Leave it to Cheever

This is John Cheever.

This week I bid adieu to Paris and the best Tour de France in about a century. Utterly awesome. This week also, I imagined God welcoming home his good and faithful servant, RGB. A blessing in life, and inspiration for the ages. And smiled at the thought of Sam McBratney, who although he didn’t live to see his sequel arrive this Tuesday, is playing eternally with his Nutbrown Hares.

The cover of Guess How Much I Love You.
Cover of Guess How Much I Love You. Art by Anita Jeram. Walker Books

This week too, I was able to get outside to take a walk as the air quality was only moderately bad. I actually saw the stars again, and the sun in a blue sky! They’ve all been AWOL for a couple weeks because of the surrounding fires.

I talked to Gran’s new neighbors across the street. Nice people. They aren’t moved in yet. They’re doing renovations first. Um, doing those themselves. They started by taking out a load bearing wall between their living room and kitchen. I wished them well with that daring adventure.

I saw a few more houses in the neighborhood up for sale. Some are on Gran’s street, and belong to long-time residents. Not sure where they’re going, or why. I ran into a long-time neighbor, a great guy. He really cares about the community. He’s typical of the sort of the older white republicans you meet around here.

WNS: CA015.11 (Definitives - Baby Wildlife - Polar Bear)
Young white voter for climate action now.

He’s retired on a city pension, got full medical, a paid off house, and kids that are grown and flown. His view of life, and the pandemic, is not the long view of a younger person, but the short view of an older person who has all their personal needs met for their foreseeable future. And I understand that. I wish all older people had lives so plush. I wish all younger people could assume that their lives would end thus.

I’m respectful of people who are older or hold different views from my own. My job as a follower of Jesus is to love people. And I do love him. Like I said, great guy. So when he says: “I don’t know what people are so worked up about. 500K people died of the Hong Kong flu and we never shut down the economy.” I just listen. Appalled at the idea 500K dead Americans is okay with him. It would do no good to explain to him science has moved on in understanding since 1968, or that SARS 2 is not a flu.

When he goes on to say: “What do you think about people saying if the Democrats get in this pandemic will just disappear?” I understand immediately, he’s got Fox brain. I could say, “I imagine that’s 100% true as Democrats will follow the science from day 1.” But I say, politely, earnestly, “You know, I wish that were true. If it were so easy as changing administrations to immediately stop tens of thousands of people dying and the horrible grief families are going through.”

And that’s where we leave it. We both smile and walk away. But in my mind, as I walked toward the rising dawn, I kept thinking of The Comedians. About absent friends, dead or that I’m parted from by distance. It’s closing time. One by one the lights, Rep. John Lewis, Rev CT Vivian, Rev Joseph Lowery, Rev Robert Graetz, SC Justice RBG, go out. My neighbor, my friend, he doesn’t understand. He literally can’t understand. He can’t empathize. His brain has been hijacked.

I see him take “his” hand and walk away. Walk away.

It’s just sad.

Moving on. The cardiologist switched Gran to some drug that is so little used the pharmacist had to special order it. Nifedipine? He straight up said, not many studies of people in their 90s taking BP meds. Really? No kidding? So we’ll go conservative here. Sure, ok.

I don’t think it works as well as the drug they sent her home with from the ER, but that was a short term fix. Cardioman said to give the a couple weeks. We go back to the cardiologist next week. I guess we’ll see what happens. Frankly, every day alive and under stroke out numbers is a win.

My Da sent me a KardiaMobile 6L to keep a check on her heart. It’s easy to use but, dang, almost every reading is “inconclusive.” Not normal, not abnormal. It was supposed to reduce my stress level. But inconclusive? That’s stressful. You can’t do anything about inconclusive. I may ask for 24 cardiac rhythm at home monitor test. But I’ll keep giving the KM6 a shot though.

Buy Canada #2604-2607 - Baby Wildlife Definitives (2013) P (63¢) + $1.10 +  $1.34 + $1.85 | Arpin Philately
Cuteness, possibly toxic levels of.

Minka has been super stressed. Her routine was all off schedule. Bad AQ and then triple degree temps kept her in. Mutti brought in a beeping microwave! Gran vanished to the ER. I get it. She was vomiting all over. I had to put her on raw milk and bain marie warmed canned food. And, I make sure she goes out with me in the morning for a few minutes each day to feed the birds and squirrels, and do laundry. She’s slowly getting back to herself.

Mutti was working remotely FT while caring for Gran. So, the house, the yard, kinda slid. I get it. But Minka slid too. She didn’t even get her flea treatment. When I came back, she glued herself to me, including on the bed, and the first night, I woke up covered in flea bites. So flea dip for her, and flu shots for Gran and I were high priorities. And the car needed a new fuel cap. And the house finances needed doing. Mutti’s f-stop was a bit high.

Yesterday I was feeling a bit beleaguered looking at my “still to tackle” list, but a cylindrical mail tube care package arrived, covered in wildlife postage stamps, in the post. The significant other swears he mailed it 1st Class Sept 12, but….US Mail these days. The package contained my special project and some tools I’d planed to bring with me. But I left in such a hurry I didn’t even have time to think about it. But the SO…..

He always has my back. I’m a lucky, lucky gal. He’s got family coming to visit in October. I’m glad he won’t be alone. Though they will have to go through 2 weeks of quarantine. I’m guessing he’ll give them the house and live in the basement suite for 2 weeks. By then his mother will have rearranged the entire house. Restoring order before I get home will be his fun project while I’m gone.

I’ll probably tell you about my project next week, once I’ve got stuck in. But today, looking at my cache of wildlife stamps, I’m going to discuss beavers. Way back in the 15th century, Germans began killing beavers, harvesting their waterproofing glands, and rubbing that gland’s contents on their aching bodies. And they felt better. (Please don’t call PETA. They don’t do this anymore.) You might be thinking, placebo effect. You’d be wrong.

Beavers, which eat willow bark as part of their daily tree felling activity, end up with acetylsalicylic acid (aka aspirin) stored in their waterproofing glands in high concentrations. So, 15th c Germans were actually using a version of Aspercreme before they understood what it was or how or why it worked. But, admittedly, the beavers were paying a high price and a as a keystone species, once you kill all the beavers…..

Beavers - Baby Wildlife - Canada Postage Stamp | Baby Wildlife - Definitives
Let me help you with that, Mum.

Some centuries later, Europeans arrived in North America. Native Americans introduced them to willow bark, to chewing it or using a poultice of it applied to the body, as a curative. The Native Americans had been using it successfully for thousands of years. The Native Americans, who were clearly smarter and more scientifically advanced, knew they didn’t have to kill the beavers, just had to use the bark beavers ate.

Willow bark cures became a European thing. German science didn’t get around to isolating the important components of aspirin, from willow bark, till around 1850. And it took till 1899, for Bayer (a German company), to crack the case and develop Aspirin. Aspirin then became widely prescribed, and it still is today.

Aspirin is one of the most widely used medications in the world , with an estimated 40,000 tonnes (50 to 120 billion pills) consumed each year. It’s on the WHO’s List of Essential Medicines. In 2017, it was the 42nd most commonly prescribed medication in the US, with more than 17 million prescriptions, and that’s in addition to the over the counter.

Aspirin & Stroke—A Prevention Combination - Balance
You can still buy willow bark today.

Hippocrates knew about using willow tea for pain way back in 400 BC. And there’s indications, from bits of texts, human knowledge of “aspirin” in it’s rough form goes back a several thousand years in Middle East. You’d think a 1000 years after Hippocrates, the Europeans would have cracked aspirin and had really advanced medicine by 1400.

But a funny thing happened on the way to developing health improving, life saving science, pagan people in politics needed an army of people to keep their throne. So they hit upon the idea of hitting up converts of a new religion to hang to old power. You fight for me, I’ll have my empire become Christian.

Turned out the new religion didn’t want pagan cures, uneasy times for science ensued. Things go to the point where churches were happy to sell water from “holy” wells or all sorts of “holy” curative trinkets, but real medicine? Science based? That was pushed way back. You had to find an old woman in the woods, a “witch”, if you wanted that.

As for the folks in power? Kings had no issues with fleecing travelers coming to check out “relics” and trade – hence the number of London churches dedicated to St Botolph, patron of travelers, aka pilgrims. Hence pilgrimage trails as trade routes.

Old South Church in Boston | ArtsBoston Calendar
The Old South church, Boston. Not as well known as Old North.

Boston, MA, where the very into trade Puritans (aka pilgrims) encamped at the end of their travels, was actually originally called “St Botolph’s town.” But the name got shortened to Bo’ston. (It’s amazing how few people who read Cheever’s work understand this.) No doubt Puritans as soon as they were instructed by the “pagan savages” on what willow bark could do, understood they could make a buck off it and began trading in willow bark.

Willow bark becomes a curative in Europe in the 18thc, Germans investigate it scientifically in the 19thc, Aspirin is born in the 20thc, Aspirin is a world wide drug in the 21stc.

So, to recap, the beaver killing Germans’ folk cure? It was real science. Before modern science understood why it was real. The Native American willow bark cure? It was real science. Before modern science understood why it was real. Hippocrates willow tea cure? Real science. I’d argue Hippocrates would tell you he was a scientist. And I’d argue the Native American healers, and German healers were scientists as well.

There’s a lot of cultural bias, religious bias, gender bias, racial bias, political bias, financial greed, that goes into holding back or distorting science. But none of it stops facts being real (science = real facts). Willow bark works. If you find something works, why wouldn’t you use it?

Masks work. Please, use them. Unless you want yourself or your loved ones to end up in a very different kind of mask situation.

Patient wearing oxygen mask lying on hospital bed - Stock Photo - #20404033  - PantherMedia Stock Agency
Isn’t this really the mask you should be afraid of?
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