Today is the day. The very first day of Spring 2020. The technical beginning of spring, though having not had much of a winter, it’s been fairly springlike since last December.

Hairy Woodpecker

The birdies are blooming in breeding colors. There are crocuses in the garden and shoots for daylilies and daffodils. What else is up? The bugs are happy because they didn’t have a winter. They are alive and breeding. It’s going to be a very buggy summer.

Back from the south, Carolina Wren

Nuthatch who never gets dizzy upside-down!

Another odd couple — Carolina Wren and GoldfinchOur Carolina Wrens are back and the Goldfinch have turned bright yellow. The House Finch have turned very red. Squirrels that fly, squirrels who leap, and bandit bands of raccoons all eat at our place. There were half a dozen doves on the deck this morning, doing a daily cleanup.

Bright little birds!

Red and yellow, oh my! Better than flowers!

It is not quite springtime in the Valley as it is in other areas, but for this part of the world?

This is spring. Or kind of springlike. More or less springlike. We’re working on it.

I wonder where the flowers is?

Ah, they are indeed here.


In his amazing predictive authoring, Stewart revived the earth by a plague. Is it here?

The book is available in paperback from Amazon and as an audiobook. I have both versions. I’ve read it (repeatedly) and listened to it (at least another three times, once with Garry, who loved it). I’ve always been surprised it never became a movie, but I can see where it would present some serious cinematic challenges.

Still, it might make an incredible Ken Burns series. If you haven’t read it yet, this is definitely the time to read it. It is NOT depressing because everything works out as it should, though I suppose it helps to be a bit existential about the world, life, and humanity.


Posted on February 11, 2020
George R. Stewart was quite a prophet.

George R. Stewart was quite a prophet.

In his first great work, Ordeal By Hunger, he told the story from an ecological (or Ranger’s) point of view. But he began with the Astronaut’s point of view from Low Earth Orbit. Not bad for a book published in 1936. (It’s still the best book about the Donner Party).

As he prepared for the publication of his ecological novel Fire he sent a letter to a Book-of-the-Month club publicist that prophetically explained:

“I consider the main theme … to be the problem of the relationship of man to his environment. I really think of myself, in most of my books, as what might be called an ecologist. ” (From a letter in the Bancroft Library’s George Rippey Stewart Papers. Published here by permission of the Stewart family.)

In the Third Book of The Years of the City, Stewart pretty well predicted how societies fade away, in a novel that has disturbing parallels for today.

And in his classic work, Earth Abides, he predicted the end of the Anthropocene – the human era – through a disease that spreads rapidly throughout society, decimating most of the human race.

His interest in the idea came from his own experience. After graduation from Princeton University in the Class of 1917 (one of his classmates was F. Scott Fitzgerald), Stewart, like many of his classmates wrapped in patriotic passion by the US’s entry into WW I, enlisted. Like other army soldiers – young healthy men expected to be the most resistant to disease – he contracted the Spanish Flu. It nearly killed him, and it would interfere with his health for decades – eventually leading him to have one lung removed.

The flu infected ONE-THIRD of the human population of the Earth. It may have killed as many as 50,000,000 people. And, like other recent epidemics, it became deadly when some component of a virus jumped from animal populations into a strain of human flu. This is exactly what caused the launch of coronavirus – almost certainly from a live animal market in China. Read about the 1918 epidemic. It killed perhaps 50,000,000.

(An excellent article about the Spanish Flu epidemic, In Flew Enza, focuses on the effects at UC Berkeley — discussing Stewart’s experience, and Earth Abides.)

So far COVID has killed about 6000 and has a 95% cure rate. This is not meant to discourage prudence but to point out that we are far from the 1918 pandemic.

Be prudent. Don’t panic.

If this already frightening disease, coronavirus, should mutate, Stewart’s prophesy could well become (at least partially) true. There are still isolated human populations – as many as 100 tribes, the Sentinelese being the best known – which might avoid the disaster.

Will this be the Earth Abides virus? Hopefully not. At least Stewart helped prepare us with his novel. The book is so widely-read and in so many languages that certainly many of those who are in the leading roles to battle this epidemic have likely read it, and have thus been thinking for decades about what to do if and when such an epidemic should happen. It has in fact been impressive to see how quickly they have begun to respond to it. So we shall wish them well and hope for the best.

In the meantime, you may want to re-read Earth Abide.

POSTSCRIPT, on the first day of spring 2020:

There is major economic and social disruption today – the economic weakening of society, and the isolation of neighbors from each other when cooperation and high social capital are needed but prevented by locking down a town. A city with which I am familiar (as was George R. Stewart) has one case. They have demanded the closure of all businesses except food and drug stores and the hospital. Businesses can’t pay rent or employees; employees can’t pay rent or buy food. For ONE case in a city of more than 50,000.

And there are proposals to close the national parks – the best places for people to get the medical benefits of fresh air and exercise with the best of social distancing.

This would be a good time to consider Rudyard Kipling’s poem IF – especially the first few lines:


by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, …

Let’s also follow the example of the locked-down Italians: Sing songs of hope.

Be prudent, keep your head, keep the faith. And sing from your balcony.


Crocuses and the Headstone for old Winston, the guinea pig

Garry wasn’t feeling up to grocery hauling today so I went. No problem keeping my distance. The store wasn’t crowded. there was no pasta, no bread, no paper goods of any kind. They did have freshly baked Italian bread and four loaves of cinnamon raisin bread (Garry’s favorite), so I bought them all.

Purple Crocus

The butter I usually buy was gone, so I bought the other kind. And cream cheese. No frozen potatoes so we bought actual potatoes and there were two nice-sized corned beef, both of which I bought. This is the only time of year I can afford a corned beef. It was a great dinner. I forgot to buy a cabbage, but we survived with onions and potatoes.

White Crocuses

No chicken except wings. Not sure why there isn’t any, but I still have chicken left in the freezer so we’re okay. We bought more food than we usually do because we were pretty much out of food. Hopefully, we have enough food for a week. Maybe by the next time we need to buy food, there will be more things available to buy.

Meanwhile, our freezers are nicely packed and if we don’t run out of toilet paper, all will be well.

Sleep well, Winston

I took the pictures of the crocus on the way out and the tombstone for old Winston, the Guinea Pig. There are a lot of shoots in the garden. We need to scrape the dead leaves out. It’s on the calendar.

WHERE’S THE BIG CHANGE? – By Marilyn Armstrong

When Harvey Weinstein got nailed, everybody dumped all over him. Which I’m sure he deserved. They even tossed him out of the Hollywood Important People Club, ignoring all the other sexual predators who have been operating there since Hollywood became Hollywood.

Sexual predators are everywhere. They are in our homes, our churches, our schools, our sports teams. The number of adults and children raped by family members, boyfriends or girlfriends of family members is astronomical. Add to that the kids hit on by coaches, teachers, scout leaders, priests, pastors, bosses, dates, and total strangers. We even have one in the White House.

This was an ongoing horror show when I was a kid with a pedophile father. It has not gotten better. Victimized men and women still can’t talk about it. The weak laws and pathetic prosecution of these crimes make it unlikely a child who tries to report an adult will be believed. We automatically assume a middle or upper-class person with no criminal record can’t really be a criminal has never been true.

Not true. Never was true.

Woody Allen and Harvey Weinstein – A real pair of winners.

No criminal record usually means “never caught in the act.”

Is this going to change soon? It’s nice that Weinstein got whacked, but all the other Hollywood guys who do the same thing and have since … forever? I couldn’t believe everyone was so “shocked.”


Aw, c’mon. You’re kidding, right? Not only do laws need changing, but attitudes need changing. Given the state of the world, not to mention judges who are determined to not ruin that poor young lad’s life by making him do time for rape? Call me cynical, but I don’t see justice happening. I don’t even see a hint of it happening. Especially not in this bizarre world in which we live.

I do not see a single substantial change in the way unwanted sexual advances and/or rape are dealt with today than they were 50 years ago. We have supposedly better “laws” but we don’t observe them. We don’t even pretend to follow them. The courts don’t follow them, the police and prosecutors ignore them.

Women know it. And that’s why we don’t report problems. We don’t report date rape and we don’t report rapist fathers or mom’s boyfriend who can’t keep his hands off us. Or the boss who turns our working life into a living hell. Why bother? It won’t change anything and we aren’t going to save other women from the same fate.

The beat goes on.