The month of woe in many places, with heat and smoke interrupting life in many ways.
Still the suffering can seem limited, depending on a person's location. Escaping Washington, D.C., humidity to Billings in southeastern Montana can be a blessing since the record high temps here aren't matched by exorbitant rises on the humidity scale. It's possible to sit outside in the shade and not feel encumbered by a hot cloth. To date the only inconvenience wrought by unusual weather patterns has been a city order to reduce times that residents can water lawns. A minimal order: no watering on Mondays.
Does that amount to sacrifice? Maybe only if you are in charge of keeping the golf course green.
The subject is a good 'safe' one for conversation. Not so a visitor's questioning store employees about why the rule to wear masks has been dropped - well, everywhere else, too, it seems. The Albertson's clerk comes out from behind the fish counter with an offer of help while I look over the selection. That alone - the gesture - was striking but not as much as the sight of the man in a blue stretch fabric covering the entire lower half of his face. I start to question him when he says "I"m growing a beard" - as if that explained much. (How many men are vain about hair growth on their face?) He plainly wasn't fearful of a virus and didn't want me to think so or else he was lying. I can't resist asking in turn that if the public he serves close up aren't concerned about the Delta variant, especially in unvaccinated people, infecting others? A non sequitur maybe. He turns away and goes on to the next customer. That's a blunt contrast to the young woman (unmasked like everyone else but one old-old couple I spied) with the wild black hair at the checkout counter who is ever solicitous that one of the eggs in the carton is cracked. She goes immediately to get a new one at the far side of the store, ignoring customers waiting in line behind me.
Over drinks an emergency room physician says nearly all victims coming her way these days are unvaccinated but the hospital does not make it mandatory to give such people a shot...even when she explains the likelihood that all of them have the Covid virus that could lead to an early death. Invariably, the sickest - almost all - ask for the vaccine in hopes it will 'save them.' Whoops.Too late. Should have thought about that a few weeks earlier. Do they really believe vaccine is a medicine?
Attitudes are everything. Heaven help the unwary and unwise. Drink up and forget what can't be changed.
A young mother of two, another physician whose husband also is one, says she has almost given up relations with her parents over their misguided belief that vaccines are the result of a government conspiracy. The parents can give no logical reason other than someone (no reliable medical authority) convinced them likely on social media or Fox TV. Such defiance may have its roots in other regions too deep to dive.
A long summer weekend in a family-centered world where, as one resident ( a Billings native who is a young female CEO of a major trucking firm begun by her father) describes the place as "a suburb looking for a city." Hence, an outdoor birthday party for the six year old featuring an enormous colorful blown-up slide and fun house almost as large as a 'regular house' that covers a minimum of the entire lawn. The father is a corporate executive with Dunkin Donuts, the mother works closely with the founder of Oracle. A Tesla - owned by a relative from Boston - is parked in the driveway. So much for 'rural Montana.'
These are observations/recollections - better, diversions - to avoid a dual crisis in the West (western Montana included) that is linked in many ways: draught and fires resulting in water shortage (see above) and tremendous terrifying poisonous smoke. All of which impacts people in very intimidating ways. Think: loss of income, health, etc.
But to date neither impacts the plan I originally conceived to try being a 'downtown girl' in a city that is mainly a suburb. Where the center of town so-called is a canvas flap resembling a sail hanging over a certain not very distinguished intersection. This involves rental of a tiny well-worn cottage that describes itself as sunny though letting in the sun requires raising all blinds and exposure to a parking lot and a massage parlor. No trees of distinction. My earliest visitors at dawn the first night: a noisy Waste Management vehicle scooping up with a robotic arm the large cans outside my back door and, in the front yard, a black rabbit seemingly frozen in place.