cat windowWe’re all naïve. All 7.8 billion of us. In more ways than one.

I saw the word used technically, to describe humans in the face of the new coronavirus. Because the virus is new, none of us had ever had it before, and so we are “naïve.” It’s the perfect word in other ways, too.

Per usual, random photos I’ve recently taken on my exercise outings because I don’t have relevant coronavirus illustrations.

Like many people in February and early March, I thought it was a lot of hubbub about nothing. Cover your coughs, wash your hands, not that bad unless you’re old and sick with something else. Remembering SARS, which came with so many gloomy warnings, and which sounded so scary. It was deadlier than Covid-19. People caught it from the plumbing in their apartments. Way worse than being near somebody coughing–you can at least step away from such people, but to catch a deadly disease while sleeping in your own bed? SARS was under control fairly quickly, and no vaccine or treatment was ever found…. Thinking it would always be so efficient to control pandemics was naïve.2cvA microscopic string of RNA has changed everybody’s lives. Not just today, under various lockdowns, confinements, remote learning/working, etc. It is going to haunt us for a long time. Perhaps forever.bare branchThere will not be a switch that flips us back to Before, to some date in November 2019 or so (probably earlier), when the threat hadn’t yet crossed over into humans. When the world economy was humming. When the future looked, if not bright, then as a glass somewhat more full than empty.streamAs far as the future goes, we are still naïve, in the other sense of the word, of lacking experience or understanding. We don’t know for sure whether people who were infected will be immune for life, or whether it will be like colds (also caused by coronaviruses, different ones) that we get over and over. We don’t know the long-term effects. We don’t have a cure or even a treatment besides oxygen. We don’t have a vaccine.vines 3I wondered about the 1918-1919 influenza. I have a set of Encyclopedia Britannica from 1929, which I figured was both close enough to the event for the pandemic to still be remembered as a big deal and distant enough to have some perspective. Indeed, the entry covers almost two full pages. It mentions the previous influenza outbreak of 1890–which was only 39 years earlier itself; of course there were still people around who had lived through that. Interestingly, a decade after the “Spanish flu” pandemic, the cause was still in dispute–was it bacterial or viral?

The name at the bottom, Marie-Cecile, lived from 1906-1918, and seems likely to have been an influenza victim–a young woman who died in 1918 probably wasn’t killed in battle.

Now experts say that influenza not only was viral but that it was a kind of H1N1 virus, like the kind that broke out in 2009. It hit in three waves: the first was relatively mild, the second very deadly, and the third was similar to the first.

poppies close
Now blooming. The corn poppy is a symbol of World War I. 

“Frequently the lungs became severaly affected and the patient passed into a state of anoxaemia recalling that due to exposure to the ‘pulmonary irritants’ of gas warfare.”blooms whiteThe 1890 outbreak, which also actually had three waves between 1889-1892, is described in detail as well:

“The invasion is sudden; the patients can generally tell the time when they developed the disease; e.g., acute pains in the back and loins came on quite suddenly while they were at work or walking in the street, or in the case of a medical student, while playing cards, rendering him unable to continue the game. A workman wheeling a barrow had to put it down and leave it; and an omnibus driver was unable to pull up his horses. This sudden onset is often accompanied by vertigo and nausea, and sometimes actual vomiting of bilious matter. There are pains in the limbs and general sense of aching all over; frontal headache of special severity; pains in the eyeballs, increased by the slightest movement of the eyes; shivering; general feeling of misery and weakness, and great depression of spirits, many patients, both men and women, giving way to weeping; nervous restlessness; inability to sleep, and occasionally delirium. In some cases catarrhal symptoms develop, such as running at the eyes, which are sometimes infected on the second day; sneezing nd sore throat; and epistaxis, swelling of the parotid and submaxillary glands, tonsilitis and spitting of bright blood from the pharynx may occur. There is a hard, dry cough of a paroxysmal kind, worst at night. There is often tenderness of the spleen, which is almost always found enlarged, and this persists after the acute symptoms have passed. The temperature is high at the onset of the disease. In the first twenty-four hours its range is from 100 F in mild cases to 105 F in severe cases.”

1892…a link to the third wave of that pandemic?

It also said that, in the 1890 outbreak, stress around the pandemic caused a 25% increase in suicides in Paris.iris carrefourThe Covid-19 virus’s complete genome was sequenced and put online in mid-January. And yet there’s much we don’t know. It might seem as if experts are changing their minds, or that they don’t know what they’re doing, but in fact they are honing and updating information as it becomes available.

Do you see the château?

France is supposed to gradually reopen as of May 11. It already is happening, though. I see more cars on the road. Businesses that had been closed have found an excuse to reopen. One change is that almost everybody is wearing a mask now, even while driving alone in their car. Maybe they don’t want to touch it?

car greenhouse

I was going to our mairie, or town hall, to get recycling bags the other day, mask in hand, because usually I would see nobody out in the village. However, lots of people were out, going to the bakery, to the little grocery, for walks. I saw a friend sweeping the sidewalk in front of her house, and she was talking to a little old lady who was out for her constitutional. I’d met this lady many times, including on a run in winter where she responded to my bonjour with “bonjour, j’ai 89 ans” (hello, I’m 89 years old). My friend asked her whether she had a mask and she said no, she didn’t know where to get one in the village and had no way to go out of the village. How old are you, my friend asked. “Ninety,” she answered, adding, “in July,” which she pronounced as “juillette,” adding many rolls of the tongue in an especially heavy local accent. I handed her my homemade mask (I was still holding it–we were talking–shouting at top volume–from a distance of at least three meters from each other). She was thrilled. I can make more. My friend, a retired nurse, instructed her on cleaning of the mask. orchidSo I ran back home to get another mask and go back to the mairie. A sign on the door said it was closed and that if villagers needed anything they were to call. So I called. They told me to come and ring and they would hand the recycling bags through the window. “Oh, you’re outside now,” the secretary exclaimed. A window opened a crack and the roll of yellow bags emerged–not even a fingertip of the person inside was evident. I hollered merci as I grabbed the roll. The window shut the the instant the roll passed through.poppies 1The Saturday market reopened. It is far superior to shopping at the supermarket, as always for quality and price but also for hygiene. The central square is barricaded, with a single entrance and exit, and a table with sanitizer at each. And police, who were neither wearing masks nor social distancing as they shot the breeze. There were just a few vendors, but they included the family of vegetable farmers, the goat cheese guy (who rocked a gorgeous tie-dye mask), and the local apple grower. A ribbon separated shoppers from the produce. We waited in line, spaced by tape on the marble, and the vendors served us, so there was nobody else handling the produce. Almost everybody had a mask except for the oldest shoppers. I was among the youngest, so that tells you how skewed the demographic is at the market.vinesIt was very sad, though, to see all the cafés closed, their terrace tables stacked up under tarps. I wondered whether this was what it was like during the war, when people ventured out to stand in line to buy food. It was sad, too, to see the other shops, mostly for clothes and jewelry and such, closed but in a way that felt like “Sleeping Beauty”–as if they were about to fling open their doors but were frozen in mid-step.

Look at all those chickens!

I wonder about life afterward. Will people be afraid to take the bus or métro, and flood the streets with individual cars? Or will they feel the same way and commute by bike? Will people be afraid of being cooped up in a small space and move to suburbs, eating up more and more of the precious farmland that needs to feed more and more people? Or cutting down the little wild nature that is left, so they can have their individual houses with yards that function like private parks, like buffers from neighbors, full of grass that needs watering and mowing and that they almost never spend time in? Or will people who are hearing birds for the first time realize that it’s important to preserve and even enlarge the space for nature?

confetti 1
Tiny petals everywhere, like confetti.
confetti 2
Confetti for our post-confinement party?

How are you holding up? vines 2


38 thoughts on “Naïve

  1. I, too, was curious to learn more about the “Spanish Influenza” outbreak of the last century and was surprised to find so little information about it. Thank you for your very interesting research, article and photos. I wonder if Covid -19 will impact us and the ways of the world as the influenza outbreak seemed to do a hundred years ago…very little in the end?…life went on, the 1920’s “roared” (at least in some parts of the world), and the pandemic became part of the long history of pandemics. We learn a little more with every one, life improves for the public with our increased understanding of bacteria and viruses and we go on our merry way until the next time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe the 1918 pandemic was overshadowed by the horrors of WWI? Writers of the time, like Hemingway, focused on war, which was manly, rather than influenza–a sickness, a weakness. Interestingly, the best-known novel about the 1918 flu is a woman, Katherine Anne Porter. I think ideas about manliness also influence the decisions by some not to wear masks.


  2. The confinement and solitude has certainly affected my midfulness and concentration, in a good way. Not that I was a mindless and disorganized person, but I think I’m improved. I have some hope that there will be recognition of the improvement in our environments and give people more reasons to live in a different way. Probably not, the world economy is a juggernaut that will have to start up again. Sigh.
    bonnie in provence

    Liked by 1 person

        1. I agree, but there are people who want to reinstate the lifestyles and economy of December 2019, with all its excess, waste and inequality, because it felt good to them and they don’t really care about future generations. And these people have more power than you and me.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely post. Thinking many of the same thoughts here. I’ve been working from home for 7 weeks. Most of those weeks I only leave the farm once a week to go have lunch on Sunday with my MIL. But I’m lucky to have a large farm to ramble on and plenty of family to interact with.
    Very interesting that in 1929, they still didn’t know if the Spanish flu was caused by virus or bacteria! And I’d never heard of the 1890 outbreak.
    Hang in there and keep these great posts coming!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The entry went into great detail about the bacterial vs. viral nature of the 1918 pandemic, none of which made any sense. Stuff about “filter-passing virus” or “bacillus influenzae.” It does say “As to the causative organism of influenza, we remain, even now, still in doubt.” Science has come a long way.


  4. Among the factoids encountered in recent reading: The “Spanish” flu may have originated in the American Midwest; some of the first cases in Iowa in the current one trace back to travelers who went to Egypt.
    This is the first pandemic, of all those in recorded history, where almost everyone is connected electronically and can live and talk about it in real time. In earlier ones, they got news later, or in a clump, but we are being inundated with it all day. Which is both good and bad.
    I’d like to think that this might prove to be a lesson to politicians not to fire the entire pandemic response team left by your predecessor, which could have contained this thing, but am not going to bet on it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I had read that the 1918 pandemic may have started in Kansas:
      “The federal Sedition Act of 1918 prohibited the use of “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” about the U. S. government, in a heavy-handed attempt to improve morale during the war. Accordingly, little was published in the U.S. about influenza. However, in neutral Spain the uncensored press reported freely about the influenza pandemic, leading to the enduring misperception that the disease had begun there. In fact most historians believe that the first wave of 1918 “Spanish” influenza in the world began on March 4, 1918 at Camp Funston, Kansas, 120 miles west of the Missouri border.”
      Small difference–Iowa is right there, too.
      But in 1918, as in Wuhan and in Washington, the big problem is officials trying to sweep the situation under the rug.


  5. Thinking of the world post-Covid-19 seems a little like coming up with a scenario for a science fiction novel. And science fiction is not my preferred genre. The current divides between nations and within nations also makes a potential recovery a bit of a daunting prospect in a global economic model. Will new ideas prevail? It would seem to be the most pragmatic and logical choice, but with most politicians–and let’s face it-most folks who simply want a paycheck–driven by quick-fix economic mindsets, it seems difficult to imagine. The current administration of US charlatans only seem to worry about protecting the 1% (with a few, weak platitudes for other folks–at least, until the election). Just look at how many huge corporations had first access to the “small business administration” stimulus funding and sucked it dry before actual small businesses could make a phone call. It does make one weary, sad…and furious.

    As for me–just keep putting one foot in front of the other. In a position of relatively safety (financially–at the moment, but in the elder category). However, it doesn’t lessen my fears for my younger, still-employed DH (essential and out there), or the future of my adult children and grandchildren. And beyond my family, there is immense sorrow for the millions of folks who are or soon will be in dire straits whether physically and/or financially. Sorrow for those grieving. Heartbreaking. For now, my way of handling things is to simply focus on managing one day at a time. No future planning.

    Many thanks for your photos and thoughtful/thought-provoking post. Stay safe.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. If you want to hear about the ways the 1% are getting help, listen to this interview with Jesse Drucker of the NYT:
      Things here are quite different. There’s a big effort to help modest households. One can argue about how well it’s done or whether there should be this tweak or that one, but the overall approach is to help the vulnerable directly (not help the rich, who will then employ the rest…typical trickle-down economics, which has been proven many times not to work). But talking to relatives in the U.S., I hear that it’s better for many lower-income people to starve or go bankrupt in order to prevent even one undeserving lazy bum from getting help, and it’s also better to help 100 lazy rich bums in order to legitimately prop up one business. And none of my relatives are rich, so I don’t understand the thinking at all. It’s very Puritan/prosperity theology that if you’re poor, it’s your own fault and if you’re rich you are somehow better (not that you inherited it from daddy).

      Liked by 2 people

  6. HAPPY May Day!
    I think we ALL will go back to our TOO BUSY TO SMELL THE ROSES KIND OF LIFE!
    Not immediately but within a certain amount of time.
    I’m not depressed but I am not MYSELF this week……….WEEK 8 in the house and I am not getting out much!NEED TO WALK!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Walk around your beautiful garden! It looks like paradise! Are you able to go out for walks in your neighborhood? Take a mask in case you run into anybody.


  7. I had a similar experience with meeting an unmasked neighbor, and asking if he would like one. I was surprised at how happy he was to get one. I’ve not gone into enormous mask production as have many women here in the US, but it pleases me to make one or two at a time to give to relatives and neighbors. So disorienting to see so many out of work, small businesses on life support, arts organizations in desperate straits, food banks overwhelmed. An air of unreality as the threat is invisible, so many are suffering terribly, and others utterly unscathed. And spring flowers are blooming, bird are nesting, and somehow Life goes on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great to have shared. My cousin is making lots of masks, with a real in-home production line manned by immediate family. More power to her, and to the others who are efficiently churning out masks!


  8. Lovely post, as always. We learned years ago about the 1918 “Spanish” flu having great grandparents as well as family friends who lived through it here in the States. The family friend was born in Sept. 1917 and in early 1918 his mother became very ill with the “flu”. So ill, in fact, that for three years his grandmother raised him instead of his mother. I don’t know what life will be after this passes, but having my garden, stitching, reading, and communicating with family/friends all over the US and world, I haven’t missed going out that much. Getting used to my husband being home 24/7 has been another story. As much as I love him (46 now married), this has been our biggest challenge after raising a premmie baby, who almost didn’t make her first birthday. God is good and so is life.

    Take care everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s so great that you got that oral history. I regret not asking my grandmothers, one who lived through it in the Midwest (the epicenter) and the other who lived through it in war-torn Europe. I knew vaguely about the pandemic thanks to Katherine Anne Porter, but probably never learned about it in history class, which was all about wars.
      Good luck with your husband–24/7 togetherness is hard, even with someone you love.


  9. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading your thoughtful post and the equally thoughtful responses. Here in Australia, masks are still not mandatory and are only recommended if the person thinks they have something’ which needs to be contained. So I see them as a warning and take an extra step away. Overall the government (federal and state) has acted decisively and the results are positive. The mention you made of the 2nd and 3rd rounds remain the big worry. Meanwhile, as our wintry autumn begins in the south of our country, I’m very pleased for you all in the north to be receiving the sunshine. It does lift the spirit. And I also enjoy the photos.
    Stay well 🦩

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Let’s hope it’s more like SARS, which was controlled fairly quickly. As for masks, I think the public opinion is shifting–that with so many asymptomatic people, it’s irresponsible to not wear a mask, even if you feel OK.


  10. I’m glad to hear that your wonderful market has been able to reopen Catherine, although I’m sure it is not quite the same without the lively cafés encircling it. Thank you for the thoughtful words and gorgeous pics xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, Janelle, you wouldn’t recognize it. It was pouring rain this morning (I figured that was good–raindrops should pull any floating virus to the ground, no?), and got there a bit late. There was a line a block long to get in. Considering everybody was a meter apart, the line moved quickly. More people, more vendors, but still a mere shadow of normalcy.


  11. I love the cat in the window box! Such beautiful photos, as ever.

    I, too, have learnt much more about the “Spanish” ‘flu over the past little while than I had gleaned over the preceding decades. I find the language in the press about the Second Wave having struck Singapore already etc, to be incredibly naive. The rollercoaster of statistics at present is only because the analysis is so close. It will be at a distance of months/years that the waves will be apparent.

    Anyway, it feels like I’m living in a parallel universe at the moment. Nothing much has changed for me, as I’m principally a homebody, and for the past few years have been withdrawing further for a variety of reasons, so life at the moment is just a variant on the norm. Coupled with the hive of activity with tradesmen doing maintenance work in our apartment block, ceaselessly since the outset, and most neighbours being “in residence” right now, it actually seems quite busy at home.

    However, having masks and gloves to hand has been a boon! This weekend, two neighbours and I had a working bee sorting the accumulated junk in our building’s basement that became disordered and filthy by the aforementioned tradesmen. While I had to strip off in the corridor at my front door afterwards, the mask was brilliant at filtering the airborne crap and my lungs and nose felt as clean as a whistle! They are going to be used for all sorts of household purposes for years to come. Not to mention that in future, it will become socially acceptable to wear masks when out and about during the regular ‘flu season in addition to keeping hands washed etc, so I expect public health standards in general will improve across the board, which is only a good thing in my books. We’d become rather lazy and complacent as a culture about these basic things. Lesson learnt!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope your apartment block is wonderful once the work is over. We have a box of masks for filtering dust during renovation and such, but they are a bit stiff and I could never wear them with my glasses. Without glasses, I’m blind as a bat. Fogging is a problem with the homemade cloth masks, but not as bad nor as uncomfortable as with the stiff ones. It probably would be a good thing if everybody got in the habit, as in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and others, to don a mask on public transport and in shops, just in case. But today there’s an article about a store security guard in the U.S. who was fatally shot for telling an unmasked shopper he couldn’t enter the store.


  12. So much to read and ponder. My husband and I went to San Fransisco the last week of January. It was during the Chinese lunar new year. I read about the flu in China while there. By the time we flew home there were all of these Asian people wearing masks where they hadn’t on our flight out. Something is happening and it’s going to be big, I thought. We got home and began to prepare for the unknown. We haven’t eaten out since March 7 I think. We are so grateful to have delivery from several groceries. A couple of enterprising farmers/butchers have put together a collected for local growers who used to supply local restaurants. We are glad to have them and glad to support them. We’ve joined two California wine clubs (priorities) because Kansas (yes, that state, egads!) has such antiquated liquor laws. I doubt we will ever eat out, or casually meet friends for drinks until there is a vaccine or some amazing breakthrough. Which is to say, I’m glad my husband and I enjoy each other’s company and I like to cook!

    People are going batshit crazy. The murder in Michigan reflects the worst of us. Trump and his merry band of idiots is glad to have people die for their economy and reelection. I am 70 years old and am totally unfiltered at this point: for all of the Fox News believers and who have repeated drunk the poison of lies, I hope they die. Yes, I said it! And a happy cinco de Mayo. The thought of that seems so innocent…and a return to the time people were looking forward to May 5 falling on Taco Tuesday. We will not be coming to France again this year. I wonder if we ever will be able to return. Thank for you such lovely views of your beautiful country.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m also originally from the Midwest and what I hear are a lot of people changing their minds about what government should do (something) and what it is doing (on the federal level, nothing). It went from being a hoax to them all thinking it’s too soon to reopen. Let’s hope more people will find enlightenment and redemption.


    2. Hello Ms. Dark, I too am a transplanted American, CA in fact, and live in Provence now (11 years). I feel your pain, no, really, I am so lucky to be here. Take care of yourself.
      bonnie in provence

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Thanks for the history of Spanish Flu. Very interesting. Glad to hear there are signs of life returning especially with the market. I was worried they would be in danger because they are such a social magnet. Still in confinement in St. Louis and missing trips we usually take this month, particularly to your part of the world. We just pretend we are in the Languedoc with our L’apéro time outside.
    I sure wish our country prioritized those in need here like France does. My hopes are that people recognize the value of all workers here, as we would be at a standstill without the “essential” workers. Former Pres. Bush (this is not a political endorsement) had a lovely public service announcement this week that really revealed a tone that has been absent and desperately needed.
    Please keep up the photos. I enjoy seeing Spring in France!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Your posts are spot on, and I think about how beautiful the French countryside is. Here in Oklahoma wearing masks has become a flashpoint. It was much the same 25 or so years ago when the ATSF RR put a no smoking policy in place (mainly for liability), and the smokers felt their rights were being trampled. Other people’s heath didn’t matter. Since the company controlled the work place, the policy finally allowed the non smokers to quit breathing second hand smoke. Without any proper leadership, a lot of people (in OK) won’t wear one on purpose. Like Obama just said, nobody can do a ‘good’ job in dealing with a pandemic, but this administration is just terrible.

    Liked by 1 person

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