What's Tony Thinking

And Now . . . More of the Same


Yesterday Washington’s Governor, Jay Inslee, extended his stay at home/ shelter in place orders through the end of the month. They had been slated to expire on Monday, May 4.

I get the extension, but I gotta say it felt a little like having the air knocked out of me. Or the wind out of my sails. Or . . . well, you get the idea.

My grandmother, Victoria, had an expression. “The anticipates.” If I asked “How are you, Grandma?” she would sometimes say that she “had the anticipates,” meaning she was looking forward to something, maybe a visit from yours truly.

I had the anticipates about the merry month of May. I thought we (Linda and I) might strike out, maybe mid-month, for a visit to the Wallowas and the annual “opening up” of the cabin. I thought there would be some beginnings of whatever “opening up” of the regular and business life of Seattle would look like as we eased into May. Both may still happen, but they are looking less likely.

It’s a bit of a tough pill to swallow. I know, I have it easy. I really do. A nice place to live, good company. Good health. I still have monthly checks coming in. I get outside every day for a run, walk or bike ride. We stay in touch with friends and family via ZOOM and FaceTime and the usual. It’s all true, but golly . . . there are days that it is hard.

And what’s hardest is how little we know about what we’re up against and how it may be worse, longer and harder, than I/ we thought. I don’t want to do gloom and doom. But . . . the well-known Minnesota virologist, Mike Osterholm, said yesterday that, “We’re in the second inning of a nine inning ballgame.” I was hoping for something more like bottom of the eighth or top of the ninth.

At Post Alley, Tom Corddry has a good piece on how complex this virus is and how many unknowns remain. It’s longish, but worth the effort. Here’s a one paragraph excerpt:

“With each new story, the SARS CoV-2 virus is revealed to be a more enigmatic and dangerous adversary. It first presented as a respiratory virus, but appears to have broader skills with darker consequences that don’t always resolve when the respiratory symptoms do. As the dark side of this virus becomes clearer, the idea that perhaps we should just ‘let nature take its course’ and pay the price in extra deaths in the uncertain hope of achieving herd immunity becomes harder to defend, and the case for continued aggressive control through social distancing, despite the high cost, grows stronger.”

Even if Corddry is right that the “idea that perhaps we should just ‘let nature take its course’ . . . does become harder to defend,” those urging that course of action are likely to grow louder.

So, for now, for today, I’m drawing deep breaths, trying to get the boat righted and the wind back in the sails.

I’m preaching tomorrow on the gospel lesson from John 10. This fourth Sunday after Easter is always known as “Good Shepherd Sunday” because John 10 is filled with sheep and shepherd imagery. In John we’re both, sheep and shepherds, which strikes me as particularly true in this present strange and difficult time.

Some days I feel more sheep-like, that is, vulnerable, confused and stupid. Other days more shepherd-like, concerned for others, watching out for the vulnerable ones, caring and soldiering on. Life is like that. Though we may not find the biblical image of ourselves as sheep all that flattering, we are both, vulnerable sheep with a penchant for getting into life’s brambles and caring shepherds with a great capacity to give and care.

But these days, and in this particular time, one of its qualities may be that the oscillation between a sheep-y sense of anxiety and vulnerability, and a shepherd-y sense of confidence and care, that back and forth, is more rapid than normal. Baaaaa . . .


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