June 28, 1966 Wisconsin Conservation Department photographer, Dean Tvedt, with camera equipment doing field work. Copyright The State of Wisconsin Collection, UW-Madison Libraries
One of the Lucky Ones
Feb 9, 2021
I am one of the lucky ones.
All around me however, are people who are not. To varying degrees, the suffering and hardship compounds the plague that is this virus while a parallel infection of a different sort grips the minds of far too many.
It has been a mostly silent year. Silent but for the noise that has encompassed everyday life. The untold strife as we all put on our best faces for those who know us and paticularly – if you have them – our children. Silent especially as the sounds and celebrations that we all took for granted as commonplace take on an eerie otherworldliness. But the world will return. It may not ever be as it was but that is largely up to us. In some ways, perhaps this is necessary to shake us from our collective stupor; to reset the coordinates and proceed warp speed toward survival.
The duplicitous nature of these current times cannot be dismissed. We face a darkness like we’ve not known from two fronts: the inescapable realization that we hurtle towards extinction on an environmental front and the extinguishment of civility as an oppressive wave of authoritarianism grips the globe. As Robert J. says in his song, “Oh Say Can You See,” “Welcome to the new dark ages.”
Sitting down to write this has been a long time coming. Many of you reading this are musicians, music appreciators or creatives of some other sort. Those who have had a more habitual regimen for their creativity have probably found it easier to express themselves. For the rest of us, from my experience, it has been hard. Hard enough just to summon the will required to get through the day. Many of you, like me, go to work but then come home to more work: a second job, a third one as a sideline, kids and all the challenges that remote learning has wrought and quite honestly, just to stay in touch with a world where madness escalates exponentially on a daily basis. That has been hard. Easier to cozy up with the family, the dogs, domesticity. The rest that is required to face it all again the next day. Squeezing the creative headspace into all this has proven immeasurably challenging. It has been an overdose of reality and the hangover never stops.
As I continue to write this it is now February 11th. I began this piece on the 9th as the dateline indicates. I was typing from the 8th floor of St. Mary’s Hospital after being summoned there on the 8th as my father’s condition worsened. They put me in an airflow helmet that incorporated a face covering and a shield, rubber gloves and a protective gown of sorts. My brother was allowed in later that day. Just after I finished the preceding paragraph, my 96-year-old father passed away. Goddamn virus and those who enabled it. We know who you are.
Through all of this, I’ve remained employed. My wife Kate is an employee at St. Mary’s. She too has uninterrupted employment. My kids at home get up every day on their own. They attend virtual learning, most days without any adult supervision. They do their homework and they have household chores. They’re getting As and Bs. My older son has also had uninterrupted employment; lucky to escape the Post Office before it was corrupted by evil. He lives alone – isolated and lonely but he’s been healthy. We all have food on the table.
I am one of the lucky ones.
I’m hoping to get back on track with this publication but, as you can see, even the best intentions can be interrupted by tragedy. Tragedy on tragedy. Exhaustion. So I’m apologizing to those who have sent me materials and for those writings that haven’t gotten done yet. All the musical goings-on that I want to help disseminate.
We’ll keep our fingers crossed that 2021 walks us back from the edge. That the forces behind this insane darkness don’t swallow us up. We need to get back to the work of making the world a better place; work in which art and music so vitally play their part. We will need more than luck.