Alan Rhodes

Plague Days

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Susan and I take a walk in Whatcom Falls Park, going early before too many people are on the trails. We cross the mossy sandstone bridge at the falls, a beautiful structure built in 1939 by the Works Progress Administration during Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. As my parents passed through the difficult days of the Great Depression and World War II, they turned on their radio at night to listen to the warm and reassuring voice of FDR delivering one of his fireside chats. They had the good fortune to be led through troubled times by one of the nation’s greatest presidents. We are not so fortunate.

This thought stays in my mind for a while, darkening my mood, but then we approach Scudder Pond where red-winged blackbirds flutter through the reeds and mist. It is a Japanese nature painting come to life. We linger before the scene. The poet Wallace Stevens wrote, “A man and a woman / Are one / A man and a woman and a blackbird / Are one.” A wise and lovely insight that alters my mood for the better.

As a member of a vulnerable demographic, I have been thinking often lately about my own mortality. I do not believe in an afterlife, but if such a thing existed, I would want red-winged blackbirds to be there.

A friend sends out a group email. She is doing volunteer work, helping distribute Food Bank groceries at pickup locations. This sometimes places her in close contact with others. She asks if anyone has a mask they can give her. The next morning she finds a bag sitting by her front door. Inside are masks and chocolates.

The phone rings, a call from old friends in another state. They joke that as they picked up the phone to call they realized that since they haven’t been anywhere or done anything, they don’t have anything to talk about. We still manage to carry on a long conversation. Later in the day I can’t remember anything that was said. It’s not important. Hearing their voices and knowing they are well is all that matters.

For a long time I’ve been meaning to reread Tolstoy’s War and Peace. This seems as opportune a time as I’m likely to get. As I lose myself in the lives of Pierre Bezukhov, Natasha Rostov, and Andrei Bolkonsky, I feel as though I’m reuniting with old friends. The story unfolds during a brutal era, Napolean’s invasion of Russia. The historical events that form the background of the story have faded into history. It is great literature that endures.

We frequently walk in different neighborhoods around town. As we approach other walkers, they shift to the far side of the street unless we have already begun doing so. Though we are distancing, I have never encountered so many strangers who wave, ask how you’re doing, and wish you well.

If we pass the house of friends we will stop and call them. Some of our most gratifying conversations have been during these times, standing with friends in their front yards six feet apart.
For years I taught Advanced Placement English to high school seniors. One of the books we read was Albert Camus’ novel The Plague. Set in the 1940s in a quarantined Algerian city, the novel explores how individuals react to the crisis. In the final section of the book Camus writes, “What we learn in time of pestilence: that there are more things to admire in men than to despise.”

COVID-19 has indeed brought out the despicable: the hoarders, the price gougers, the scammers, the thugs who spew racist abuse at Chinese people or send death threats to Dr. Fauci. But for every reprehensible person taking the low road, there are thousands of individuals performing acts of generosity and kindness. A woman sits at her sewing machine making masks to donate to those who need them. A neighbor grocery shops for the elderly folks next door who are afraid to go out. A couple, seeing that there’s a little money left over after paying the monthly bills, writes a check to a cash-strapped charity. A restaurant owner who had to lay off his workers supplies them with free takeout meals. A classical violinist gives a solo concert on her front porch, bringing a moment of beauty to passersby.

“No longer were there individual destinies;” Camus writes, “only a collective destiny, made of plague and emotions shared by all.”

Alan Rhodes can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Past Columns
Celebrating Spring

April 14, 2021

COVID and Craziness

February 17, 2021

Good Riddance, 2020

December 23, 2020

Politics on the Home Front

October 28, 2020

Poetry in Pandemic

September 16, 2020

Covidiots Unmasked

July 8, 2020

A Letter to Howard

June 24, 2020

Harmony from Discord

March 4, 2020

Mr. Cranky Plans His Year

January 8, 2020

Year-End Housecleaning

December 25, 2019

The Lilliputian Gazette

November 20, 2019

Election Elucidations

October 15, 2019

Buying Sedro-Woolley

September 4, 2019

Monday
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11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

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Tuesday
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10:00am

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10:00am

View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

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11:00am

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11:00am

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Art-iversary Exhibit

10:00am

From 10am-5:30pm Mondays through Saturdays through April 30, celebrate 20 years of ownership for Sheri Wright of Fourth Corner Frames, 311 W. Holly St. A wide variety of works are for sale as…

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10:00am

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11:00am

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11:00am

From 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday, visit La Conner’s Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, 703 S. Second St. Currently on display are “Scatter Sunshine: La Conner in Bloom…

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11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

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11:00am

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11:00am

Vases, planters and drinking vessels by Briggs Shore will be on display and for sale from 11am-5pm Mondays through Saturdays (closed Tuesdays) and 12pm-5pm Sundays through April 30 at Good…

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10:00am

From 10am-5:30pm Mondays through Saturdays through April 30, celebrate 20 years of ownership for Sheri Wright of Fourth Corner Frames, 311 W. Holly St. A wide variety of works are for sale as…

An Artist's Universe

10:00am

View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

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11:00am

From 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday, visit La Conner’s Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, 703 S. Second St. Currently on display are “Scatter Sunshine: La Conner in Bloom…

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11:00am

A “Recycled Art & Resource Expo” can be visited from 11am-4pm Tuesdays through Saturdays through April 30 at Allied Arts, 1418 Cornwall Ave. In addition to providing a platform for…

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11:00am

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Vases, planters and drinking vessels by Briggs Shore will be on display and for sale from 11am-5pm Mondays through Saturdays (closed Tuesdays) and 12pm-5pm Sundays through April 30 at Good…

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11:00am

The fifth annual “Tulip Poster Artists, Past and Present” exhibit can be seen from 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday through May 2 in Anacortes at the Scott Milo Gallery, 420 Commercial Ave.…

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11:00am

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11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

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12:00pm

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12:00pm

View “Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Voices of Native American Women,” “Fluid Formations: The Legacy of Glass in the Pacific Northwest,” “Jac Trautman: The Specter of the Indigenous,”…

An Artist's Universe

10:00am

View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

McKnight and DeLacy

10:00am

Mixed-media works by Bainbridge Island-based artist Aaron McKnight and sculptures by Marceil DeLacy can be viewed from 10am-5pm Fridays through Sundays through April 25 in Edison at Smith &…

Art-iversary Exhibit

10:00am

From 10am-5:30pm Mondays through Saturdays through April 30, celebrate 20 years of ownership for Sheri Wright of Fourth Corner Frames, 311 W. Holly St. A wide variety of works are for sale as…

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11:00am

“The Work of Jesus Guillen: An Artistic Legacy of Love and Courage” can be seen from 11am-4pm Fridays through Sundays through May 2 in La Conner at the Skagit County Historical Museum, 501 S.…

Recycled Art & Resource Expo

11:00am

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11:00am

“Rock, Paper, Paint” shows from 11am-4pm Fridays through Sundays through April 25 in Edison at i.e. gallery, 5800 Cains Court. The exhibit features new “drop” oil paintings by Allen Moe, rock…

Spring Into Art

11:00am

View works by Stanwood-Camano Arts Guild members from 11am-5pm Wed.-Sat. in Stanwood at A Guilded Gallery, 8700 271st St. NW. A “Spring Into Art” regional juried art show can be seen through…

Briggs Shore at Good Earth

11:00am

Vases, planters and drinking vessels by Briggs Shore will be on display and for sale from 11am-5pm Mondays through Saturdays (closed Tuesdays) and 12pm-5pm Sundays through April 30 at Good…

Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

Origins and Evolutions Exhibit

11:00am

“Origins and Evolutions: Five Generations” can be seen from 11am-4pm Tues.-Thurs., and by appointment, at least through May 22 at Gallery Syre, 465 Stuart Rd. The show gathers together…

Tulip Poster Artists, Past and Present

11:00am

The fifth annual “Tulip Poster Artists, Past and Present” exhibit can be seen from 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday through May 2 in Anacortes at the Scott Milo Gallery, 420 Commercial Ave.…

Sculpture Northwest Exhibit

11:00am

The works of 15 Sculpture Northwest artists can be viewed both indoors and out from 11am-5pm Fridays through Sundays (and by appointment) through April 23 on Camano Island at Matzke Fine Art…

Scatter Sunshine

11:00am

From 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday, visit La Conner’s Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, 703 S. Second St. Currently on display are “Scatter Sunshine: La Conner in Bloom…

Spring Juried Exhibit and More

12:00pm

A “Spring Juried Exhibit,” “Winter Textile Explorations,” Lisa McShane’s “A Decade of Landscapes,” and Ron Pattern’s “The Seasonal Forest” can be viewed from 12pm-4:30pm Thursdays through…

Seeds of Culture at Whatcom Museum

12:00pm

View “Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Voices of Native American Women,” “Fluid Formations: The Legacy of Glass in the Pacific Northwest,” “Jac Trautman: The Specter of the Indigenous,”…

A Road Well Traveled

12:00pm

“Max Benjamin: A Road Well Traveled” can be seen from 12pm-4pm Thursdays through Sundays at La Conner’s Museum of Northwest Art, 121 First St. The solo exhibit featuring the work of the…

An Artist's Universe

10:00am

View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

McKnight and DeLacy

10:00am

Mixed-media works by Bainbridge Island-based artist Aaron McKnight and sculptures by Marceil DeLacy can be viewed from 10am-5pm Fridays through Sundays through April 25 in Edison at Smith &…

Briggs Shore at Good Earth

11:00am

Vases, planters and drinking vessels by Briggs Shore will be on display and for sale from 11am-5pm Mondays through Saturdays (closed Tuesdays) and 12pm-5pm Sundays through April 30 at Good…

Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

Tulip Poster Artists, Past and Present

11:00am

The fifth annual “Tulip Poster Artists, Past and Present” exhibit can be seen from 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday through May 2 in Anacortes at the Scott Milo Gallery, 420 Commercial Ave.…

Scatter Sunshine

11:00am

From 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday, visit La Conner’s Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, 703 S. Second St. Currently on display are “Scatter Sunshine: La Conner in Bloom…

The Work of Jesus Guillén

11:00am

“The Work of Jesus Guillen: An Artistic Legacy of Love and Courage” can be seen from 11am-4pm Fridays through Sundays through May 2 in La Conner at the Skagit County Historical Museum, 501 S.…

Rock, Paper, Paint

11:00am

“Rock, Paper, Paint” shows from 11am-4pm Fridays through Sundays through April 25 in Edison at i.e. gallery, 5800 Cains Court. The exhibit features new “drop” oil paintings by Allen Moe, rock…

Sculpture Northwest Exhibit

11:00am

The works of 15 Sculpture Northwest artists can be viewed both indoors and out from 11am-5pm Fridays through Sundays (and by appointment) through April 23 on Camano Island at Matzke Fine Art…

A Road Well Traveled

12:00pm

“Max Benjamin: A Road Well Traveled” can be seen from 12pm-4pm Thursdays through Sundays at La Conner’s Museum of Northwest Art, 121 First St. The solo exhibit featuring the work of the…

Seeds of Culture at Whatcom Museum

12:00pm

View “Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Voices of Native American Women,” “Fluid Formations: The Legacy of Glass in the Pacific Northwest,” “Jac Trautman: The Specter of the Indigenous,”…

Art-iversary Exhibit

10:00am

From 10am-5:30pm Mondays through Saturdays through April 30, celebrate 20 years of ownership for Sheri Wright of Fourth Corner Frames, 311 W. Holly St. A wide variety of works are for sale as…

Seeds of Culture at Whatcom Museum

12:00pm

View “Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Voices of Native American Women,” “Fluid Formations: The Legacy of Glass in the Pacific Northwest,” “Jac Trautman: The Specter of the Indigenous,”…