Pandemics and Protests

Sunday I was headed downtown on my bicycle to meet some friends and together we were going to head down to the demonstration protesting the brutal killing of George Floyd. On my way there I realized I forgot to put my mask in my jersey pocket and so thought better of joining a large crowd, given the risk of either contracting or spreading COVID-19. Instead I continued riding down the Cherry Creek Trail to Washington Park to ride a few laps before heading back home. It was a warm day and lots of people were out, and very few were wearing any facial protection. Recent reports dismissed the risk of contracting the virus while exercising outside, as opposed to standing shoulder to shoulder shouting or singing in a crowd, and the risk to cyclists and runners/joggers is deemed to be especially low. It was nice to see so many people being active, but it also creates a hazard on the trail. Walkers with headphones and earbuds don’t hear warnings from cyclists approaching from behind; inexperienced cyclists either don’t handle their bikes well or are inattentive; other cyclists who are used to less crowded conditions on the trail ride recklessly, not adapting their riding style to the more congested circumstances (I might be a bit guilty of this.).

Washington Park is home to the Eugene Field House. Built around 1875, this house was the home of the well-known journalist and writer Eugene Field, who was the managing editor of the Denver Tribune and lived in the house from 1881 to 1883. After Field moved to Chicago in 1883, the house fell into disrepair until a local group of preservationists convinced Margaret Brown to purchase the house and donate it to the City of Denver in 1927. As part of this preservation effort, the house was moved from its original site at 315 W. Colfax to its present location, where it has served as a branch of the Denver Public Library system and more recently as the headquarters for Park People (www.historycolorado.org).

Behind the Eugene Field House lies a quiet space where people come to enjoy the shade, beauty, and solitude of the Hazel Gates Woodruff Tribute Garden. You can commemorate a person, relationship, organization, or event with a personally inscribed brick paver.  Requests are processed and installed three times each year. The cost for an engraved paver is $100. (http://theparkpeople.org/What-We-Do/Park-Legacy-Program)

After Leslie died I purchased an engraved paver in Leslie’s memory, as did an anonymous friend of hers. I decided on my first lap around the park to stop and spend a few minutes in the quiet space alone, thinking about how much I miss and will always miss Leslie, how much my life has changed in the five years since she died, and how difficult a time she would have believing today’s state of affairs. I still cannot get on my bicycle, pick up my guitar, or go out onto our back patio without thinking of Leslie or wishing she was with me. I have met several wonderful women since losing Leslie and while I have recognized each for the unique and special individuals that they are, I may still unconsciously and unfairly project qualities of Leslie onto them in my mind, or create expectations for a new relationship that are unrealistic. I don’t really know. Leslie would be horrified to learn that Donald Trump is our president. She and I worked together to help get Obama elected in 2008 and really believed that our country was on a path toward true progressive reform after he took office. As a nurse whose most recent job was to promote wellness and lead teams on disease prevention she would be disappointed at our country’s response to the corona virus, but would no doubt be on the front lines combating the pandemic. She would be so disappointed at how divided our country is over race and social justice.

I completed my afternoon by riding back to Confluence Park on the Cherry Creek Trail, on around Sloan’s Lake and up to Crown Hill, thinking about the many privileges I have had in my life, including the privilege of still having my life, my health, my family, my friends, a sense of love, a desire to love again, the privilege of generally being treated fairly by our social justice and economic systems, and the tremendous luck I have had to be able to stay comfortable and safe during the pandemic. I continued to ride, pondering the responsibilities and obligations that come with these privileges and this luck.

Engraved Pavers
Engraved Pavers, Eugene Field House, Wash Park, Denver

When I got home I picked up my guitar and put a few chords together and began composing a song that I completed and recorded the next day. I know that throughout the labor movement, the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, and since, music has helped motivate us and helped us vent our frustration. It might just be a selfish, vain indulgence for me to write and record these amateurish creations, but I will continue to do it. I hope by sharing them they make some difference.

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