I am unconvinced that the notorious random-splatter artist known as Chance came up with this. But what do I know? I'm just a clump of cells expelled from its birth-persyn's swampy interior to act as the accidental catalyst of other clump-expulsions. (note to self: add "And I Vote!" to the bumper sticker.)

They adorn creeping vines that share the forest floor with their even-more aggressively creeping cousins, poison ivy, muscadine, greenbriar, kudzu, and their ilk. This one was growing at the bottom of the pond dam near the outlet stream where the rows of trees start. They don't seem too picky about zip code; they pop up down by the streams and up on the hillsides, but never, it seems, in great abundance, the way honeysuckle does sometimes.

Though it seems quite unnatural for a human eye to be unattracted to this sort of thing, dogs couldn't care less about them--as beautiful things, I mean. Don't notice them, might pee on them if they're in the right place, but won't seek them out for that. Don't eat them, even though they can hardly say "no" to a choice blade of grass. As much as I love dogs, I don't think they have the same aesthetics as we have. Then again, when I'm on the tractor mowing down the underbrush choking the rows of pines, I don't try to steer around passion flowers any more than I do poison ivy or privet.

I believe they're also called Maypops. Have you ever seen one out in the woods?

A crucial motif in the novel Rufus is the sound of a baby crying. The boogeyman snatches up the child in his sack and totes her off into the mortal unknown, the baby cries, and anyone who hears it feels a sickening, existential dread of a sound that can never be unheard or forgotten.

In real life, to a young mother or father, the crying of an infant can be a dreadful thing. It can go on and on, it can rob you of sleep and strain your patience in a way nothing else in life had ever done. The baby can't tell you where the pain is, or what would make it go away, and so you try and fail at one thing after another as your nerves fray and your heart cracks; you would gladly transfer the pain to yourself if you could, but you can't. You can't fix it; the doctor says there's no indication of a serious problem, but he can't fix it either. It's as if your baby's spirit gets lost in some dark underworld, you can hear her cry and you go into it after her and you fumble through the darkness and call out, but just can't seem to find her. It's a desperate and helpless feeling.

And so you keep on keeping on. You try different feedings, touches, sounds, positions. When I was a young father I would hold the colicky babe and walk for what seemed like hours around the house. I finally came up with a certain carry that seemed to work, and so that became the go-to hold for me. I would drape her belly-down over my left forearm with her head at the crook of my left elbow, and I'd snake my right arm next to my left and bring my fist up to her chin and I'd let her suck my thumb. Sounds weird, I know. But it worked.

To a large extent, you do what works. Having a baby is a crash course in patience and endurance. Just remember that, unlike in the boogeyman story, the baby will come back from that dark place and her smile will light up your world. Persevere.

Our health bureaucracies and social media moguls seem to have taken a "vaccine or bust" approach to COVID-19, banning, badmouthing or ignoring treatments like Ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine/zinc. Hospitals deny patient requests for these off-label treatments with the excuse that the FDA hasn't approved them; and when granny dies, well, at least her death had the Dr. Fauci seal of approval. (Yeah, I know, he's NIAID, not FDA, but he's the public face of the government's COVID response.)

I think of this every time I see our health overlords and their obedient followers nag people about vaccines and masks and lockdowns and overloaded ICUs. "Our ICUs are full of the unvaccinated!" OK, so what treatments are you giving them, and what treatments are you avoiding? The fact is, with a good, affordable treatment, the "need" for a vaccine would be greatly lessened. There would still be a place for it, but not for vaccination passports and mandates, employment and education restrictions, shaming rituals and the rest.

Anyway, I like to post news articles on promising treatments, and here are two from the Jerusalem Post. The first one is about something called EXO-CD24, which works to very specifically prevent the "cytokine storm" that occurs when the body's own immune system greatly overreacts to the viral infection in the lungs. The current treatment uses steroids for that, but they depress the entire immune system while EXO-CD24 targets only the protein directly responsible for the cytokine storm (as I understand it).


The second story is about a double blind study that adds to the developing body of research showing that ivermectin reduces the duration and infectiousness of COVID-19. This story also touches on the fact that Merck, the pharma that manufactures ivermectin, doesn't seek approval for using it to treat COVID, but also doesn't care to study ivermectin's use for COVID on its own, the way a growing number of medical researchers around the world have. Merck was in the COVID vaccine race until early this year; now I believe it helps manufacture Johnson & Johnson's vaccine. Ivermectin is cheap. New vaccines are not. But I don't know if that had anything to do with the company's decision.