Notes from the Lockdown

March-April  2020

We’re still in lockdown in Germany, with the restrictions slowly easing. I took these photos on March 23rd when I went for a long walk to get some sunshine and stretch my legs:

Lots in bloom as a cold wind blows. Petals rain down on me as I walk by. The birds sound happy, anyway! Yeah, it’s spring outside. I have the empty streets and garden paths almost completely to myself.

Pretty and peaceful out on the side streets

Then comes the disconnect: a children’s play area is marked in red and white tape. No entry! Closed due to the Novel Corona Virus!

I become aware of an intense fluttering sound. It takes me a minute, but finally I identify it: the wind is blowing so hard that it shakes the police tape around the other children’s Spielplatz. The tape’s rattling is the only thing I can hear beside the birds.

I shiver and pull my hat further down over my ears. I’ll walk again when it gets warmer. But, as I turn to head back home, I remind myself again of this: It’s springtime. The birds are singing.

Sun falls slant but bright in the March afternoon

Now, in April, the yards are beautiful. Stay safe everyone. Stay healthy.

NOTES: Text and photos © Jadi Campbell 2020. To see Uwe’s pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

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My Schizoid Loop

King Crimson is infamous for a song named 21st Century Schizoid Man.

Cat’s foot iron claw
Neurosurgeons scream for more
At paranoia’s poison door
Twenty first century schizoid man

Blood rack, barbed wire
Politicians’ funeral pyre
Innocents raped with napalm fire
Twenty first century schizoid man

Death seed blind man’s greed
Poets starving, children bleed
Nothing he’s got he really needs
Twenty first century schizoid man

Songwriters: Robert Fripp/Michael Rex Giles/Greg Lake/Ian Mcdonald/ Peter John Sinfield. 21st Century Schizoid Man (2004 original master edition) lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

That’s the opening soundtrack to days that are hard in lockdown. I’m fine most of the time. The sky is a blue I cannot remember ever seeing. Less pollution and few cars on the roads mean more and louder birds than before.

And I go for walks, and practice self-care. I love to cook, so that’s more than all right. I can take my time with elaborate recipes. Great way to channel my restlessness. Uwe and I live together in lockdown harmoniously most of the time.

Last night’s quiche

Some days, though,  I exist in a schizoid loop. I’m trapped in repeating cycles of WTF WTF WTF? Every couple of days I feel this: boom. I understand how we got to where we are right now. We’ve been pushing the envelope for decades. Why did we think we’d be exempt? Boom! But hard as I try, I cannot grasp how swiftly our world changed once that final roll of the cosmic dice was set in play.

We’ve been taken down by a virus, something you can’t even see without a microscope.

BOOM!

And fuck doing yoga, and meditating, and the crap version that’s all I can remember of the tai chi I learned from a Chinese man in my San Francisco neighborhood 40 years ago. What’s happening now overwhelms me. Forget trying to understand the point of view that claims we just need to get back to business as usual. That bullshit is literally killing us.

I gather myself back into a little ball and slowly unwind my cramped limbs and psyche. Writing helps more than anything. My first collection of short stories is taking shape as I try to deal with what’s happening.

I have friends with health issues who  live in  deadly serious lockdown. A few weeks into the self-quarantine the radio station I listen to played It’s All Too Much, a song from the Yellow Submarine album.  I’ve always loved this song! The Beatles were a big part of life’s soundtrack for my entire family, including my parents when they were alive.

My friend and her husband are Beatles fans too, and they turned me onto Radio Paradise in the first place. I was all smiles that morning, such fond associations and sweet memories all around. I thought, Hey, I’m gonna call her, and she answered her cell phone with a really cheery “Hi there!”

I lost it. I burst into tears and couldn’t stop crying. She hung on and waited for me to be able to speak, because that’s what friends do, and at some point my  crying jag stopped just as abruptly as it began. “That was not my plan when I dialed your number!” I said. “That’s the first time this has happened to me since this crisis began. I have a feeling it won’t be the last.”

And we had a really good laugh. I’m learning how to be less careful with my emotional balance, I figure if I need to weep then bring it on, because on some days crying is the single response that even approaches appropriate. I haven’t broken down since, but when I’m out for a walk and I see a family with little children in the distance, I feel those tears. Or when I hear from people I know in my present life, or from my past. Or anywhere else on the globe.

WTF WTF WTF?? I’m a hot mess, and that’s as it should be. If I find myself crying again, I’ll be in good company.

When I look into your eyes, your love is there for me
And the more I go inside, the more there is to see

It’s all too much for me to take
The love that’s shining all around you
Everywhere, it’s what you make
For us to take, it’s all too much

Songwriter: George Harrison. It’s All Too Much lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Stay safe everyone. Stay healthy.

NOTES: © Text Jadi Campbell 2020.  © Photos Uwe Hartmann 2020. To see Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de. Source: LyricFind

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Things are Different

Things are different now. Life goes on, I keep up my routines: Stretches of writing with occasional bursts of creativity. When the Muse does show up, it makes the trudgery worth it! Sporadic house cleaning (and when did our kitchen floor get so dirty?). Long walks out in the gardens five minutes from our apartment, those walks a get-me-out-of-the-house plea for freedom.

Some of the differences I can handle. Kind of. Stay at home to keep the world safe? I’m down with that idea. We are so all in this together.

But the small changes… those are the ones that make my stomach queasy. Here are the changes that are itty bitty things, letting me know life is altered:

  1. We know the owners of Diverso, the best Italian restaurant in our town. They initially had to close, of course. On the day Heidrun and Pasquale began offering takeaway, a Thursday, we ordered pizzas. We’ve done this every Thursday since then. Because we want to support our friends, because this is now the closest we can get to going out to eat, because Pasquale’s gourmet pizza includes gorgonzola cheese and shaved white truffle, and because there is nothing like cold pizza for breakfast the next day. Nothing.
  2. I use two ply of toilet paper now. I don’t know how many I used on average before the lockdown: I do know that the roll gets counted out now that it’s so hard to buy.
  3. There is a book exchange by the UBahn metro stop. It’s wonderful! – a red British phone booth, transformed into a spot to get new books and drop off old ones. I detour and go check it every single time I walk in that direction, because you never know when English language books might be on the shelves. I’ve seen Russian, Polish, French and Spanish books along with the majority German ones. After the first week of lockdown, I had a stack of finally-read books to pass along, and headed over to the phone booth. I entered it and when the heavy door swung shut, I thought “I just stepped inside a Petri dish. Ohhh shit.” I held my breath, shoved my books onto the top shelf where the foreign language books go, and got the hell out of there. Since then I scan the shelves for potential reading material before I open that door. I try not to breathe as I’m looking. And I hold the door open until I’m done.
  4. And then I use the little bottle of hand sanitizer that I began to carry everywhere with me. Touch a surface? Sterilize your hands. Repeat, as many times as needed.
  5. We have bottles of wine we got as gifts, or I’d been saving for a special occasion. Honey, if the current world situation doesn’t meet the definition of ‘special occasion’, nothing does. So I’m pulling those wines from the cellar to drink. I hope that if it’s a good bottle I won’t give into my desire to chug it. I want to treat life right now as special. If this is it, I want to celebrate the fact that Uwe and I are safe, and healthy, and have a roof over our heads, and are connected to everything.

 

 

Stay safe everyone. Stay healthy.

NOTES: © Text and photo Jadi Campbell 2020.  To see Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

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My Interview With Shaz’s Book Blog

Hear ye, hear ye, I was interviewed. Read it here. Shaz’s Book Blog. Sharon describes herself as a bookaholic and she asks great questions! This is a very cool blog.

I worked on the answers in Costa Rica and sent them to her as soon as we got home, and I can’t grasp what that sentence even means now.

Stay safe everyone. Stay healthy.

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2020. A To see Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

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Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Me and La Corona

I have a strange relationship with this novel corona virus. The virus first broke out in December in a Chinese city. I was in China, visiting my nephew who lives in the New Territories just forty-five minutes outside of Hong Kong. Then my sister and I flew to Mumbai, India for ten days. From there I flew to Germany for a few weeks before climbing back on another plane and heading to Costa Rica and Panama at the end of January. The pandemic and I had been circling one another around the globe for quite some time.

I got home at the start of March, finishing my longest concentrated period of traveling ever. It’s been about three weeks since the lockdown began. I thought I was coming back to my old routines after being on three different continents.

There were things I’d been meditating on while I was away. What did I want to do with my life when I got home again? Where should I focus? Instead, I’ve gone inward. I don’t mean contracting, or shrinking… I’m home, but the world I planned to return to is gone. Is it gone for another month? Longer? Forever? How do I mark the transition? Yeah, I feel myself going inward. This is the planet’s new milestone: before the virus, and after.

How can we honor earlier milestones? April 1st marked 28 years that I’ve been in Europe. A plane left America on March 31st twenty-eight years ago and landed in Frankfurt on April Fool’s Day. I’ve appreciated the joke (the joke on me, that is!) ever since.

This year is different. I’ve pretty much lost all concept of what day it is, much less what day of the month. The lockdown seems like it’s only lasted a few days – or an eternity. Such a long time; such a short time.

The other night I had no idea what the date was, the 3rd of April? The 4th? Maybe the 5th already? I thought it was the 5th, and that meant that for the first time I’d forgotten when our wedding anniversary rolled around. So I asked Uwe, “Isn’t today the 5th? Do you know?”

He had to check. “Sunday’s the 5th,” he answered. Uwe hadn’t seen the date creep up on us either.

After we established what day it was, we watched a film. It was my turn to pick, because we have to be really fair about this whole whose-turn-is-it-to-choose thing, there are so few things we can choose right now! I settled on The Tailor of Panama. It seemed like a good night for an escapist Le Carré thriller, because really his plots and writing are so damned good. I love his books but find him depressing, knowing that he describes a world all too close. Never mind. Geoffrey Rush, Jamie Lee Curtis and Pierce Brosnan are brilliant, you feel the relish they bring to their roles, I mean really they’re fantastic, and so is the film. The characters are all chasing lies, and money, and bodies: it’s pure escapism.

Nothing like the way the virus and I still play tag. I’m not going to be coming out for a while to see if it’s still waiting for me though.

Stay safe everyone. Stay healthy.

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2020. A To see Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

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Quetzal

Happy April Fool’s Day! What’s quetzal, anyway? A noun, a verb, a symptom brought on in quarantine for the corona virus?

Glad you asked. The quetzal is a legend, a myth, a member of the trogon family, and one really cool bird. It’s also very, very elusive.

And what the hell is a trogon? Let’s start at the top. Until just now, I didn’t know. The term comes from the Greek and means ‘nibbling’, because quetzals carve through rotting wood to make their nests in tree trunks. The trogon family of birds is an exclusive club: they are the only animal with a heterodactyl toe arrangement. [1] The resplendent quetzal lives only in a narrow range of cloud forests at high elevations in Central America. They don’t migrate, and like altitudes of 4,000–10,000 ft (1,200–3,000 m).

A lot of people think it’s the most beautiful bird in the world. The quetzal was sacred to the Aztecs and Mayans. The Aztecs associated the bird with the snake god, Quetzalcoatl. Kings and nobles wore quetzal feather headdresses for special ceremonies.

And oh my god, those feathers…. The head and back of the bird are a brilliant green, the belly feathers are bright red. The female has more gray on her chest, and black and white in her tail, while the male has incredibly long streaming tail feathers that trail up to three feet (!) behind him. These don’t grow until the bird is at least three years old.

The quetzal’s big, about 36-40 cm or 14-16 inches long. But its brilliant green feathers are iridescent and blend perfectly into the cloud forest foliage. For a large bird, the quetzal is surprisingly hard to spot.

So when we planned our trip to Costa Rica (I write this in March, after two weeks of the virus lockdown, and it feels like a different life time that we took that trip, not just a few weeks ago), we hoped we’d get lucky enough to spot a quetzal. We went to the Monteverde cloud forest region. One day we joined a tour to the smaller and less crowded Curi Cancha Reserve. Amazingly enough we saw a pair of quetzals! Quetzals are monogamous – and there they were, male and female! Thank god for the guides that day, because there’s no way we would have sighted the birds on our own. They’re just too perfectly camouflaged. I only have one photo for you, but hopefully it was worth reading this post to get to it.

We present to you in all its shy glory: THE QUETZAL! This is the female, a brilliant emerald that dazzles the eye. Believe it or not her partner is much, much gaudier

It was magic to see a quetzal pair. We got lucky that day.

NOTES: [1] Dictionary.com explains heterodactyl is “having the first and fourth toes directed backward, and the second and third forward, as in trogons”. Well, what do you know. This is my second new word for the week. Trogon was the first. PS: This post is not an April Fool’s joke! Resplendent quetzal © Jadi Campbell 2020. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

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Let it Rain!

What a difference a few weeks or even days makes… Today most of the world is on lockdown. A month ago I was in a cloud forest for the first time. I look at Uwe’s photos and am filled with wonder.

The first of many hummingbirds we saw in Costa Rica

February 2020

Monteverde in northern Costa Rica is one of the few cloud forests left on the planet. We arrived yesterday, using a bus service to travel from the hot, sunny Pacific coast. Now we’re at a higher (and definitely colder) elevation. Winds from the Caribbean smack into currents from the Pacific. The results are a steady light mist all day.

Green crowned brilliant

Or, like this morning, a heavy falling rain. Uwe and I both wear the super-duper, Chinese-made raincoats we bought last year in Borneo for a $1 apiece. We unfold them and discover that these are thin, glorified garbage bags with holes cut out for our arms and heads. I’m glad to have mine – it’s still pouring. Uwe’s bummed. It’s raining so hard that he has to leave his  camera equipment in its special backpack. It’s windy here, too! His camera’s way better protected against the weather than we are….

Magenta-throated woodstar

The park guide tells us about primeval forest, secondary growth, the Quaker settlers who came here and founded this nature preserve. We see almost zero wildlife, and that’s because everything is hunkered down against the shitty weather. He points out an orchid the size of my thumbnail as my sneakered feet and my blue jeans grow damper. It. is. cold.

Violet sabrewing

Uwe’s face is glum. His cellphone camera is a poor substitute for the Nikon. I try hard not to think about how little fun he’s having. Then the guide points to a pale slender green object on a leaf. I peer closer in the rain.

Purple throated mountaingem

It’s a walking stick! I haven’t seen one of these in the wild since I was a kid! I’m suddenly a kid again myself, I’m way beyond excited. “Any biosphere that’s got walking sticks is an intact one for sure!” I exclaim. Oh my god! I stand there and stare at it, wetter by the minute.

Thirty minutes later we’re back at the park entrance’s buildings. The downpour vanishes. Uwe gets out his telefoto lens to capture the 7 varieties of blue, emerald, crimson, orange, purple hummingbirds darting in and out to the feeders on the porch. A white nosed coatimundi scurries under the hummingbird feeders, licking up the sugar water that’s dripped down onto the floorboards.

“A walking stick!” I murmur.

Everybody’s happy.

Green crowned brilliant
Empress brilliant. The feathers overlapped in a way that made me think of snake scales

NOTES: I’m still mad at my spousal unit for not taking a photo of that walking stick with his cell phone! Monteverde orchids and hummingbirds © Jadi Campbell 2020. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

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The Animal Kingdom: 33

We’ve reached Installment #33 of my blog thread describing what to call groups of animals … See how many you can guess. Answers listed at the bottom of the page.

  1. How did the farrow fare?
  2. The ballet performed a water ballet.
  3. Oh, no! The piddle piddled again!
  4. The rumpus caused quite a rumpus.
  5. The circus is no circus.
  6. The brace braced itself against the leash’s leash.
Braces and leashes, Montréal, Canada
  1. Farrow of piglets
  2. Ballet of swans
  3. Piddle of puppies
  4. Rumpus of baboons [1]
  5. Circus of puffins
  6. Brace (2), or leash (3) of dogs [2]
Farrow, Sagaing, Burma

NOTES: [1] Hooray! Baboons are listed as “Least threatened”. I am overjoyed when I can list a species as not about to go extinct. African Wildlife Foundation [2] A brace refers to 2 dogs. A leash of dogs is 3 in number.  © Jadi Campbell 2017. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de. Fun animal names from en.wiktionary.orgwww.writers-free-reference.com, Mother Nature Network and www.reference.com.

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Tsunami Cowboys is Longlisted!

My second novel Tsunami Cowboys was just named a semifinalist in the ScreenCraft Cinematic Book competition. Over 1,200 books were considered. Here is the official notice. Click to go to the link and see the list of books still in the running, including mine!

Announcing the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Competition Semifinalists 

Hong Kong: Popo and the Frogs, Part 2

The people of Hong Kong are caught in a bind. The stand offs between the government and the young people protesting to keep their freedoms show no signs of ending anytime soon. Tourism is way down, as much as 70% in some parts of the city.

But even as their businesses suffer, signs abound that the inhabitants support the students and what they fight for. The name Popo and a drawing of a pig represent the police. The frog is a symbol of the protestors. After my nephew pointed out their depictions to me, I began spotting them in shops and windows and walls everywhere.

On the back wall of this tiny bottle shop…
… is a rare sign of Popo and protester enjoying holiday cheer together

Their images pop up in unexpected places. We went into an electronics shop and some of the television monitors on sale were decorated with Popo and frogs.

This small cafe had a sign quietly propped against their outside wall. I actually turned around and walked back down the street to take a better look at it.

Frogs adorn metro buildings and elevators.

Graffiti over the graffiti

Just before Christmas, bags and t-shirts with the frog logo suddenly appeared. They vanished a few days later.

Much of the street graffiti is grimmer.

“Wanted for violent deadly crimes”: the police, aka Popo
Inside one of Hong Kongs many walkways above street level
The police demanded that everyone stop wearing the face masks used for bad air days. That way they could more easily identify protesters. The police I saw all wore masks hiding the lower halves of their own faces

A special anger is reserved for Carrie Lam, the Hong Kong politician who since 2017 serves as the 4th and current Chief Executive of Hong Kong. She is seen as serving China, rather than the people of Hong Kong.

Note the mainland China antenna attached to Carrie Lam’s ear

The government has deliberately blocked streets with barricades to hinder protests.

The decision of the police to use tear gas and pepper spray caused more protests.

I flew home with a deep, deep sadness that this incredible, wonderful, vibrant city is in such turmoil. This was my fifth visit to Hong Kong. I don’t want it to be my last.

Click here for a complete list of the December 2019 protests on Wikipedia

NOTES: ©Jadi Campbell 2020. To see Uwe’s pics from our trips go to viewpics.de. To learn more about the reasons for the protests, go here: Hong Kong protests, CNN 

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