“This, too, will pass.”

~Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth

A couple of weeks ago, Herb and I returned from an always-wonderful visit with our Bay Area grandchildren, topped off with an overnight stay in a lighthouse to celebrate anniversary #43 and fulfill one of my little travel dreams.

We’d only been home a day or two when a cough began to rear its ugly head, seemingly out of nowhere. I figured it was my usual Achilles’ heel of bronchitis and asthma. But this cough was different, deep and guttural, like a strange beast that was attacking me rather than coming from my airways.

After ruling out Covid and pneumonia, my doctor did a nasal swab – one of those Q-tip up-to-the-eyeball-and-brain sorts that I’ve managed to avoid since they were first used at the beginning of the pandemic. The test ruled out a dozen or so viruses except one: RSV. Respiratory Syncytial Virus, a new strain that rides into town on a fast horse and points its lance at very young children and people over 65. And although I never think of myself in the latter category – feeling rather young at heart – I am in fact in that target age group.

I found it a bit ironic that after two-and-a-half years of successfully dodging Covid, navigating protocols, vaccines and masks in large public places and even traveling internationally, this new virus on the block had quickly tracked me down. And in an unusual twist of my deepest desires, I found myself quite relieved that I wasn’t traveling right now.

RSV is not for the faint of heart, especially because there is very little you can do except ride it out. I was still treating the bronchitis as well – an infection on top of the virus. The anti-coughing meds my doctor prescribed made me feel zombie-like, as if I were sleepwalking through my days. I made endless cups of Manuka honey, lemon and ginger mixed together in boiling water like a tea. At one point, Herb had to go out of town on a short business trip, and I holed up with a large pot of soup and a myriad of thoughts that swirled around my ever-spinning mind.

I thought a lot about being sick when traveling and reminded myself why I always pack a small pharmacy in my carry-on wherever we’re headed. I thought about getting bronchitis in Antarctica and the lovely  physician on the Seabourn Quest whose helpful care kept me from missing a single moment there. The cold, dry Antarctic air was notorious for respiratory issues, she had told me, remarking that at least half the passengers and crew were being treated on the voyage. The baristas at the ship’s Seabourn Square coffee bar had even prepared a special honey-lemon-ginger drink concoction for such situations, keeping a bowl of freshly peeled and sliced ginger perched on the counter like a condiment. The fresh ginger, I’m convinced, is the secret ingredient.

First steps on the Antarctic continent, a day I wouldn’t have missed for anything! Waterboat Point, Antarctica. 2017.

I thought about people I knew or had read about who had been struck by Covid’s wrath while they were traveling, forcing them to quarantine in hotel rooms or cruise ship cabins, quashing their vacations in the blink of an eye. It’s a sobering thought, but no matter how much we plan or how positive we may be, things happen that are far beyond our control. The best we can do is accept our fate and know that, as the oh-so wise Eckhart Tolle says,

“…this, too, will pass…When detached, you gain a higher vantage point from which to view the events in your life instead of being trapped inside them.”

About two weeks after RSV first appeared, I began to feel like my old self again. The zombie had left the building. My cough – although continuing to linger – had become manageable in a post-sickness sort of way. When Herb returned from his business trip, I joked that I felt as if I’d missed most of November. In a way, I guess I had.

On Herb’s first night home, he picked up take-out for dinner at our local shopping center. The nights are dark much earlier now, with daylight savings time turned back once again, and he happened to reach the parking lot just as the sun was setting. Along with our dinner, Herb returned with a gorgeous photo of a wildly orange-red sky dancing over the cars and treetops .

“I needed to see that,” I told him. I’d hardly been out of the house for two weeks, my days and nights blurring together like an out-of-focus picture. The thought of watching a magnificent sunset set my heart racing, and I reminded myself that like Eckhart Tolle’s words of patience, the best medicine is often found just outside our door.


  • Mary, a beautiful blog. I’m so glad you’re emerging from the fog to travel and write again. And thanks for sharing Herb’s sunset photo. Breathtaking. Hope your grandkids have avoided RSV and that you continue to get back to your “young” self.

    • Dixie, you made my morning! Many thanks for such lovely thoughts. I am incredibly grateful to be feeling better after all of this, and thankfully, everyone else in our family has escaped RSV. I’m really glad you enjoyed Herb’s photo. I think what I love most about it is the extraordinary in the ordinary. A spectacular sunset not over the ocean or mountains or other natural setting, but a neighborhood parking lot. Happy Thanksgiving to you and Steve and your family! ❤️

    • Thanks so much, Deb! I’m not sure why ginger seems to have such magical powers, but ever since discovering it on that fateful Antarctic voyage, I’ve been a true believer!

  • Wow, just Wow – yr writing style is exquisite. I honestly felt yr pain & recovery as I read this. Definitely puts things in perspective. So glad yr well now & Herbs pic was the exclamation point on a positive ending.

    • Linda, I’m really touched by your kind words. Thank you so much! This experience certainly put things in perspective for me as well. I love your description of Herb’s sunset photo as an exclamation point 😊.

  • Mary. Thank you for this sublime post, which reminds, informs, inspires, and gives me an entirely different perspective on getting sick. Might you also post the recipe for the ginger tea? Should the sale of INVICTUS close successfully, we intend to start traveling again on other ships, planes, and trains, and I will carry a better stocked overnight bag and perspective! Thank you!

    • Sue, thank you for such a beautiful comment! I’m delighted to have provided a packing-for-the-what-if perspective for your future travels, and I’m also happy to share the ginger tea recipe. It’s a “tea” without actual tea and is quite simple to prepare. I put a teaspoon of Manuka honey (you can use any type of honey), the juice from half a freshly squeezed lemon (use a whole lemon, if you prefer) and two or three slices of freshly peeled ginger in a large mug. Add boiling water, stir well and voilà!

  • Oh Mary, you poor thing! RSV sounds horrendous and has reared its ugly head in London in school age children, we read. I will say that I hadn’t heard it can affect those of us in a slightly different (!) target age range and send my heartfelt sympathy and good wishes. I hope you are now feeling much better.
    One of our very elderly friends (retired GP and otherwise hale and hearty) has returned from Turkey with Legionnaire’s Disease, which has truly knocked him for six. In the ICU for some days on his homecoming, he is now recovering at home and we hear that such cases are rather more frequent than we might think. Apparently many of the resorts and hotels which closed during the lockdown have reopened without sanitising their A/C and water supply systems adequately and a rise in the number of cases of L’s is the result. I am thankful that we were simply cold in Chicago, and maybe that killed off some of the nasty things floating around in the air.
    with love and best wishes from another ginger and lemon tea drinker – we can buy frozen fresh ginger which does the job nicely!

    • A huge thank you for the good wishes, Gill! RSV is definitely not the proverbial walk in the park, and although my cough still lingers, I’m grateful to be on the other side of it. And Legionnaire’s Disease! I hadn’t heard that name in years. I’m so sorry for your friend and really appreciate the information you provided here. I enjoyed reading your posts from Chicago and was impressed that you chose to visit the Windy City this time of year! And I love that you are a fellow ginger tea drinker! I’ve never seen frozen fresh ginger here – although I’ve never thought to look for it – and will have to see if I can find it. If it’s only a UK creation, it’s certainly a convenient idea! Sending love and best wishes your way as well!❤️

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