30 June, VIRUS 2020

Coronavirus pandemic ‘is not even close to being over’, WHO chief warns: ‘The hard reality is that this is not even close to being over. Although many countries have made some progress globally, the pandemic is actually speeding up.’ SMH

Andrews says almost 1,000 people refused to have COVID-19 tests as Melbourne suburbs locked down. ABC

Snowpeas or Bust! Snowpeas are go!  And right now is your last chance to  sow these little gems. I love Bello Shire

Plastic Free July: Now’s the perfect time to put a plan in place to reduce or eliminate single-use plastics from your life. I love Bello Shire

Urgent intervention needed: NSW koalas on course to be extinct in the wild before 2050, inquiry finds. SMH

War-hit Afghan hospitals overwhelmed by Covid-19: Corruption, medical supply shortages and militant attacks have deepened the country’s health crisis. BBC

‘It’s genocide, full stop’: China imposes forced abortion, sterilisation on Uyghurs. ABC

Victoria’s ‘silent tragedy’ of Indigenous suicide sparks calls for urgent intervention. The Guardian

This morning I rang my mother, still in lockdown but cheered by cooler temperatures and her evening’s TV. First, a documentary on the famous café in Venice, they can’t cook food there, have to bring it in. I have passed it by a number of times, never dreaming of going in, frugal traveller. And she watched the last episode of the old BBC adaption of Pride and Prejudice. The cash machine has stopped working. She is running out of money, I say, you will have to walk the streets. She laughs, I‘m 94, I won’t get much money. We always laugh, no matter how sad she is, still under lockdown, alone in her flat in the care village.

~

Falling unwell/asleep on the top deck, opening my eyes to a tree, a self-seeded Blackbutt, nine years old, and now much taller than the three-story house. The breeze twirling the healthy foliage like a sexy dancer’s skirt, showing long white limbs forking below.
Beside me, the Acacia fimbriata is speckled with buds, and among them the very first wattle flowers have burst like fireworks.
Though the Blackwood (Sally Wattle) next to the bush-house flowered miserly a few weeks ago. But this is the tree the King Parrots love, I have seen thirteen in it eating the seeds.
After the bushfires, there’s no time to lose: YOUR DONATION TRIPLED!  Donate before midnight tonight and your donation will be TRIPLED dollar-for-dollar by a very generous supporter, up to $35,000. Last summer’s fires saw the largest single loss of wildlife in modern history. Many struggling Australian species have now been pushed even further towards the brink of extinction.
It’s time to unite. Will you help us take the lead for our wildlife?

How could I resist? The site suggests that my $50 ‘could help restore native habitats for the critically endangered Kangaroo Island dunnart.’ WWF Australia email

Koala populations and habitat in New South Wales, Report 3 has just been released. [Report PDF here https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/lcdocs/inquiries/2536/Koala%20populations%20and%20habitat%20in%20New%20South%20Wales%20-%20Report%203.pdf

‘The committee has made 42 recommendations to help ensure the future of the koala. I urge the government to implement them without delay. There were a number of draft recommendations that unfortunately did not receive majority support from committee members, such as the need for a moratorium on logging in public native forests. However, it was extremely encouraging that the vast majority of recommendations were supported by all committee members.’ Chair’s foreword, Cate Faehrmann MLC.

There were 16 findings in all:

Finding 1 That following the 2019-2020 bushfires and the general trend of population decline, the current estimated number of 36,000 koalas in New South Wales is outdated and unreliable.

Finding 2 That, given the scale of loss to koala populations across New South Wales as a result of the 2019-2020 bushfires and without urgent government intervention to protect habitat and address all other threats, the koala will become extinct in New South Wales before 2050.

Finding 3 That logging in public native forests in New South Wales has had cumulative impacts on koalas over many years because it has reduced the maturity, size and availability of preferred feed and roost trees.

Finding 4 That the fragmentation and loss of habitat poses the most serious threat to koala populations in New South Wales.

Finding 5 That the future of koalas in the wild in New South Wales cannot be guaranteed unless the NSW Government takes stronger action to prevent further loss of koala habitat.

Recommendation 41 states: ‘That the NSW Government investigate the establishment of the Great Koala National Park, and her encouragement that the government do this without delay.’ We have been fighting for this!!

NSW Environment Minster Matt Kean thanked the committee for its work, gave no indication about what recommendations might be adopted. He said, ‘Koalas are an iconic Australian animal recognised the world over, and a national treasure which we will do everything we can to protect for future generations. That’s why the NSW Government has committed to our $44 million koala strategy, the largest financial commitment to protecting koalas in the State’s history.’[1] Yet still allowing logging in native forests!!!!!!
A pair of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos disappear.

~

The New Yorker has an essay, ‘Why Anxious Readers Under Quarantine Turn to ‘Mrs. Dalloway’.’[2]

The novel’s opening pages are probably the most ecstatic representation of running errands in the Western canon . . . At a time when our most ordinary acts—shopping, taking a walk—have come to seem momentous, a matter of life or death, Clarissa’s vision of everyday shopping as a high-stakes adventure resonates in a peculiar way.[3]

Clarissa Dalloway is on a morning expedition in search decorations for a party she is giving that that evening. Clarissa’s heart had been affected by the Spanish Flu, ‘she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day.’ Woolf herself caught influenza a half-dozen times between 1916 and 1925, and was bedridden frequently.

Blue lips. Blackened skin. Blood leaking from noses and mouths. Coughing fits so intense they ripped muscles. Crippling headaches and body pains that felt like torture. These were the symptoms of a disease that was first recorded in Haskell County, Kansas, January 1918. [4]

This virus led to between 50 and 100 million deaths in 1918 and 1919. It first gained attention in Spain which being neutral was not censoring news as all the other countries were and it became associated with Spain. Its origins are probably the USA or France. It came in three waves (Spring 1918, Autumn 1918, and Winter 1919) and the second wave was unusually deadly, and unusually, targeted healthy young adults.

The total number of deaths in the Great War was half of that. [5] Yet, as Elizabeth Outka notes, ‘The millions of flu deaths didn’t (and don’t) count as history in the ways the war casualties did.’ [6]

~

This virus keeps surprising us, apart from the three main symptoms: dry cough, fever, and difficulty breathing, you can lose your sense of smell or taste in early onset, experience dizziness, muscle aches and chills, diarrhoea and nausea. Marks can appear around the toes like chickenpox, or purple lesions that disappear. Now dialysis machines are in short supply because kidneys are affected, some feel a general uneasiness and foe a few the brain is damaged. The lungs are the most affected organa and the virus can inflict long term damage.

I am a fan of Woolf’s ‘A Room of my Own’: ‘So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.’ I have visited

‘What is meant by ‘reality’? It would seem to be something very erratic, very undependable—now to be found in a dusty road, now in a scrap of newspaper in the street, now a daffodil in the sun.’

I have visited Monk’s House, a 16th C weatherboard cottage she and Leonard Woolf lived in and gardened around. She wrote ‘A Room of One’s Own’ while having her own bedroom built here –with no indoor access to the rest of the house. It is packed with books and artwork by her sister, Vanessa Bell, who lived nearby at Charleston Farmhouse. I saw it when it had just opened. The BBC were filming behind the floating woman and yellow irises (has recently been ‘done up’). Both houses were outposts of the Bloomsbury Group.
[How strange to see a ‘spring’ jonquil flowering mid winter in our garden next to a Frangipani.

I have been to Sissinghurst a number of times, that great garden created by Harold Nicolson and his wife, Vita Sackville-West (Woolf’s lover from 1925 then after three passionate years fading to an end in 1935). Vita was a writer too and her study in the tower has huge tapestry of a garden hanging over the desk.

Dearest Creature,

. . . There’s only one person I want to see, and she has no burning wish for anything but a rose red tower and a view of hop gardens and oasts.  Who could it be? It is said that she has written a poem and has a mother, a cow, and a moat. [7]

I have seen the spot close by Monk’s House on the River Ouse where she drowned herself with pockets full of pebbles. I wondered how it was possible in this sweet running shallow English river.

Clarissa Dalloway at the beginning of the novel goes to buy cut flowers for her party. She, ‘cared much more for her roses than for Armenians. Hunted out of existence, maimed, frozen, the victims of cruelty and injustice . . .no, she could feel nothing for the Albanians, or was it Armenians? But she loved her roses (didn’t that help the Armenians?)’ [8]

~

The Führer, I may add, has a passion for cut flowers in his home, as well as for music. Every morning at nine he goes out for a walk with his gardeners about their day’s work. These men, like the chauffeur and air-pilot, are not so much servants as local friends. . . .On such a day, when State affairs are over, the Squire himself, attended by some of his guests, will stroll through the woods into hamlets above and below. There rustics sit at cottage doors carving trinkets and toys in wood, ivory, and bone. It is then the little ones are invited to the house.

Coffee, cakes, fruits, and sweets are laid for them on trestle tables in the grassy orchards. Then Frauen Goebbels and Göring, in dainty Bavarian dress, perform dances and folk-songs, while the bolder spirits are given joy-rides in Herr Hitler’s  private airplane.‘ This place is mine,’ he says simply.  ‘I built it with money that I earned.’[9]

~

Slavoj Zizek begins: There is a wonderful expression in Persian, war nam nihadan, which means “to murder somebody, bury his body, then grow flowers over the body to conceal it. [10]

‘All those Iranians I met in two trips in the seventies, what did I know

in that forgotten war: – ‘They were all volunteers.

They were all ages fourteen, fifteen and sixteen to twenty.

 

They were there to turn a mine field into a rose garden.

They were blossoms in full bloom. They would rise before dawn,

which is the time for roses to open up their petals.

 

They would then run over the mines, creating a dust storm

that roared like thunder … And then the dust storm

would settle and a blessed silence would cover the field. . .

 

It was as if the sky had rained flesh and blood

and pieces of broken bone on that field.’ . . .  from my poem ‘The Art of Forgetting’

Fields of war! The Trojan plain could not colour such sunsets.
Tehran newspaper Ettelaat, 30.1.1982.[11]

~

Eden was the only garden without weeds or infestations. Even a compassionate garden has to kill, but we do not buy cut flowers or pick flowers unless they are damaged, windblown, rain beaten. Michael Pollan notes that at the end of Walden’s bean field chapter, Thoreau cannot any longer take the guilt involved in ‘weeding and warring with pests [he] trudges back to the Emersonian fold, renewing his uncritical worship of the wild.’ [12]

When Basho the Zen poet saw a flower he left it there and unromantically writes thus:

When closely inspected,
One notices a nazuma in bloom
Under the hedge.’ [13]

Sometimes, we pick up fallen flowers and put them in small bowls. Australian Hiryu Camelia

~

I thoroughly recommend an ABC radio program about racism, ‘The rallying cry heard the world over: Could Australia’s Black Lives Matter movement bring about real world change?’[14]

‘Let that sink in.’

Angel Bat Dawid had a most beautiful song I discovered last year: What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black, of what it means to be captive in this dark skin?[15] The lyrics are from a 1963 poem by Margaret Burroughs. Dawid features in a Guardian interview titled, ‘’When you’re black, being alive is a success’: Angel Bat Dawid, 2019’s brightest new jazz star.’[16] Hear here on YouTube.

 

[1] Bruce MacKenzie and Timothy Fernandez, ‘Koalas face extinction in New South Wales within 30 years, report warns’, ABC North Coast. 30 June 2020

[2] Evan Kindley, ‘Why Anxious Readers Under Quarantine Turn to “Mrs. Dalloway”’, New Yorker, April 10, 2020.

[3] Evan Kindley, ibid.

[4] https://www.history.com/news/spanish-flu

[5] ‘Includes about 9 to 11 million military personnel. The civilian death toll was about 11 million, including about 8 million of them which were due to war-related famine and disease and 3 million due to military actions and war crimes.’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I_casualties

[6] Elizabeth Outka, Viral Modernism: The Influenza Pandemic and Interwar Literature, Columbia UP, 2019.

[7] Woolf, ketter to Vita Sackville-West, May 25, 1932 when she fist visited Sissinghurst.

[8] Virginia Woolf. Dalloway. …

[9] November 1938, the English fashion magazine Homes & Gardens profiled on page 193-195 the home of Adolf Hitler, dictator, for its readers: ‘Hitler’s Mountain home, a visit to ‘Haus Wachenfeld’ in the Bavarian Alps, written and illustrated by Ignatius Phayre’. Ignatius Phayre a pseudonym (unknown) wrote a similar article for Country Life magazine (also owned by IPC) March 28, 1936.

[10] Slavoj Žižek, The Year of Dreaming Dangerously, Verso Books, 2012.

[11] Quoted by Roger Scruton, The West and the Rest, Continuum, 2002, p122.

[12] Michael Pollan, ‘Beyond Wilderness and Lawn’, Harvard Design Magazine No. 4, spring 1998.

[13] Nazuna id the Shepherd’s Purse. D. T. Suzuki, Essentials of Zen Buddhism, Ed. William Barrett, Rider & Co., 1963, p360-361.

[14] Bridget Brennan, Allan Clarke, Jared Goyette, ABC RN, 28 June 2020, rpt 30 June

[15] What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black, from The Oracle, 2019

[16] Angel Bat Dawid interviewed by Ben Beaumont-Thomas, The Guardian, 12 November, 2019