Notes on the Grippe

Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.

Day One Hundred Twenty

In my youth, growing up in the Lost Quarter, we battled another plague: the round leaf mallow. A weed as merciless as the grippe reborn.

Though common in other parts of the Quarter it was unknown where I was raised. How it arrived was unclear, though there were an untold number of vectors for the seeds. The clothes of visitors, the trucks of those picking up or delivering cattle, the animals themselves. Looked at that way its coming was as inevitable as the dread lord’s invasion of the Quarter. People are always coming and going everywhere, carrying who knows what with them.

The first year we noticed one or two in the pens and around the yard. An unfamiliar plant in amongst the usual weeds: kochia, dandelion, and thistle. How it had come to be there we had no idea. It grew low to the ground, spreading out with viney stalks topped by a ‘round’ leaf that looks like a poorly drawn heart. We thought nothing of it. There were always weeds and grass growing everywhere in the yard and around the corrals, and this was just one more.

Continue reading

Notes on the Grippe

Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.

Day One Hundred Nineteen

There are days when I feel on the edge of everything. Raging, sorrowful, full of despair. Exhausted by every fucking last thing. The skin on my head feels tight, stretched across my skull. My hands ache from being clenched too tight.

It has been one hundred and nineteen days since this began and some days it seems like one thousand. It may be one thousand before it is all over.

And it is wearing on me. The constant vigilance required to stand against the dread lord. At a certain point, and without even meaning to, one becomes indifferent to the need. A defence mechanism almost, a need to not think of this any longer.

We need a break, a chance to reset, and we are not afforded it. For every time we do, the grippe reborn slips in through the cracks, finding his way to our most vulnerable spots.

This has not been easy. Let no one pretend that it has been. It has been relentless, unceasing. Everything we do, even our leisure, is shadowed by the dread lord. And the question echoes and echoes in our minds: how long?

Notes on the Grippe

Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.

Day One Hundred Eighteen

Abandoned houses dot the plains of the Lost Quarter, remnants of lives left behind. Not all of Those Who Came, after Those Who Left were sent into exile, stayed. When the depression came and the lands blew, setting up clouds of dust so thick there was darkness at noon, some were sent to other parts of the dominions to start anew. Many others left of their own accord. Others gave up along the way, abandoning their lives for what they hoped would be better ones outside the Quarter.

They left behind the houses they built, and the yards they carved out of the sea of prairie grass. Driving along empty roads, surrounded by rolling hills and pasture, you will see them. A house alongside the road, surrounded by a wall of trees. From a distance it will seem like any other house, but once you get closer you can see the paint has faded and gone, the wood bare to the elements. The windows are broken and the roof is sagging. The ground around the trees, once kept with meticulous care, is overgrown with weeds and grass, and even new saplings finding their way into the world.

The Quarter is haunted with these places, left to fall into disrepair, for the wind and elements to wear away all traces. Seeing them has always filled me with a strange longing to know what became of those who once inhabited these places. All that is left are a few fragments of how they once lived, only those that they could leave behind. Soon enough the wind will have them.

Notes on the Grippe

Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.

Day One Hundred Seventeen

A restless night, filled with dreams. I wake up tired, wanting to sleep longer but unable to. That has been the way these last days. It feels as though I am on the edge of waking all through the night, my dreams so vivid  that I can never quite relax to let them go and submerge deeper into the pools of sleep.

I imagined I was back at the academy. It was bustling with people, everyone on their way to some grand occasion. I went along, though I knew nothing about the celebration, hoping there would be some free food. The crowds grew thicker as we went, crowding in all around, and I turned away in terror.

They always say that when you graduate from the academy it is time to enter the real world. It is a strange conceit, as though you have spent the last four years at some frivolous task in some cosseted place where the hard reality of the world cannot intrude. Certainly there is frivolity, to say nothing of debauchery, but it isn’t as thought that all ceases after graduation, and the world always intrudes no matter how ethereal your concerns.

Continue reading

Notes on the Grippe

Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.

Day One Hundred Sixteen

There is a darkness at the end of the road. She walks toward it, gravel crunching under her shoes, rocks skittering in her path. Above, half a moon is still visible in the sky, the morning sun bright in the east. There is blue everywhere, as far as the eye can see, vast and perfect. Except at the end of the road, where the horizon ceases. The world shrinks there, becoming smaller and bathed in shadows.

The road narrows, the gravel becoming dirt. It is uneven, slanting this way and that, shifting with the way water runs. There are no ditches now, the grass along the sides taller than her in places. In low spots where water gathers, trees lean over the road. A sparrow drinks from a puddle with tire tracks on its edges, flitting away at her approach.

A gentle descent begins carrying her to a slough, the road curving around its edge. There are round bales of straw in the water where geese have made nests. They pay no mind to her passage. With the recent rains the slough has risen past its boundaries and washed out the road completely, so she needs to leave it, finding a path through the marshy hummocks on the other side.

At the far side of the slough the road ends. The water glistens less there, the light of the sun dissipated. There is a tangle of trees at the edge, some in the water. Willows and poplars, chokecherries and caraganas. The darkness is within their shadows, a presence, ebbing and flowing like the waves on the slough.

She stops to watch it for a time as it shivers in the wind, contours barely visible through the branches and shifting by the moment. Setting her shoulders she begins her approach.

Notes on the Grippe

Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.

Day One Hundred Thirteen

The Lost Quarter has always been at the borders of maps, the blank spaces where the ink runs out and imagination begins to stir. No dragons lie here though, no explorers yearn to venture to its wilds. Only the wind strains to reach the far places of its hinterlands.

When explorers ventured into these territories they came to the Quarter, they looked around and carried on their way. Only the aridness of the place and the wind were of note. It was a waystation on their passage to greater things, grand discoveries.

Those Who Went Away passed through often of course, following the bison herds until they dwindled. They would be here still if they had not been so cruelly banished. Now they linger at the edges of the territory, and the minds of Those Who Came. They are at the borders of the maps, unwritten and unacknowledged.

Yet they remain and the maps we try to draw of the Quarter are incomplete without them. But to include them is to be forced to acknowledge that all the roads and settlements in these parts were built upon their suffering. That is History, some will say. Conquerors conquer, the subjugated are subjugated, and the victors write the songs we all sing. The dead are mute and so many of Those Who Left had their tongues cut out so their songs are forgotten.

Can anything be good if it is built on something wrong? The trunk is poisoned and so every branch and leaf that grows is tainted with that venom. The fruit that grows from those trees is more bitter than a chokecherry. We still add our sugar and boil the juice until we have something sweet that just hints at the bitterness that lies beneath.

We are forever losing our way in and out of the Quarter. The roads are never sure and the maps are never complete. There is no way for us to get back home, because we do not know what that home should be.

Notes on the Grippe

Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.

Day One Hundred Twelve

Summer in the Lost Quarter typically means rodeos. Cowboys and rough stock move from town to town  with crowds gathering to watch the performances. Bucking horses and bulls. Wrestling steers and roping calves. Racing horses around barrels. Some towns will have wild cow milking. Others will have wild horse races. Children strap hockey helmets on their heads and clamber on the backs of sheep who race across arenas in a frenzy to loose themselves from this encumbrance.

This year will be different with the dread lord’s return to these parts. All the rodeos have been cancelled, the crowds forbidden from gathering and the participants unable to travel to the events. It will be a sad thing for many of the towns have few events that bring people together in celebration. Many of the events have origins going back a century or more. Wars and floods and other calamities have not forced their cancellation, but the grippe reborn has.

Continue reading

Notes on the Grippe

Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.

Day One Hundred Eleven

The gathering storm

Last evening as I sat reading before retiring to bed, we received a tornado warning and were told to seek immediate shelter. The window opposite the couch I was seated upon faces east, toward the heart of the Lost Quarter, and there I could see the terrible storm building. There were dark clouds with flashes of lightning roiling in their hearts. But above our home there was only bright skies, the clouds painted red and pink in the setting sun.

Storms rarely move west in these parts, usually pushed east by the winds coming down from the mountains, and this storm was no different. It went east and south, mostly sticking to the open prairies. It was strange to watch the turmoil of the clouds from such a distance. The air around us was calm, hardly a breeze stirring, while several kilometres away the swirling of the clouds suggested a gale was passing through. Though I could see lightning dancing across the darkening sky, no sound of thunder reached us. Even the movement of the clouds wasn’t really visible, I just intuited it from their shapes which went from sharp and defined to inchoate.

It has been a season of thunderstorms in these parts this past month, which is unusual. Normally we would only just be starting into the storms as the summer heat reaches its zenith. That heat has yet to truly arrive – the warmest it has been is the low to mid twenties – yet every few days seem to bring another tremendous storm. Vast thunderheads fill the sky, the wind shrieks, rain and hail fall in cascades, while thunder rumbles and lightning flashes. They pass quickly, leaving pools of water and glistening leaves in the sunshine in their wake.

The tornado never materialized from the clouds as the storm passed through the plains and out of existence.

Notes on the Grippe

Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.

Day One Hundred Ten

A return to work and old routines. Walking my love to her tower in the early morning hours, the sun bright along the horizon, lending a welcoming glow to the clear sky. I return home alone to my correspondences. After so many days unattended, they have piled up and it is many hours before I have seen to them all.

In the midst of that there is breakfast and watering the garden. Phone calls to discuss matters of import and the week ahead. By lunchtime I have forgotten that I was ever away from all this. The afternoon though is sluggish, my mind slow and wandering. I find myself looking out the window at the passing clouds.

A pair of songbirds, grey coated with a touch of red to their heads, has taken up occupancy in the trees outside. Their songs always draw me away from my work and I watch them flit among the branches, calling to each other. They are so tiny I often lose sight of them as they descend into the depths of a pine tree, lost among the cones, before darting out and into the sky.

It feels like a day to sit beneath a tree, cooled by its shade, watching the birds chattering as they go about their business. But I have work of my own to see to.

Notes on the Grippe

Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.

Day One Hundred Nine

A week spent with my love wandering mountain towns and visiting glorious, crystalline lakes, glacier-fed amidst towering peaks that seem to extend beyond the sky. The wind blowing through the stands of pine trees sounds like rain falling, a haunting melody that I can still hear playing behind everything now that we have returned to our noisy settlement.

It was restorative to be away, even if reminders of the grippe reborn were still everywhere. There were far fewer people in the mountains than there would be typically at this time of year with the borders of the dominions still closed to outsiders, but so many were wearing masks as they wandered into stores. Streets were closed off to cars allowing restaurants and bars to set up on the streets. Local tour guides spoke of new protocols and current events, with no further explanation required.

We visited a lake that twisted its way along the base of several mountains, forming a basin at their centre, like two hands cupped together with fingers outstretched above. Wandering its rocky shore we dipped our toes in, threw stones at the water, and sat upon a great boulder listening to the waves lap at the shore, while staring up at the snow covered peaks. For a time the greater world receded, the grippe and all the rest, and there was only the lake and the two of us sitting in watchful silence.