No vaccination can fight the virus

A virus has broken out that no vaccination can fight. It has affected almost everyone, and was made worse by the long winter. It’s cabin fever, one of those folk diseases that isn’t medically defined, but is nonetheless real.

Cabin fever is caused by isolation. “Psychological symptoms that people may experience when they are unable to leave their home and participate in social interaction,” is how it is defined by Dr. Danielle Dresden in Medical News Today. Some of the symptoms: boredom, irritability, restlessness, impatience, lack of motivation and so on.

We’ve all had it, starting with the lockdown three years ago. The pandemic spread fear and anxiety, like a mental virus. People became wary. Virtual reality became reality. People stopped going to the office. Nobody went to the cinema. BART trains were mostly empty.

And then, last fall, just after Halloween, the pandemic subsided. But there was rain, and snow warnings in the mountains. Good, we said, we need the water.

The rain and snow went on and on: the wettest, snowiest winter in 40 years. Big wind too. Trees fall, banks fall, interest rises, war rages, rivers flood, atmospheric rivers lurk, climate change.

And we have to stay inside too. More bad weather is on the way.

No wonder we have cabin fever. The TV is getting old. We have surfed the net, read the books, read every word in the newspaper, tried some new dishes, run out of conversation. Football is over and baseball hasn’t started. Stay inside. It’s raining again.

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People are tired of bad weather, even in Truckee, even in Lake Tahoe, even in Yosemite. We were snowed out of a Yosemite trip just last week.

Since it is almost spring, there are small breaks in the weather. There were one or two just the other day. On one of them, I hopped out of my home office and headed down the street into Noe Valley, not bound to any particular place, just happy to be outside.

The city looked clean, as if it had been washed; even the homely corner of 30th and Mission streets looked better than it had just a week ago.

I walked up 30th to where it meets a small clearing in the hillside called Billy Goat Hill. I found a small bench and sat there doing nothing. There were some sparrows in the bush and black birds, perhaps ravens, riding the wind. The grass had the winter green color we will miss in a couple of months when the hills turn yellow-brown.

There is a famous view from Billy Goat Hill, the city spread out at your feet, almost – a thousand houses, the self-important towers in the center, the Bay Bridge. I could see a ship in the bay, moving slightly, swinging at anchor. Not far away, a ferry left for Oakland.

In the distance, the Berkeley Hills and Mount Diablo, clear and sharp in the afternoon light. Two Fridays ago, Diablo had some snow on it, like a mountain in Idaho. But it was gone.

Instead there were large clouds, white with dark edges. I was reminded of the song from “The Fantasticks,” a 1960 musical that ran off-Broadway for 42 years:

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Soon it will rain

I can see it

Soon it will rain

I can tell

Soon it will rain

What shall we do

Time to head back, ahead of the rain.

This time, at home that night, with the rain on the roof, the cabin fever didn’t feel so bad. I had found the cure for cabin fever: a brisk walk in the park. No wonder the ancients worshiped the sun.

Carl Nolte’s columns appear in the Sunday edition of The San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]

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