"People need hard times and oppression to develop psychic muscles." Emily Dickinson
“Thank you, dear God, for this good life and forgive us if we do not love it enough. Thank you for the rain. And for the chance to wake up in three hours and go fishing: I thank you for that now, because I won't feel so thankful then.” Garrison Keillor
This is the 46th Germ Gem since the inception of the blog in July 2019. While the goal of this weekly commentary is to spotlight discoveries about microbes that are both life-giving (our intimate friends) and those that are life-threatening (our mortal enemies), since January 1, 2020 15 postings have focused on COVID-19. By now I’m sure that many readers are suffering, like I am, from COVID-19-information overload and are in need of a break. Thus when I received a recent newsletter from “The Lodge at Palisades Creek,” a marvelous fishing camp on the banks of the Snake River in Idaho, featuring this image it immediately occurred to me it’s time for a breather.
But before getting back on track next week with a more serious Germ Gem, I thought I’d share a few thoughts about fishing as a metaphor for life as they apply to the COVID-19 pandemic. As Henry David Thoreau expressed it most people go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.
Lesson Number 1: Patience. Catching fish takes time. I’ve spent many hours without as much as a nibble or strike. But when your patience is rewarded, it’s a marvelous feeling. At this time in the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone is impatient for a cure. But the good news is that one medicine (remdesivir) was recently approved, and several others look even more promising. More importantly, we all are yearning for the real game changer: a vaccine. And here too, a number of vaccine candidates look very promising. And while we patiently await more effective medicines and a vaccine, much will be learned from the hard times of COVID-19 that will better prepare us for future pandemics that will inevitably occur.
Lesson Number 2: Gratefulness. While I’m a big fan of the Minnesota author and humorist, Garrison Keillor, and agree with his reminder to be thankful for rain as well as for the opportunity to go fishing, personally I prefer sunshine. Sunlight plays a role in vitamin D metabolism, and there is mounting evidence that vitamin D stimulates the immune system. Also. ultraviolet rays in sunlight have antiviral properties. Both vitamin D and UV light are under study in the treatment of COVID-19. Also, there is something magical about being out-of-doors, breathing fresh air, and gazing at trees reflected in clear water at the shoreline: a wonderful antidote to COVID-19-mediated stress.
Lesson 3: Luck. One of the most memorable fishing experiences in my lifetime occurred at the breakfast table with my son at Palisades Creek Lodge. In our conversation about how many trout had out-smarted me, I suggested that in life (as well as in fishing) it’s often “better lucky than smart.” We happened to be joined at the table by a jovial fellow from Colorado who overheard my remark, and chimed in, “Yeah, but the harder you work, the luckier you get.”
I believe that one of the most important lessons to be learned from fishing that clearly applies to the COVID-19 pandemic is the importance of luck. Like all previous pandemics, COVID-19 wasn’t predicted by anyone. It was a “black swan” event, that is an extremely rare and unpredictable occurrence with enormous impact. Based on the history of other pandemics, COVID-19 too will end. But nobody can predict when. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it would peter out unpredictably as did another coronavirus-mediated pandemic: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). SARS erupted in China on November 16, 2002 and was officially declared contained by the World Health Organization eight months later, on July 4, 2003. Admittedly, for that to happen we gotta get really lucky! But in the meantime, I recommend that you go fishing—you may, unpredictably, catch a trophy.