Saturday, September 19, 2020

Pay attention

Sometimes the little things provide lessons for the big picture.

For me this happened on what most would describe as an easy bike ride. Taking a late afternoon trip up Painter Boy was a relaxed treat last Friday. It was full of colorful flowers and the aspen forest at the top was refreshing. And it was while looking around and thinking about the gorgeous surroundings instead of paying attention to the trail that my front tire hit the remains of a stump. My wheel turned and I flew into a log. It hurt and eventually my right leg ballooned so it appeared I had two knees. It made for a good photo to send out as the pain dissipated. But a few people with more medical knowledge than I had told me to really watch the growing hematoma, ice it and keep it elevated or expect a trip to the hospital. That giant bump, they said, could turn into a big problem that could end with major issues.

So this time I paid attention. I kept ice on it the rest of the evening, even when I went to bed. That lasted until the wee hours when I got rid of the ice but kept my leg elevated and visualized that mountain of a bump going down. I woke up and the swelling had indeed receded. I rested that leg over the weekend and my leg is now sore but looks like a leg again.

The point is that paying attention matters. Not paying attention, even when on an easy trail, can result in a painful reminder that things can turn in an instant. Meanwhile, paying attention can bring one back to a good space.

It feels like too many of us are not paying attention right now.

After we in the valley weathered a hard and sometimes tragic initial coronavirus wave, we hit a nice lull in the virus situation after the end of winter. Being human, we could not stay at home in isolation forever. So when restrictions meant to battle the spread of COVID-19 began to relax as the weather warmed, many people stopped paying attention and went back to living like they had last summer with not a care in the world. It seems that now not only are some not paying attention, they think they are on the smooth downhill part of the trail—which is sort of right but not totally. There are still stumps in that trail. We as a community hit one Monday when four new positive COVID-19 cases were reported in the valley, after many weeks of nothing but an easy trail full of flowers and aspens.

Walking around Elk Avenue during the last week, it is obvious that especially many younger members of the community feel invincible and have stopped paying attention to the possibility of catching and spreading the coronavirus. And using the bike metaphor to an extreme, while they may fall off their bike and end up with a few scratches that won’t last, they can still spread the hurt—and that is the danger to the community in general.

While hitting the stump is a warning, the danger comes in hitting the log. We can still get control of the bike and we should. Just recording new positive COVID-19 test results isn’t the issue but if we spread the virus to the at-risk portion of our community and our hospital begins to fill up and ventilators start to get used, we will no longer be able to stay open and relaxed. We all want to remain open and support our local businesses but that requires vigilance. That requires attention.

I have lately witnessed scenes that look like last summer when COVID-19 was not even known. The most egregious is probably the people crowded into their favorite establishments, mingling and mixing like it’s reunion week in Crested Butte. While understandable, that shows a lack of attention to the invisible enemy still hanging around the valley.

There is both an individual choice and a communal choice to make. We can keep not paying attention and pretend the virus has come and gone from the valley, or we can accept that the mysterious COVID-19 lurks among us and we should keep practicing the minimal measures recommended to slow its spread. That means socially distancing at least six feet from one another, washing our hands frequently, staying home if feeling sick and wearing a facemask in crowded situations if you are able.

We have hit a stump in the coronavirus trail. Let’s refocus our attention just that little bit more so we can avoid the log that could put us back in the hospital if we’re not careful.

—Mark Reaman

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