Coronavirus fuels a news storm unlike any other

The Covid-19 pandemic is an ongoing news story unlike any other we’ve seen.

Most news reports are about things that have happened – past tense – but this one is more a matter of watching things coming our way, threatening to happen in the near future.

Add in the two-week period between the time of infection and the appearance of symptoms, there’s even a sense of something ghostly in the air, a present tense that’s uncomfortably ethereal.

The closest similar coverage I can think of comes in sportswriting, as in anticipating an NFL game coming up, say, next Sunday. There, though, there are only two possible outcomes, it’s a limited time span, and a score will settle the matter.

The unhealthy emphasis on public opinion surveys regarding upcoming political elections might also fall into this future-tense focus, though we still see reports of candidate appearances and policy positions along with charges and countercharges.

With coronavirus, though, the scope spreads across many beats rather than something only on the sports desk or political reporter. It’s not just medical and health fields but also stock markets and economics,  education, transportation, technology, even lifestyles as well as sports and politics as we go into lockdown and shelter-in-place. Americans aren’t used to being confined anywhere, especially with their mate.

Well, we are also seeing potential major changes in the way we do many things in the years ahead. How much will online meetings catch on, for instance? Or what will happen to local retailing? It’s all fascinating.

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There’s one other ongoing story that might emerge along these lines. Climate change.

Let’s see if experience with one leads to an increased interest in the other.

Ten distances from their part of the Ozarks

Few Americans know much, if anything, about the Ozarks, where Jaya and Joshua resettle in my novel Nearly Canaan.

Here are some driving times to points from Fayetteville, Arkansas, to major cities.

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  1. St. Louis: 5 hours, 20 minutes.
  2. Memphis: 4 hours, 39 minutes.
  3. Tulsa: 1 hour, 55 minutes.
  4. Dallas: 5 hours, 13 minutes.
  5. New Orleans: 9 hours, 41 minutes.
  6. Kansas City: 3 hours, 32 minutes.
  7. Nashville: 8 hours, 47 minutes.
  8. Denver: 11 hours, 53 minutes.
  9. Chicago: 9 hours, 52 minutes.
  10. New York: 12 hours, 17 minutes.

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Frankly, the Ozarks is more isolated than I’d thought. I’m surprised that its center is almost as far from New Orleans as it is from Chicago or that it’s halfway between St. Louis and Dallas. Looks like a long way to anywhere, actually.

How long does it take you to get to a major destination?

Inspired by a Shaker spirit

In my novel NEARLY CANAAN, Jaya searches in her spare time for an means of personal expression that isn’t quite poetry or prose but somehow truer to her spiritual stirrings. After I finished drafting the book, I came upon an exhibit of Shaker gift drawings and writings channeled by one member of the monastic community to be presented to another. Sometimes these would also originate as song, and an unique form of musical notation also arose.

Here are a few examples.

Spirit Message from 1843 appears to be a random series of letters or perhaps a new language akin to speaking in tongues.

 

Thus saith Holy Wisdom, detail

 

A Tree of Life, a central Shaker concept

 

Detail, To Sally Lomise, 1847

 

Mystical letters and images

 

What do you know about the Ozarks?

In my novel Nearly Canaan, Joshua and Jaya leave Prairie Depot and settle into a place unlike anything they would have imagined. It’s not where they promised themselves that they’d relocate, but it would have to do. At least it was hilly and wooded.

It’s hillier and more forested than I had expected.

Here are a few of the things they discovered.

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  1. The Ozark Mountains, also known as the Ozarks Plateau, stretches into five states but is situated mostly in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. It’s the highest land between the Appalachian and Rocky mountains, having some peaks of more than two thousand feet elevation.
  2. Technically, there are two mountain ranges: the Boston Mountains of Arkansas and the St. Francoise Mountains in Missouri, the latter having some of the oldest rocks in the United States.
  3. The majority of the region is forested. Logging is a major industry.
  4. The plateau is laced with underground caverns. Found deep within some of them is the species of Ozark blind cave salamanders, which lives nowhere else in the world.
  5. The shoreline of the Lake of the Ozarks is longer than the coastline of California. The man-made lake covers 61,000 square miles and is a popular vacation site.
  6. The Ozarks has a distinctive culture, architecture, and dialect deriving from its backwoods heritage. Square dances were a popular social activity, as was storytelling.
  7. Historically, the Ozarks were predominantly Baptist or Methodist in faith. Today, the Assemblies of God and Baptist Bible Fellowship International have their world headquarters in the region.
  8. Big-name live musical entertainment has made Branson a major tourist magnet.
  9. Fayetteville, home to the University of Arkansas and with 77,000 population, is the third largest city in the state and is the principal metropolis in the Arkansas part of the Ozarks. It claims to defy many stereotypes about Southerners and could well be the model for Dolomite Center in my novel.
  10. Wal-Mart is headquartered in Bentonville, a short drive from Fayetteville.

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What can you add to the list?