Mayday 5/1/20

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

Today is officially “May Day”, celebrated for eons by people around the world. Thanks to the old movie “Airplane”, I spent years thinking that Mayday was the Independence Day celebration in Russia, but the Russian Independence Day celebration is actually on June 12. Thanks a LOT, Abrahams, Zucker and Zucker.

It might seem strange that “mayday” is a common distress call, when May Day is a celebration of the rite of the spring season. Apparently, the distress call originated in 1923 when Frederick Mockford, a radio operator, started using it because of its similarity in sound to the French term for “help me”, “m’aider”. By 1948, the distress call was adopted as a standard, no doubt largely because of its distinct sound and ease of pronunciation.

Technically, spring began on March 19 and will run to June 20, so May 1 is somewhere in the middle of the official season. Still, by May 1, we largely expect in most of the northern hemisphere (except those far north or in high elevations) that the brutal freezing weather of winter are behind us. The birds are back in full song, flowers and plants are starting to awaken, critters have emerged, and the world is full of life.

Especially without human life.

How odd to celebrate the reawakening of the world as so much of our own society are still in self-quarantine and lock down. Some things are still okay; I love going for drives on beautiful warm days that aren’t overly hot (since I’ve rarely had vehicles with working air conditioners), and we can still do that. I also love hiking, which, to a limit, can still be done, but only to a limit. After all, if the population density on trails is scarce, it’s not too dangerous to get out and walk around (better if it is non-existent). But picnics, gatherings with families and friends, sporting events and even movies are still a bad idea. For the most part, we’re still stuck inside admiring nature through a window.

There is a marvelous quote going around that says that we are isolating now so that the next time we have a gathering nobody is missing. This has been a long and difficult quarantine, a sort of twenty-first century plague. It’s easy to think of plagues as a thing of the past, but this is our warning not to become too arrogant or complacent. As soon as we think everything is safe, mother nature has a way of putting us in our place. Just ask Edward Smith (captain of the Titanic). Worldwide, a quarter of a million people have died of the Coronavirus. Here in the US, New York City has been using mass graves to handle the number of local deaths. Yes, here. It’s a serious concern.

So, should we not celebrate spring? Well, of course we should. The weather seems to have broken, we have had beautiful days, and there is much to celebrate. We just might be a little bit delayed in joining in the celebration, but even the self-quarantine seems to be loosening a bit. For now, while we miss our family and friends, we can still grill out, enjoy the sun, play catch with our kids and enjoy the weather. Eventually we know we will be able to reunite with our extended family and friends, and that gives us something to look forward to.

It’s like your birthday. Do you remember being a kid, knowing that your birthday is coming up and how excited you were? The anticipation was palpable, and that anticipation made the event even more special. Finally, it arrived, with whatever family celebratory traditions it might have included for you. You couldn’t rush it, but at the same time you always had faith that that day would arrive.

Spring has sprung. Rejoice, and enjoy the show. And while we stay safe, take heart that the quarantine will lift, and we will again emerge to be with our loved ones, hopefully all of them thanks to these precautions. Remember that you can always begin planning for postponed events. I myself had a birthday in April, and many other people have as well, perhaps even some of your friends, family and loved ones. Quarantine birthdays are not fun, so it might be fun to plan some kind of special event for these birthday people. Family reunions will undoubtedly be very popular when we are safe as well. All of these events you can look forward to in the very near future. We’re through the bulk of it; just a little bit longer. We got this!

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