Allergies in the Age of Covid-19


I am fortunate. I live on four acres with trails and gardens, and I have a peaceful walk to the river and the bay. I can be outside from sunrise to sunset without ever seeing anybody, and I can wander at will to watch the eagles trade calls with the osprey, watch the fishing boats out toward the mouth of the river, and I can breathe deep and feel about as healthy as one can possibly feel.

Well, except for my stuffy nose, my fatigue, and my headaches, which have come to stay for a while as they do every year about this time if I don’t medicate just a little and shower a lot. It’s a bit unnerving having allergies which bring on headaches and fatigue the same time as the appearance of the Coronavirus known for some of those same symptoms.

But I tolerate the meds (or, more commonly the last few years, a lot of green tea) for the sake of such beauty. Living in the country has the benefits I’ve long touted on this page, especially in Spring. The buds on the oaks are changing the tone of the sky from dark blue to a hazy blue with speckles of green, interrupted only by the white blossoms on the apple trees a few feet closer. The daffodils have come and gone but the tulips are pushing through now, and the azaleas are ready to explode.

The white flowers on the laurel bushes are still a month off, but between now and then the honeysuckle will fill the woods from here to the river, and the early wheat across the fields will be knee high. I’ve not yet planted the garden; not going anywhere has interrupted my normal routine just a bit, but I have seeds inside I’m ready to sow so they will break ground or perhaps even blossom by the time we can interact with each other again.

It is Spring, and the rains from the west combined with the bay breezes have awakened every aspect of life, from the bees which I saw again this week, to the Carolina wrens headed back north, to the return of the osprey in the marsh where eagles have nested most of the winter. The farmer across the way will drive his tractors and thrashers and slow us down on the main road as I try and head to the village. He’ll pull into a field to let a row of cars by as he gives a small wave. I most likely would have seen him at The Galley in a few days if the Galley was open for anything other than take out.

The river is changing as well, turning to her normal choppiness this time of year as the March winds wake up the waves clear across the reach so that sculling to Windmill point is, well, pointless. But the breezes, oh they are soft again, and warm, with a touch of salt and the fragrances of goldenrod which, anyway, has turned my dark grey car yellow, the site of which ironically calms my nerves when I wonder if my headache and my fatigue are allergies or, you know….(insert a whisper here)…covid-19.

A quick shower clears away the coating and I can breathe again and have energy again and feel excellent, awakening in me the realization that this time of year I nearly always quarantine myself anyway. Problem is, of course, at my age, I’m only looking at so many more Springs, maybe two decades if genetics stays true. That’s just one score of springs and a few odd years before the allergies alone can cause havoc with my respiratory system.

A quick review of this short dirge seems on the surface to indicate some depressing thoughts until now, but that’s only half true. I don’t sit around and count how many seasons I have until I’m eighty, if I ever am eighty. I really don’t. In the normal doings of life it never crosses my mind. But the news, well, the news has been gray at best, and it doesn’t take much for me to ease down that slippery slope of understanding time’s limitations.

I prefer to think of such an acute awareness of how many Spring’s I have left in me like I do the proctor at a timed exam. She might glance at the clock every once in awhile and call out, “Thirty more minutes,” and everyone looks at the clock in unison and everyone takes a deep breathe, lets out a whisper of a curse, and presses down just a bit harder with the pencil, scribbling a bit faster. I don’t mind the warnings, the head’s up. They awaken in me just enough anxiety to appreciate better the weeding I need to do in the rose garden running along the woods behind the house, or thinking about my ambition to rake away the leaves running along the four hundred foot driveway to plant bulbs and wildflowers, which anyway won’t bloom this year, but soon.

But I’m only out in this wilderness because I can return to town, sit and have a drink with friends, laugh, touch each other’s arms when we tell a story, give a hug to those I haven’t seen in some time. That’s life—that contact, that human touch. Even Thoreau ate dinner at Ralph Emerson’s place on occasion. I’m going for a hike through the woods and then to beachcomb for a bit. I wade calf-deep and then slip the flip flops back on and walk the hill to the house, maybe call a friend who anyway is probably out on a hike as well. We are never alone in this being alone, as Gordon Sumner once wrote. Nor do I ever want to be.


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