Partial to Home: Tangerine dream


Birney Imes



"Just a reminder that when Shakespeare was quarantined because of the plague, he wrote 'King Lear.' "


--Rosanne Cash, on Twitter, March 13, 2020




"If there was ever a moment to think about the future, it's now.


The coronavirus has plunged the world headfirst into an era of unity, solidarity, and rapid societal change that looks like a compressed version of what climate scientists have been warning us about for decades. We are part of a living ecosystem, and if we push it too far, it will break."


-- Eric Holthaus writing in "The Correspondent"



"Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do."


-- Wendell Berry



How slowly can you eat a tangerine?


This was my focus Wednesday morning while lounging in the grass alongside a rural Alabama road on a made-to-order spring day.


Employing a technique pioneered locally by Dudley Bearden, I had stashed a kayak in the woods under a bridge over the Buttahatchee and then driven to the next downstream bridge and parked the truck.


From there I was riding my bicycle back to the kayak where I would chain it to a tree before paddling downstream to the truck.


One problem: On a cool morning appropriate clothing for kayaking and cycling are not the same. I was freezing.


A leisurely tangerine in the sunshine as the earth warmed was just the thing.


The clatter of birds was the morning's soundtrack, they and the occasional passing vehicle.


I guess they would go on, those joyous music makers, whether we humans existed or not.


The surrounding landscape was strewn with the usual litter you see along Southern roadways: beer cans, Styrofoam fast-food cups and wrappers. All of it looked faded, though. Has the virus reduced our litter output?


Maybe COVID-19 is the planet's way of saying, "ENOUGH, ALREADY!"


An unanticipated consequence of the virus: Mother Earth catches her breath.


With workers working at their home, pollutants from cars and factories are reduced. Space agencies have released photos showing dramatically reduced air pollution over China.


Photos on Twitter show dolphins and fish swimming in Venice's once murky canals.


Shopping online has increased dramatically. According to "Business Insider," Amazon and Walmart are hiring a combined 250,000 people to fill and deliver orders.


A study published March 8 by a team of academic researchers offers evidence that environmental improvements wrought by the virus has saved more lives in China than the virus has taken.




We're all now -- or we should be -- considering how we engage with the environment.


Once the virus is behind us how many of these newly formed habits will stick?


This is not to dismiss the substantial emotional, financial and physical distress accompanying the COVID-19 virus. This pain is deep, widespread, and the sooner it is over the better, but there is real possibility of good coming from it.


Already, it has forced us to slow down. At certain times of the day the sidewalks on the streets of our Southside neighborhood are brimming with never-before-seen pedestrians.


Me, I'm going slowly with the tangerine. It's small, just the right combination of sweetness and sour. The sun and birds provide a perfect accompaniment.


Finished, I bask in the sunlight a bit longer listening to the music of nature.


Reluctantly, I get up to resume. As I lift the bike, my cell phone rings. It's a friend with whom I talk a couple times a week. I lay the bike back down and return to my roadside lounge.


There is no rush and the warm sun feels good on the skin.




Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.


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