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 Three Hundred and Five

The sameness of these days. They have ceased to be strange, or to have any kind of novelty whatsoever. The weather conspires to reinforce this. Winter, thus far, has been mild. Pleasant. Each day is roughly the same temperature, a few degrees above or below freezing, with a few hours of glimmering sunshine in the morning, followed by clouds moving in later in the day.

Any other year I would feel ecstatic at this turn of events. Now I long for something to change the fabric of these days. A cold snap, some snow, or anything really. It is an uneasy feeling, wishing for bad weather and interesting times. There is never a lack of those, in general, and I’m sure someday I will look back on these quiet days with something like longing.

Part of it is the contrast with what is going on elsewhere. The failed insurrection down south, and all the ramifications that have come from it, continue to play out. It is hard to escape talk of it online or elsewhere. There are stories elsewhere of desperate times in the battle against the grippe reborn, of hospitals overwhelmed with the afflicted, of doctors and nurses at their breaking points. We watch all this occurring – all we can do is watch, helpless to effect the current of events in any way, knowing that we shall be living in the consequences of what happens – and wait for days when we might be able to do something. 

Yesterday I went out for a walk in the morning and the lovely morning was disturbed by a sudden gusting of wind. Trees bent, branches rattling, and dirt and detritus were cast about under the tumult. I was walking north when the wind hit from the west and it nearly knocked me off my feet. The wind died as suddenly as it came and I walked on thinking it was past, but it returned again with its same terrible force, carrying with it sleet and freezing rain. Hard pellets lashed my face, stinging my cheeks, and I was soon left soaked.

I walked on through it, letting the rain soak me, the sleet strike me, not bothering to hurry home or take shelter. The sidewalks were quickly treacherous. I did not feel annoyed that I had been caught out in this maelstrom, instead I felt exultant. Here was something different to struggle through and endure, and I knew that eventually it would pass, as it did before I reached home, that it wouldn’t linger on without end.

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 Three Hundred and Two

There are few predators remaining in the Lost Quarter. Coyotes and foxes, of course, for they can find their place anywhere in this world it seems, lurking on mankind’s edges, mostly unseen. Nights in the Quarter are filled with their high and lonesome cries, calling back and forth, singing their songs in the quiet of darkness.

Birds of prey as well. One only has to look above any tractor working over a field, trailing a cloud of dust, to see hawks hanging in the air, waiting for what will come scurrying out in its wake. Owls are ever-present, though rarely seen. The signs of their presence are everywhere though. Pellets of feathers and fur at the base of trees. In winter you can see the impressions their wings leave in the snow at the same point where the tracks of some unfortunate mouse or vole comes to an end.

Once wolves, cougar and bear wandered the Quarter, staying mostly to the river valleys but sometimes wandering afield. The arrival of farmers among Those Who Came meant the wolves and bear were hunted and driven back into the mountains. They are not seen in these parts anymore. Nor are cougars, but that is by choice, for they still lurk in the river valleys and other wilder places where game gathers. On the rolling plains of the Quarter they are never seen, for they do not venture where there is not cover.

That is why no one believed a word Old Ryan said  when he told anyone who would listen he had spotted a cougar bounding across the road in front of him not far from Miller’s place. There were jokes about fat tomcats and mutant coyotes, and not a few worried murmurs about whether Old Ryan was going soft in the head, but he remained insistent. “Who would mistake a cat for a cougar?” he said and they had to agree it was unlikely. Not more unlikely than a cougar in the central parts of the Quarter at least two day’s journey from a river valley. The old timers, of which Old Ryan was one, all said they had never heard of a cougar in these parts.

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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 Three Hundred

Three hundred days with the dread lord grippe reborn. I hope there aren’t three hundred more to go but I fear there might be. Our inoculations are coming and I still believe he will be thwarted, but it is a trickle for the moment and our lives are as circumscribed as ever.

I feel exhausted by it. That is nothing new, but there is nothing new to most days. There is a sameness to every morning and afternoon that seeps into me and won’t let go like a damp chill. I don’t feel bleak and despairing or terrified and anxious as I did at times earlier this year, when the unknown of it all seemed to press against me from all corners. I am just tired and longing for all this to be at an end.

Every day they announce where the dread lord struck the day before, updating the numbers and reiterating the care we must take, emphasizing the importance of obeying the quarantine restrictions. The statistics have long since become just numbers disassociated from any kind of tangible measurement. It feels as though I have become disassociated from the very days themselves.

In the early days of the quarantine protocols and our battle with the dread lord these notes provided me with a measure of peace, a way of dealing with a world that felt upended entirely. If I felt terror or sorrow or rage I could express it here and by doing so make the emotions manageable. But as the days have dragged on, and the anxieties and fears have become rote, a part of the fabric of all our days, writing here has failed to ease those feelings. It has become just another thing I do day after day, a piece of the sameness I cannot escape.

I have thought of stopping, but it is an idle thought, given no real consideration. That would mean giving in, surrendering to all that the dread lord has wrought. It seems vaguely pathetic, almost silly, that the greatest struggle I (and so many others) are facing is these grey, endless days when others are sick and dying. How can I complain given I have barely been touched by such suffering. A little bit of boredom can be endured is the thinking.

And it can be, but this is not boredom, or not solely. Living is not just being alive, it is what we choose to do with the days we have, for they are not endless. That is what gives our existence colour and meaning, those things, big and small that we choose to do, and the people we choose to do them with. Every day I feel their vague absence,  like my brain trying to reconnect with a lost limb.

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 Two Hundred Ninety Eight

Gotterdammerung

I somewhat facetiously refer to the United States as the Grand Old Empire, for it is an empire in both scope and deed and has been from its very revolutionary beginnings. Manifest destiny, that expansionist desire, is written in the fabric of all its history. And though its politicians and proclaimants love to declare that it is the oldest and greatest democracy in the world, it has always been more empire than democracy. 250 years of history but only for about 50 or so has every adult been allowed to vote and the elections somewhat free and fair.

I mention this, not out of any smugness, after all the Greater Dominions are cut from the same colonial cloth. The Lost Quarter exists in the aftermath of the Eastern Dominions imperial ambitions and the franchise wasn’t extended fully to Those Who Went Away until well into the 1960s. We tell ourselves stories of our past that are half-truths at best, as any empire must to justify the wrongs it has done.

What happened last week in those United States as their legislative assemblies sought to certify the latest election was shocking, but not surprising. It has felt inevitable since their vain and cruel and incompetent president was elected four years ago. He would never accept defeat, he would never transfer power peacefully. That is who he is and what he has always been.

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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 Two Hundred Ninety Four

This past week we discovered that the leaders who have put in the quarantine strictures in these parts have not felt it their duty to abide by them. Over the past months it has become evident how inadequate their handling of the gripper reborn’s invasion has been. After initially going on a war footing against the dread lord and instituting every measure possible, sparing no expense, they have, since the summer seemed to prefer diminishing the problem and hoping matters would sort themselves out.

The failure of that led to our latest lockdown and the cancelling of holiday festivities for families in the Quarter. But several of our politicians and their staff – 9 thus far – decided those strictures didn’t apply to them. They travelled from the Western Dominion to warm southern climes, as many people do during winters here. They went to places with no restrictions, while leaving us to ours, and offered no excuses for it. These were planned trips, they said, as if thousands of us didn’t have to cancel trips during this long misery. They were family traditions, as if the rest of us didn’t have family traditions that we had to suspend this year.

I was surprised at how angry I felt, how much of a betrayal it seemed. I have, it is safe to say, disagreed with the majority of legislation our current government has implemented since it was elected. The future they envision is not one I see myself in, whether that be in health care, education or industry. Still the feeling there was one of exasperation and annoyance more than anything else. A government I disagreed with was enacting its agenda as it was elected to do.

This was different though. These were not the actions of elected officials responsible to the voters of the Dominion. This was pure entitlement. How could the people who hold public office, with the responsibility to manage our response to the grippe reborn, decide they could do this? It seems they do not care about the people suffering and dying from the dread lord’s terrible powers, nor do they care about the rest of us who have been forced to lead shuttered lives these last months.

I think that is why, in the end, I feel so much anger. Their indifference to the growing spread of the grippe reborn, their lack of urgency in getting inoculations out to people, and their willingness to leave the country during a state of emergency they declared are all symptoms of the same disease. They see themselves not as our representatives in government, responsible to us, but as elites entitled to do as they please. None of us matter to them at all, and that is why they are willing to let so many of us die while carrying on with their lives as if the grippe reborn wasn’t there at all.

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 Two Hundred Ninety Two

A weary, reluctant return to work this week after nearly two weeks off. If I’d thought it would make a difference I would have gone back kicking and screaming. It is always like this after Christmas at the best of times, the lethargy of the holidays lingering, but in the long year of the grippe reborn I feel it even more strongly.

The holidays were pleasant enough, if quiet, apart from friends and family. My love and I spent them together, of course, and that was enough company to bring me happiness. We have grown used to spending all our time together, and importantly we haven’t grown tired of each other yet. It has been a hard few months – two hundred and ninety two days – and we have gotten through it by relying on each other.

My love gave me some books on baking bread for Christmas and this weekend I tried a few recipes from one. Both were a success, if I do say so myself. The book goes against my general inclinations in its approach to baking bread, demanding absolute precision in the weight of the ingredients, the temperature of the liquids and the timing of everything. It is, I guess one could say, professional in method.

One of the things that has always attracted me to making bread was that a relaxed, decidedly amateur approach to all these things could still result in a great loaf of bread. If you added too much water or flour, you just needed to toss in a little more of the other to balance things out. Precision wasn’t necessary, it was a matter of feel with the dough. More an art than a science.

Well this book is all science and attention to details and the results speak for themselves. Perhaps a lesson for me to take into the rest of the year. As our quarantined lives have amply demonstrated, I will have plenty of opportunity to give the details the attention they deserve.

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 Two Hundred Eighty Eight

The first day of the new year, but only the two hundred and eighty eighth of the dread lord grippe reborn’s terrible reign. We have at least that long before we are able to end his calamitous rule over our lives. In these parts we are fortunate, for we will no doubt be among the first to parry his attacks and drive him from the Greater Dominions, while In much of the rest of the world he will still hold sway. Such is the privilege of wealth. Yet none of us is free of him unless all of us are; his shadow cannot be allowed to linger or it will fester.

It seems like years since that day in March when the dread lord arrived in these parts and everything changed. Really, everything had changed months before in late December, it just took that long for the ripples to reach these shores and for us to realize what they meant. Since then it has felt continually as though we are on our back feet, defensive and off-balance. Even the recent arrival of inoculations has seemed haphazard and frantic, though this has been all we’ve been waiting for these last months and preparations were made.

New Year’s has always felt arbitrary to me, barely worthy of notice. Why do we celebrate it in the coldest, darkest depths of winter? And if we are going to celebrate it in winter, why not on the solstice when the lengthening days at least point toward spring’s renewal? It is all because of the calendar, written up millennia ago, altered and reworked in the centuries since. Why did they start the year in January and not March? Blame Janus, whose cult has long since been extinguished, though perhaps not entirely.

This year especially the world doesn’t feel renewed. We have become acquainted with the shadow of the dread lord, this long expanse of darkness that is neither day nor night nor even time itself. It is dread and waiting and being left alone with only your thoughts. Perhaps when it has passed we can celebrate a new beginning. For now, I will cherish what I have, all that is good in this life of mine, remember all that I managed to achieve this year, meagre as it was, and hope for better days to come.