January 31, 2022

At the start of 2022 we live with medical miracles and nightmares. Millions worldwide have been vaccinated against the covid pandemic, which yet has killed more than 870,000 Americans, lately about 2,300 per day. Millions of vaccine refusers close their eyes to the death toll. Ignorance teaches hard lessons. 

History offers hope. In October 1932 two German researchers, Josef Klarer, a chemist, and Gerhard Domagk, a physician, working for the big pharmaceutical firm Bayer, tested an experimental antibacterial drug. The process was routine, for four years they had followed it hundreds of times with no success.

The drug, called KI-695, combined a dye and a chain of sulfide molecules. They gave it to a select few of a test batch of mice infected with strep-causing bacteria. Domagk then went on vacation. When he returned he learned that the mice that did not get the drug all were dead. A lab assistant said those that received it “were jumping up and down very lively.” Then the assistant said, “You will be famous.”

Sulfa was the first antibiotic.

Domagk ordered further tests. Again the mice that received KI-695 survived, even with smaller doses. A new dye-sulfide drug, KI-730, proved still more effective. On Christmas Day 1932 Bayer applied for a German patent for the drug, named Strepozon.

Domagk continued the testing, adding rabbits as subjects. The drug cured strep with no side effects. Domagk and Klarer developed a variant without the dye. In 1933 a physician named Forster conducted the first human test when he gave Strepozon to a boy near death from a staph infection. Within days he was cured. Another physician gave the drug to a young girl dying of a severe strep infection. Her strep disappeared.  Domagk used it to treat his own daughter’s strep. By 1934 the drug had been proven effective against strep in human patients. 

Thomas Hager, in The Demon Under the Microscope, eloquently tells how medicine fought bacterial disease, initially with Klarer’s and Domagk’s sulfa drugs, and later with penicillin and other powerful antibiotics. He writes that in 1917 Domagk, first as a soldier and later as a medical assistant in a German frontline hospital in Poland, saw the horrible effects of gas gangrene caused by strep infections. Nearly all victims died. In British field hospitals in France, doctors were helpless when wounded soldiers developed gas gangrene from strep.

In early 1918 Domagk was sent to the Belgian front. “Disease was everywhere,” Hager writes. Domagk reported shocking scenes of hunger, young soldiers dying of strep, rotting corpses, public health systems destroyed, all causing an explosion of infectious disease that set off the worldwide influenza pandemic.

Before Strepozon and other sulfa offshoots, bacterial diseases like pneumonia, tuberculosis, diphtheria, cholera, and meningitis almost always killed their victims. People relied on sympathetic but usually helpless doctors and so-called patent medicines, many sold by unscrupulous companies and quacks. In the U.S., the Food and Drug Act of 1906 did not require new medications to be tested on animals or humans before being sold.

Strep was a ferocious, usually fatal disease. New mothers infected with strep in hospitals after giving birth died of “childbed fever.” In 1924, Calvin Coolidge Jr., son of the President, developed a blister on his heel playing tennis. Within a few days he was dead of a strep infection.

In December 1934 Bayer received its patent for Strepozon, renamed Prontosil. The company marketed the new medicine throughout Europe. In November 1936 Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr., FDR’s son, developed a sore throat and a fever and was rushed to the hospital. He coughed up blood, revealing a strep blood infection. The president’s physician gave him Prontosil. Within days he recovered. The news, Hager writes, ignited a worldwide demand for the drug.

Germany invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939. A month later Domagk learned he had been awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine. Hitler refused to allow him to accept it because Carl von Ossietsky, a German pacificist, had been awarded the 1935 Peace Prize. He died in a concentration camp. Under the Nazis medicine showed a dark underside, the ghastly concentration camp experiments. While Domagk searched for medicines, Bayer’s corporate parent, the chemical conglomerate IG Farben, produced the Zyklon B used in the gas chambers.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, doctors at Tripler Hospital treated the soldiers and sailors wounded by explosions and burns with massive doses of sulfa drugs. Within ten days of the attack not a single patient had died of infection.

Domagk, while no Nazi, persuaded German Army medical officers to use sulfa to treat wounds. By 1943 German, British, and American troops carried packets of sulfa or could get it from a medic. That year the U.S. manufactured 4,300 tons of sulfa, enough to treat 100 million patients.

Domagk continued working until 1944, when all Bayer research stopped. By 1947 the company had recovered. Domagk resumed his work on a promising medicine, thiosemicarbazone, for use against TB. That same year he finally received his Nobel. By then, Hager notes, medicine had moved beyond sulfa drugs to penicillin, which did not have the side effects some patients experienced with sulfa, and then to powerful antibiotics like streptomycin, chloramphenicol, neomycin, and many others.

The antibiotic era, Hager writes, probably would have happened without sulfa, but would not have happened as quickly. Sulfa, he says, “cured the medical nihilism of the 1920s, dissipating the prevailing attitude that chemicals would never be able to cure most diseases. Sulfa proved that magic bullets were possible, encouraged their discovery, established the research methods needed to find them.”

Domagk died in 1964. Sulfa had given way to other drugs, and physicians found that bacteria were developing resistance to sulfa. Penicillin has been used to treat sulfa-resistant infections.

Still, Hager says, sulfa “kicked off a revolution in medicine.” Today we enjoy the benefits of the revolution: the age of antibiotics, and of the powerful vaccines, created by researchers guided by Domagk’s and Klarer’s mission, that protect against the covid virus in its multiple forms. Yet Hager’s note about medical nihilism resonates. It still is with us.  

The Storm

January 24, 2022

The sky grew gray then dark, the wind howled. Mid-January in temperate South Carolina turned bleak and bitter. The luminescence of fallen snow reflected through the windows before dawn. The forecast was accurate, at about five inches, maybe six, around our place. The wind still roared into mid-morning.

The weather reporters and police warned us to stay home. Schools, churches, doctors’ offices, and businesses closed. A brand-new Ford Mustang got stuck nearby on level pavement, the owner spinning his wheels loudly until he gave up and walked away, one of hundreds of snow-indifferent locals.

Freezing rain followed about mid-morning. The clouds closed in again, giving our street the dreary look of a 19th century mill town. We put on winter gear and plodded around the block, kicking snow and slush. No one else was outside, the neighborhood was silent but for the lonely moaning of the wind. The sleet turned back into snow.   

On the second shutdown day the sun showed up and the temperature rose into the forties. The stuff on the street got soft. A few people came out and pushed snow from their driveways with garden shovels, neither they nor we own a snow shovel. After dark the mercury dipped below 25F, the slush in the streets refroze and created a hard crust. No plow ever showed up. That’s not done here.

This Carolina snow would be a routine winter event in Chicago, Cleveland, New York, Philly, or anywhere in New England, the Midwest, or the Rockies. It would not seem like much in northern Virginia, after 13 surprise inches fell there two weeks ago. Our skies stayed blue that day, a difficult weather day for the Northeast.

Perspective matters. I checked the weather in Yellowknife, in Canada’s Northwest Territories on the shore of the Great Slave Lake, where I had taken our son Michael fishing some years ago. It was -32F, with a predicted high that day of -30F. Yellowknife is considered a snow desert; they don’t get much, although the lake freezes to six feet thick and planes land on it. In the upper Midwest folks plug their car batteries into electric warming devices on double-digit subzero nights.

Here, people talked about the forecast days before the snow fell, and how fortunate we’d be that it was coming over the three-day King weekend. Last year this town got 1.8 inches.

Two years ago a snowstorm descended on our old homestead. Then too, the street was deserted, the only sound was the scratching of branches, the rustling of dead leaves in the winter wind. That snow was only a glancing blow by a massive weather pattern moving north and out to sea that left us camped indoors, the streets impassable for days. The pattern was the same, freeze then melt, freeze again, melt again, until the asphalt and concrete emerged.

Farther back, during the “Snowmageddon” winter of 2010 we had three 20-inches-plus storms from early December through mid-January. The federal government shut down, grocery store shelves emptied, hardware stores ran out of shovels and generators. During the second one I worried about the weight of the snow. As the wind whistled I leaned a ladder against the house and climbed onto the roof to sweep it off, my face went numb. Power went out for three or four days, we slept in front of the fireplace.

We were lucky. In Montgomery County, Maryland, where affluent, nature-loving homeowners had long prevented Potomac Electric Power Company from trimming trees, huge oaks and maples crashed on houses and cars. Frozen limbs snapped and fell on power lines, killing power for weeks in Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Silver Spring, and elsewhere, stoking anger and threats of lawsuits.

Still farther back, in September 1983 on a work trip out west, I missed the forecast and drove into light snow on a mountain road outside Yellowstone National Park. In a hurry I pushed on, seeing no other vehicles. The snowfall got heavier and covered the road, the wind blew harder. I slowed to about 10 mph and finally slid into a drift a dozen feet off the road.

The car wouldn’t budge. I sat, wearing a light sweater, starting the engine to run the heat then shutting it off to save gas, until it would not start. An hour passed, then two. I saw lights ahead, a State Police four-wheel-drive truck. The troopers threw chains around my rear axle and hauled me out. “We closed the road for the season,” they said. I got the car started, turned around, and headed to the interstate, hours away.

Snow: schools close, kids have fun. Skiers and snowboarders shuttle up mountains to take in breathtaking vistas then fly down the slopes. When I was in college in New Hampshire, the school in the fall put up fences to hold back the drifts. Appalachian Trail hikers bed down in shelters or set up their cold-weather tents and snuggle into winter sleeping bags.

We’re not Florida, but here in the Upstate we are winter amateurs. Real winter comes within a few hours’ drive, in the Smokies, in the Cherokee, Nantahala, and Pisgah National Forests. We tend not to pay attention. The Blue Ridge is our weather wall. Those Canadian highs and Gulf lows bounce off the mountains and hills just north of here and sweep into the Mid-Atlantic and New England. We’re bystanders, gawking at weather disasters in the Midwest and in Colorado, Kentucky, Washington, California, elsewhere.  

This one was ours. Snow fell for 12 or so hours, the wind whipped it sideways against buildings. A nearly 100-foot-long tent at the nearby YMCA collapsed. The drifts we saw, a few feet here and there, weren’t the drifts of New Hampshire. Then they were gone. Here in late January, the sun is rising earlier every day and staying later. Spring is coming.

Sheridan, Again

January 17, 2022

Signup started last week for the June Bighorn trail runs in Dayton, Wyoming, near Sheridan. It’s my second shot. In 2016 I got in, we bought the plane tickets, then I broke my ankle, snapped it cleanly in Virginia’s Massanutten Mountains. I wore a rigid plastic boot for four months. We went anyway.

The plan now is to keep my bones intact. Showing up at Bighorn means giving in again to the urge to pass through wild places. These things have a strange power for those who have slogged hard mountain and forest paths. The wear and pounding of time and sickness have had their effects. Still, it’s possible, I think it’s possible, to attack the heart-stopping climbs and razor-sharp turns and descents, then to encounter the silence, the mysterious, lyrical grace of deep forest, to get through it, cover the miles, to overcome and finish.

For three consecutive years before Bighorn we landed in Pony, Mont., in the Tobacco Root Mountains sixty or seventy miles southwest of Bozeman for the Fool’s Gold series. I finished one race of the three I started. We climbed to 11,000 feet at a midpoint in the course, gasping and staggering, then sprinted down the leeward side. My mind returns to the twisting, rock-paved trail back to Pony, through dense fir forest and across wilderness prairie to the zigzagging gravel road into town, past the Pony Bar and the post office, to the abandoned schoolhouse set off in the scrub. All that brought us to the Sheridan junket.  

The Mountain West is in its many shades transcendently beautiful and eerily mundane, spectacular and foreboding. We started in Kalispell, Montana, close to Glacier National Park. The city sits amid vernal pastures and pines that climb rugged peaks. The airport is a gateway to the park, but downtown, when we saw it, had an isolated, lonely, threadbare feel. We poked around a few early twentieth century-vintage buildings, cowboy bars, souvenir booths, antique shops packed with flea-market stuff.

Glacier didn’t work out, it was early June and the famous Going to the Sun Road was still closed by snow a few miles past the visitor’s center. We did get a glimpse of famous Lake McDonald and walked through the chic Lake McDonald Lodge, gawking like the tourists we were. From there we had to backtrack out of the park to find U.S. 2, which took us south, then east.

We passed through Browning, site of headquarters of the Blackfeet Reservation. The town sits on a treeless prairie; square single-level frame houses and mobile homes line up over rolling hills. The highway, with its fast-food joints, gas stations, neon-lit motels, and a post office, is the town’s main street. I imagined this place facing winter winds howling off the plains, and shivered.

We thought we’d stop in Browning, but instead turned south on U.S. 89 across a vast emptiness, the road stretching in a dizzying vista to the horizon. I stared straight ahead, feeling no sense of progress. Eventually we passed in under two minutes the two or three buildings in Dupuyer, then saw signs for Bynum. There we paused and walked quickly through Two Medicine Dinosaur City, advertised by roadside billboards as a museum put there to commemorate long-ago paleontology digs. The place features photos of excavations and postcards and plastic models of dinosaurs for sale. We pushed on.

We got a nice lunch in Choteau, still miles from Great Falls, but close to some local parks and then-TV talk-show host David Letterman’s huge ranch. It was raining and gray when we made Great Falls. We drove around to get a quick look at that busy little factory town and took photos of the Missouri River as it dribbles over the famous falls.

We headed south the next morning, still on highway 89, crossing brown prairie. Traffic disappeared as we entered rugged, dark Lewis and Clark National Forest. In an hour or so we pulled into Neihart, a former silver-mining hotspot, population then down to 33. We got coffee and looked around, then moved on along a rushing mountain creek. I got photos and later recreated the scene on canvas.

Central Montana goes on and on. Just north of White Sulphur Springs we turned east on State Road 12 and got lunch in a bar in Lavinia. Around midafternoon we passed Billings and hit I-90. We had to see the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, appropriately between the Crow and Cheyenne reservations. The place, tranquil and beautiful, summons up chilling images of the end of Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and the 263 men of his 7th Cavalry unit who were trapped there on June 26, 1876 by two thousand Cheyenne and Lakota Sioux warriors.

Devil’s Tower

We made it to Sheridan that evening. The next day we drove two or three hours through near-empty country past Gillette, then north on local roads to the Devil’s Tower National Monument, which starred in Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters.” The strange but somehow graceful mass of rock bursts out of the prairie and looms for miles over wide stretches of ranchland. I walked the path around the tower, climbing over the boulders that form the base and craning my neck to make sense of that sublime reminder of the earth’s enduring mystery.

We walked Sheridan’s streets, set off by the jagged Bighorn range. Going easy on my tender ankle, I trotted three miles out of town on a winding rural road past ranch houses and silos. Cattle stared back at me from vast pastures. Two days later we drove up winding mountain roads to the start of the race and watched the runners take off. They hustled down a steep grade and crawled up the other side. We hung around a couple of days and took in the hardscrabble beauty of the Cowboy West, then headed back to Billings for the long flight home

The Paddleboard

January 10, 2022

Sandy and I took a ride out to Lake Robinson, about ten miles from home. It’s a man-made lake—not to say artificial—created by Greer CPW, the local utility. This was a few Sundays ago, before the holidays. We walked around the picnic area and looked out at the deep blue of the lake, which extends for miles to wooded hills, hazy in the distance. We hiked out on a pier and talked to an old guy fishing for bass or crappie and drinking beer. He caught a couple of small ones.

A brisk wind blew, we pulled our collars up and headed back to the parking lot. Near our car, a young woman pulled a large suitcase from her SUV. From it she unfolded a bright yellow package, opened the SUV hood, and connected a pump to the battery and to the package.

While we watched, the package inflated into an eight-foot-long paddleboard. Under her sweatgear she wore a swimsuit. She tossed the sweats in her car and, while we shivered, carried the paddleboard and a long paddle to the boat pier, threw it in the water, and climbed aboard. As it glided away from the pier she stood up, thrust the paddle in the water and sailed swiftly out into the lake.  We watched her paddle away, in a few minutes she was a dot. I watched until she faded in the distance.

As we headed home, I thought: she’s way younger than me. Where did she get the enthusiasm, the savvy, the nerve, to hop on a slim plank and sail out to the middle of a deep lake? I’ve never paddleboarded. My friend Kevin, down in Florida, paddleboards in the Gulf.  Why don’t I try it? I looked up ORU, the company I saw branded on her paddleboard. They also sell collapsible kayaks, prices range to a few hundred bucks. The company offers a combination paddleboard-kayak, the “origami paddler,” which they say is “the world’s first folding paddleboard/kayak in one.” It’s made of recycled plastic.

I asked Sandy, how about a paddleboard or a kayak for Christmas? She wasn’t interested. She does water aerobics at the YMCA pool but isn’t one for sailing.  

I thought it would be fun to paddle around a lake, maybe do some fishing from a kayak. We have lots of lakes around here. Lake Hartwell, down on the Georgia-S.C. border, which we visited for our anniversary, is huge. Lake Jocassee is another big one up near North Carolina. Then there’s Lake Keowee, also northwest of us, a pretty boating and vacation spot.

Lake Robinson

I haven’t done anything about it. Inertia set in, inertia and distractions, obligations, the stuff you worry about every day. When I recall that girl sailing gracefully across the lake I still think it would be an adventure. But I’d have to buy the kit, assemble the paddleboard, and learn how to balance and sail on it. It would take some effort. But then so would lots of other things.

I’d like to visit Ireland, it’s on our list. We’ve never been there, although we have a common Irish name. Our daughter Marie spent a year at University College in Dublin. I regret now that we never visited her that year. The light bulb—let’s go to Ireland—never lit. We just plodded on, work, chores, the usual. My parents, who never traveled across the U.S., visited Ireland. Our kids have been to Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Iceland, South Africa, Russia, Peru, the Caribbean, Europe multiple times. A few of those trips were work related, most were for fun. We went to Rome for our 25th anniversary. That was 19 years ago. We went to Prince Edward Island, a quick flight from Toronto, ten years ago. We did go to the Paris Air Show in 1988 and the Farnborough Air Show in England the following year—both work trips.  

We never finished the big road trip we started in 2018. We got halfway across the country, sickness got in the way. Now it’s a distant memory.

We still have the tent, sleeping bags, gas grill, and backpacks, they’re gathering dust in the garage. Then too, I still have the ten-foot-long surfcasting fishing rod and the spinning reel my mother gave my father for Christmas when I was a teenager. He used it maybe once. It hung in their basement until the house was sold. I grabbed it. That was 15 years ago. So the rod and reel set, while still in near-new condition, is close to 60 years old. Will I ever use it?

The years march forward, we stand by, transfixed by the world lately racked by absurdity and disaster. The mercury ran up to a freakish 75 last week, the tiny public skating rink laid out downtown for the Christmas season was closed for a few days. The manufactured ice was no match for the springlike temperatures. But nobody around here knows how to skate anyway. This is South Carolina, not Massachusetts.

We watched as Nature attacked: Midwest tornadoes last month, then fires in Colorado. Storms swept in last week. The rain stopped. Our sky stayed blue while northern Virginia got a snowstorm that trapped thousands on I-95 overnight. We then endured man-made darkness. Our new parish shut down because both priests got covid—no masks, no distancing. We noted the one-year anniversary of the attack on the Capitol. The insurrection is not over.

Still, we accumulate bright ideas: can we get our deck replaced? Can I take the grandsons fishing? Can we pull off the second half of the road trip? Can I finish the Bighorn trail run out in Wyoming in June?

It’s all on file in my head. Retirement can be lots of things, fearless, adventuresome travel to the great castles of Europe or the temples of India—whatever you like and can afford. It could be learning a new language or how to play guitar, helping out with Meals on Wheels (Sandy’s plan). It can be relaxing in rocking chairs in the backyard or sprawled by a pool drinking beer while slathered with sunscreen. It could be sitting on the porch whittling.

Then too, retirement can mutate into dreary griping about how the world treats us, no matter how the world treats us. We could be lying in a hospital ICU. We hope, when we say our prayers, we’re done with that. But it looks like I’m not buying the paddleboard. I’ll try whittling.


January 3, 2022

Young and old men and women slog up Table Rock Mountain. At 2,000 feet the southern skyline presents for 50 miles. A thousand feet higher the sheer rock faces that give the place its name drop sharply to the abyss. Creases have been chiseled intermittently into the stone to provide some footing, but don’t remove the hint of danger of a bad ending. The path then twists through thick woods to a near-vertical climb to the summit. The rocky surface opens to a panorama to the north, wide and spectacular, that engages the human spirit.

Going to Table Rock and similar places is one of the things we can do as one hard year ends and another looms. Sons, daughters, and parents who gathered for Christmas have left, some struggling with weather and covid nightmares. As always, year’s end brings the sweeping judgments and retrospectives: how did things work out for you?

This bleak December reinforced sadness and despair, we read about it every day. But the calendar pages turn to 2022, they move only forward. Table Rock may be a small respite, but the vastness of the setting lifts the heart. The climbers descend to the city. Their lives call them back to perseverance and faith. Some undeniable force for good may capture the soul, perhaps for a little while, perhaps forever. Call it mountain rapture, call it the power of the Almighty, impassive, eternal. It summons us to confront the world, and to act.

As these new days rush forward we turn to treasure memories of lives lost in 2021, some close and dear, parents, siblings, who still call to us. Then too, giants passed. In June Donald Rumsfeld, the youngest and later the oldest Secretary of Defense, died at 88. His legacy is tarred as architect of the Iraq War, although he didn’t authorize it. He took the blasts but never shifted blame to others who were more responsible for the nightmare the war became. He was fired after Republican Congressional losses in 2006 made him expendable.  

In October Sister Megan Rice, from a polar opposite world, passed into heaven at 91. A biologist who taught for 40 years in Africa and a disciple of the Catholic pacificist Dorothy Day, Rice was arrested more than 40 times for her anti-nuclear weapons activism.

In July 2012 she made history with two others by cutting through three barbed-wire fences and walking into the Oak Ridge, Tenn., National Security Complex. They wrote slogans like “the fruit of justice is peace” on the walls of a uranium storage facility. A security expert called the break-in “the biggest security breach in the history of the nation’s atomic complex.” Rice served two years in prison, after asking the judge to “show no leniency” towards her.  The Department of Energy funded an oral history project on her anti-nuclear convictions.

Some earned monumental stature. Former Kansas Senator Bob Dole, who passed in December, lived his long, brave, and tumultuous life without the use of his right arm after he was wounded in Italy in April 1945, weeks before the German surrender. George P. Schultz, who died in February at 100, held four Cabinet positions. As Secretary of State in the 1980s he helped end the Cold War by pushing for better relations with the USSR.

Gen. Colin Powell passed in October. As Secretary of State in 2003 he accused Iraq of stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, but later admitted he was wrong. He apologized and years later rose to call out Trump’s lies. Vernon Jordan, civil rights crusader and later political insider, died in March. In his early years he directed the United Negro College Fund and National Urban League. He became a Washington operator but throughout his life identified with the civil rights movement.

Max Cleland, who at age 25 lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam, died in November. He won the Silver Star and later became President Carter’s Administrator for Veterans Affairs. After serving one Senate term he lost his seat in 2002. Vietnam veterans Sens. John McCain and Chuck Hagel defended him against slanders by his Republican opponent.

A moral pygmy left the planet in February, that being Rush Limbaugh, who cultivated on-air political vulgarity and mendacity to clear a path for Trump, the master of the trade. Limbaugh milked “conservative” anger while acknowledging he never actually talked about conservatism. He called women sluts and said covid-19 was the common cold being used against Trump. He condemned illegal drug use on his show but in 2009 settled charges of doctor-shopping when he was found with thousands of painkillers prescribed by multiple doctors.

In 2021 America lost talented writers Joan Didion, Anne Rice (both December), and Janet Malcolm (June).  Didion dissected American culture in screenplays, essays, and novels, including the eloquent exegesis of the 2003 death of her husband in The Year of Magical Thinking, written when she was 70. In 2011, in Blue Nights, she wrote of the death of her 39-year-old daughter.

Rice, in her Vampire Trilogy, entertained and scared fans of Gothic fiction. Malcolm, who as a child fled Nazi Germany with her Jewish parents in 1939, produced a vast body of work for The New Yorker, writing passionate, incisive articles and books on psychoanalysis and crime.

Neil Sheehan died in January. He won the Pulitzer for A Bright and Shining Lie, a history of the Vietnam War. In 1971, as a New York Times reporter, he obtained the classified Pentagon Papers which, published by The Times, revealed high-level government deceptions that prolonged the war.

Famous people are famous for many reasons. Baseball star Henry Aaron passed in January. Vice President Walter Mondale, one of the true gentlemen of politics, died in April. Football coach John Madden and Harry Reid, longtime Senate majority leader who pushed the Affordable Care Act through Congress, both died a few days ago.

And so on. Some good people left the world. We can learn lessons they teach about virtue, about success and failure, about truth. We can do many things during the Age of the Pandemic besides live in fear. We can visit places like Table Rock to breathe the pure air.  We can climb our own mountains.