Back in late March I really really needed to get out of the apartment. Lots of reasons, but paramount was my recovery: I was mobile again and I wanted to stretch my legs. Hike some hills. And I'm just not disciplined enough to work up a sweat walking or biking around Pankow. But Covid numbers were climbing again, Germany didn't allow staying in hotels for unsanctioned reasons, and it seemed my window of opportunity for getting away was closing. I debated fiercely with myself and concluded that a trip over the border to Poland to stay along the Baltic Sea was a medical necessity and it was a moral imperative that I do so. But it would be easy to conclude the opposite. Poland had the world's 4th highest Covid numbers at the time, and travel to anywhere was both dumb and strongly discouraged.
I haven't faced this kind of choice very often where after an unlimited amount of thinking I can't tell which of two options is better. There is usually some way to find a tie-breaker so that even if everything goes wrong, your choice still seems sound in retrospect. This time it was basically "wherever you are when you get Covid, that is where you shouldn't have been". I had to trust the fates and so I nervously drove to a rural cabin along the Baltic to exercise and avoid people.
And it was the right choice, I guess. I really was a different person after only a few weeks of hiking in the woods. And I didn't get Covid there. I did get a nasty bee sting while walking barefoot along the seashore. The poor bee died and I squeezed the stinger out of my toe and iced it in the brackish water. A few days later I got a negative test and drove back home to quarantine in my apartment in Berlin for the required 5 days. During the drive back the toe with the bee string got all puffy and infected. I joked with K that I had the Covid toes and she was interested so we googled it. And the bee stung toe looked just like Covid toes. Of course I knew exactly why my toe looked the way it did. The infection was centered around the site of the sting. It was very well explained. But for a moment I had a real fear that my trip to Poland had doomed me.
While I was there I watched American Gods on Amazon. I don't know why. I tried the book and didn't get very far and frankly the show wasn't my cup of tea either. But I guess I had time. The theme of the book has really stuck with me: that we create our gods by believing in them. Our toes turn colors and we think we may die and we want some external force to save us. Perhaps if we do something? If we beat ourselves? Or kill a goat? Or repeat magical phrases for each bead on a necklace, perhaps somehow we will be saved? And once that effort has been undertaken with the belief that the gods exist and success has been the result of their power, well then you are stuck believing in the gods forever. Gods might as well exist if everyone acts as though they do. The conceit of American Gods is that they not only exist, but they take on human form and hang out working odd jobs across America. At least the fallen, mostly forgotten gods do. The popular gods like sex, technology and all the various Jesuses are doing quite well.
If I had to pick a god, I guess I would go with Poseidon. Perhaps my drop of blood squeezed out of that bee sting and into the Baltic has protected me? While I was in Poland the ship Ever Given got stuck sideways in the Suez Canal. No one cared about this much, but as the days dragged on it became clear that the economic impact of the Ever Given, should it remain stuck, would be greater than the economic impact of Covid. And then people demanded that something be done, and then it became clear that nothing could be done. People who already felt truly powerless because of Covid (perhaps for the first time in their lives?) now realized that their species couldn't even move a boat. In the end, Poseidon lifted the boat himself during a very high tide. Perhaps enough of us prayed?
K and I are in the US now, in quarantine again on our tiny island. There are at least 4 active Covid cases on the island, with a population of 20 or so? Poland's case numbers have nothing on Center Island! I'm feeling good. My spirit bird, the Loon, has shown itself to me. I take this as a sign. Perhaps more importantly, one of the new gods, an mRNA vaccine, is in my body.
The mRNA vaccine is incredible. So incredible that I am in awe, and I guess I have fear too. There is the idea of it: that someone decided which exact DNA would create something shaped the right way to do the job (check out the glyph chosen for one element of RNA, Poseidon's Trident Ψ)... And then there is the method of it: that someone printed their idea out on an ACTUAL PRINTER (like they were using Adobe GeneShop or whatever) and then stuck their new DNA idea in some E.Coli bacteria, used the bacteria as an enormous self-replicating print shop, and then extracted all the zillions of new copies of their idea. But the DNA they thought up was just instructions for another printer, called polymerase. The zillions of DNA get dumped together with a lot of ink (nucleotides) and a bunch of polymerase. After a while the polymerase does its printing and there is a lot of new mRNA. That gets cleaned up and eventually injected into my arm at Island Drug in La Conner.
This god seems benevolent, but there is another more vengeful god, sometimes called 'gain of function research'. This god uses the same DNA printer, but to punish mankind. No one knows for sure if the SARS research at Wuhan Institute of Virology is the source of the pandemic, but no one knows for sure that it isn't. There is a lab in Wuhan that makes things like Covid, and Covid was first found in Wuhan. It tells you something about how scary this god is that we don't often speak of this possibility. Maybe if we just don't believe in the evil gods they will go away?
It's been a good time for fear, a good time for belief, and so tonight I will go out on the wine-dark sea, make a sacrifice to Poseidon the Earth Shaker, and ask that we be spared and that we can go back to not needing gods.