Here's What I Think About That

Looking For Middle Ground


A year has passed since the first mention of the novel coronavirus in a KP News staff meeting. The whole world has changed since.

The stress and fatigue from living during the pandemic comes in waves. Winter was bound to be difficult and it is that. Families and friends are leaning on each other, being creative to find solutions to ease the pain and challenges of hard times getting worse.

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department officials confirmed Jan. 24 that the UK variant strain of COVID-19 labeled B.1.1.7 has been identified in an existing case of the virus in Pierce County.

Viruses change as they spread and these variants spread more readily from person to person.

“This new information does not change how we fight COVID-19,” said TPCHD Director Anthony Chen. “Everyone needs to continue to do their part to minimize the spread — and get vaccinated when it’s your turn — so we can put this pandemic behind us.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported there is no evidence the variants cause more severe cases or an increased chance of death but they can produce more cases. The CDC recently predicted the UK variant will become the dominant strain in the U.S. by March.

“I’m so tired of constant crisis and negativity,” a local health care provider confided to me. “My system has been running on high alert about work, COVID and politics for over a year and it just feels toxic.”

Did we as Americans reach a watershed moment as a nation? How we respond to the events of Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol, and Olympia, will determine how we face extremism even as we argue over what to call them: a riot, insurrection, attempted coup?

Perhaps the time has come for us to focus on what we love instead of what we hate.

It was true love that lured me into river rafting. Thrilling outdoor adventure was not my thing, but it was his and that was good enough for me. Our first date was a late season run on the dam-controlled Tieton River. He pulled into my driveway to pick me up sitting behind the wheel of a 1953 Ford school bus converted to living space for the traveling life on the road. After that weekend, I would have followed him anywhere, and did.

We married three months later. And with that single act I happily became the mother of a four-year old boy whose own natural curiosity led to the transformative expansion of mine. Our lives were forever changed by saying “yes” 32 years ago.

Many years and countless river trips later, I never lost that breathless anxiety and sense of dread that came with scouting from shore at the top of the most challenging rapids. From my perspective, the very worst camps were always above a big rapid where it was impossible to get away from the thunderous roar. I worried myself sick all night while the hardcore boaters jacked themselves up with excitement.

For me it was always about the trip, traveling through time inside deep canyons and the wonders of truly untouched wild places. The Wild and Scenic Selway River, inside the protected Bitterroot Wilderness area straddling Montana and Idaho, proved to me the existence of perfect balance in nature. Every plant and creature occupied its own niche in time and season.

North-facing walls along the river corridor were lush, green and wet. Around the bend, south-facing walls were entirely typical of arid environments, complete with cacti, lizards and big rattlesnakes absorbing the warmth of the sun. Fields of wildflowers and great towering trees appeared pristine in untended natural perfection.

Our trip was at spring high water, when the Selway is described as big and violent. The most difficult rapids are concentrated in a Class IV stretch called the Ladle. The guidebooks caution that capsizing or coming out of your raft or kayak here will mean a long and lonely 5-mile swim through more or less continuous rapids.

The entrance is a very narrow channel. The first boats down from our group had very rough runs, but managed to stayed upright. Miraculously we hit the entrance just right and it was as if we rode a magic carpet with water exploding all around us. In my memory, it was the most incredible whitewater run we ever made — unforgettable.

Reading whitewater is an art. There is a natural instinct to skirt the big, churning water and sneak through on the edges. I’ve learned that most of the time it’s best to stay in the main channel with some forward momentum rather than getting stuck or tripped up in the countercurrents.

I suggest the same is true for politics. To rediscover our best American selves, we must stop being drawn off to the easy-looking extremes on the edges. We have to face the big stuff, the scary stuff in the middle, to find the good stuff in ourselves.