By Mike Biddison
The official beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere this year came and went on Saturday, March 20th. The day passed hardly noticed by me and other Californians because we all normally spot signs of spring in mid-February — the flowering almonds, peaches, and flowering pears on M Street (Veterans Blvd). This year, most likely because of the noticeable warming of the climate this century, spring crept in even earlier, during the latter part of January.
According to a recent American Geophysical Union study, spring and summer are lengthening, while autumn and winter are becoming shorter and warmer. Over the past 60 years, summers worldwide have grown an average 17 days longer. The study predicts summer conditions will linger for half the year by the end of this century.
The trend bodes ill for those depending on the regularity of seasons for their livelihoods. Climate change has wreaked increasingly severe and unpredictable weather during each succeeding year of the twenty-first century.
Farmers depend on regular weather patterns for planting after the last frost, and harvesting before the winter storms set in. They also need to know the crop will not be burned by large, devastating wildfires, such as the California fires last year that destroyed more than 4.3 million acres. Two years prior, in 2018, a record 1.6 million acres burned across the state, astounding everyone with the amount of devastation.
The warming climate is also connected with the frequency and severity of drought, and if all indications prove true, we’re headed into another long dry spell. One does not have to be a scientist to see the trend.
But I’m not here to alarm—just pointing out that March 20th, when the Earth’s axis aligns with its orbit around the sun, doesn’t carry the significance it once had. Except, my wife and I marked the day with a huge sigh of relief upon receiving our second and final Pfizer vaccination against COVID 19. The vaccine, authorized by the FDA for emergency use on December 11, 2020, was in chronic short supply in Merced County for months.
The scarcity can be attributed to the arcane way the state assigned limited amounts of the vaccine according to the number of treatment facilities in the area. The formula must’ve made sense to someone. It gave Southern California cities with half the population of our county, but blessed with large regional hospitals, significantly more vaccines per capita than we received.
I signed up with the county early on, as soon as they got their ‘Vaccinate Merced County’ website up and running. Unfortunately, unlike other counties, one could sign up with Merced only for notification of appointment opportunities. People elsewhere would get on the list for appointments, and be notified when to show up. When I finally noticed an email notification in my inbox and went to make an appointment, I would find all the slots filled. This happened five times and I became increasingly frustrated.
Over this period I learned to check my email more often, but always lost out against those who had the foresight to set up instant email notifications on their devices. I’ve only thought of that now, and confess to slapping my forehead in the manner of Homer Simpson. Duh! My thoughts jump to the plight of older residents and poorer families out there who don’t have email or even smart devices. People tell me there is a surfeit of those folks in the county.
Anyhow, my wife, Peggy, finally snagged us a couple of appointments with the CVS pharmacy after dutifully waiting on hold for more than 45 minutes. And now that we are fully vaccinated, the logjam seems to have broken. I’m notified by Merced County every couple of days about new appointments available, and another major pharmacy, Walgreens, said they obtained a supply which they are now offering to neighbors. Others are promising the same. So, good news all around.
But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. No, it was two days after, on March 22nd, that the real big news arrived. All 8 pounds, 4 squalling ounces of him—our great nephew Ronan Hill, from Asheville, North Carolina. Conceived last summer, when this great pandemic started spreading like wildfire across the country, he represented the great optimism of his parents, and others like them, who believe that no matter what obstacles lie in store, life will continue to push through it all.
Two million U.S. COVID cases had been confirmed in June, 2020. However, a medical study done during the same period suggested the actual count of undiagnosed cases totaled close to five times that number. Today, we are living with the mind boggling figure of over a half million souls taken by this virus. I know of several who caught the virus and survived, and I’m sure many of you are aquatinted with survivors, as well. But that half million number remains, a reminder that life is a gift, and we can’t just trust to luck—we have to do everything in our power to protect ourselves and our neighbors, so that little guys like Ronan have a chance to thrive.
Get vaccinated. It likely won’t hurt, and it’ll be one less damn thing you’ll have to worry about!
Mike Biddison is a Times contributor and novelist who lives in Merced. Find out about his books online at: redmistgirl.com