Shelter in Place: Day 10

Today, beloved readers, we break into the double digits.

Today, I will share a confession. As a child and a young person, I would often wish, “Oh, if only something BIG would happen in my lifetime.” I looked at the writers I considered to be “serious” writers, and saw them writing to the catastrophes of their times. I looked at my writing and saw a lack of depth. In my younger years, I believed this was due solely to the gravity of the subject matter.

Now, of course, I find that the BIG something has arrived, and I am woefully unprepared to meet it. How to write about a collapsing event in human history? A change this massive and sweeping I usually think of in terms of years or decades, not in months, weeks, even days.

3 million people (in the U.S. alone) lost their jobs last week. I for the life of me don’t know why I’m not one of them. I can’t wrap my head around it. So I turn to what I do know which is ecology.

Today, I walked through the streets of my neighborhood, wondering at the quiet. The slightest sound echoed down the canyons of houses. I stood for a full minute and watched a mockingbird on the telephone wire, and wondered what will happen when we are gone.

In population ecology, it is understood that the larger a population, especially a concentrated population, the greater the risk of infectious disease. The host density is high making it easy for a disease to find hosts and remain alive.

This is especially true of mono-cultures: populations consisting of only one species.

We saw it with the Dutch elm disease of the 1930s and 40s.

Unfortunately, although we have attempted to forget the laws of nature, the laws of nature have not forgotten us.

Something BIG is happening, has been happening for longer than this singular catastrophe. Something BIG is sweeping us along, and we need to learn from it or die. Not just in the millions or even billions, but as a species.

We are not immune from the laws of ecology any more than we are immune from the laws of physics.

But to that end, I also take hope.

As anyone who has spent time around prairies knows, from time to time a great fire will sweep the plain. In these fires, much of the ground cover is destroyed, hundreds or thousands of organisms die. The world becomes for a time still and eerily quiet.

But as anyone who has spent time around prairies also knows, prairie roots run deep, and from the ashes rises a new generation of life.

I can only hope I have something meaningful to contribute.

Much love,


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