. I’m no aficionado, but my father played a lot of Prine’s music when I was growing up, and several of his songs left indelible marks on my memory. In a moment of inspiration yesterday morning, I recorded this a cappella version of his classic, “Angel From Montgomery“.

Until next time, be well, and good luck.

Global: 2,284,018 confirmed cases, 156,901 deaths

United States: 711,197 confirmed cases, 37,309 deaths

California: 29,426 confirmed cases, 1,057 deaths

Humboldt County: 52 confirmed cases, 0 deaths