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 Seventy Seven

If I was capable of jinxes, hexes and spells I might believe I was responsible for the turn in weather that came after I wrote last week’s diary. But I am not, despite what I might claim otherwise, so I must grudgingly admit it was happenstance, though it felt inevitable. But there are precious few things in life that actually are, much as we might want them to be. The fates do not sit in their caves weaving our futures, they are just darning socks to ward off the winter’s cold, which does come most every year in these parts. But not always.

Several days last week we awoke to snow on the ground, a storm having blustered through in the evening. By afternoon the snow, which had been barely enough to cover the ground, vanished as the temperature rose past freezing. A typical late spring. Following that came two of the warmest days of the year, sunny and glorious. Then all hell broke loose.

The wind picked up in the afternoon, blowing fiercely, though it was still warm and sunny out. Buildings shook and detritus flew everywhere. South of here, with the ground bare and dry, a grass fire broke out, racing with the wind across the countryside. The firefighters fought frantically to stall its eastward spread, knowing that by nightfall the storm the wind was carrying would arrive and quench any flames.

The wind didn’t cease – it is still howling and twisting out there now – and as darkness arrived it finally brought snow with it. A whirling squall rendered everything white, the snow and wind combining to make an impenetrable wall. Only a little snow fell here, though in other parts highways were impassable in the heavy drifts. The frantic wind carried the storm by too quickly, leaving a reminder of winter.

The sun is out now, the clouds have gone, taken by the wind too. It remains, as it always does in these parts, angry and fierce now, though that fury is slowly subsiding. Soon it will just be a breeze, calm and light, having forgotten what stirred its ire.

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 Seventy:

The glorious weather continues, so different than last year when winter seemed to cling on for dear life until the end of April. There has been no snow, not even rain, just sunny day after sunny day. I can already hear the farmers and ranchers muttering in the distance about how dry it is, how poor the grass and crops will be as a result. A true sign of spring – there is never enough moisture, except when there is too much. We had a bit of snow the other night, just enough to cover the ground, and some of it still lingers in shaded spots.

Blizzards in late spring are not uncommon in these parts, though always unexpected in the moment. I can recall my first year away from the Quarter, when in mid March a storm blew in over the mountains. Overnight the bare ground was covered in piles of snow, forty centimetres worth. There were drifts that came up to the waist. The whole city shut down the next day, hardly a car to be seen on the road. My friends and I walked down the middle of those empty streets to see a movie at a nearby mall in an empty theatre. Every year since a part of me waits for a storm like that to come in March. Some years it seems only a matter of time.

This weekend my love and I took advantage of the weather and went for a long walk by the river, our first of the year. We bought food from a café and had a picnic on an island in the river. The pathways were crowded with people out enjoying the day and we enjoyed watching them come and go as we ate. This idyllic scene was marred by the appearance of a crowd protesting the quarantine protocols, several hundred strong. They marched along the pathway, blocking access to a bridge and yelling at anyone who disagreed with them.

These protesters have been gathering every weekend since the mask requirements were added to the quarantine protocols, decrying it as some sort of assault on their freedom. Their numbers have ebbed and flowed through the last year, but on this day they seemed ominously large. The leaders of the marches are familiar figures in this city, known for their involvement in hate organizations, and it seems they have seized this moment as a means to reach out to those disaffected and angry at our long lost year of the grippe reborn. They have no answers, unless crying out for freedom and muttering darkly about lost ways of life are answers.

It was unsettling to see them in such force though, especially given the news of late. There have been a seemingly endless number of incidents in the last month, across the greater dominions and south in the United State, of attacks against those of Asian descent.  Given the dread lord returned to power in Asia this is perhaps not unexpected, but why such hate is exploding a year on from his appearance is unclear. But it has and the incidents seem only to be building on each other. The day following the rally a woman wearing a hijab was attacked not far from where we picnicked and those participating in the rallies seem only to get louder and louder in their assertions.

Even with the end of the dread lord’s power in sight – so tantalizingly near – these incidents remind us that the fractures he has managed to widen in our societies will remain for a long while yet. The repercussions of all that will be with us even longer.

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 Sixty Five

One year with the grippe reborn. I began this journal some days after the quarantine protocols were enacted in the Quarter, some weeks after it had become evident that the dread lord would reach these parts very soon. It seemed necessary at the time, a way to keep the shore in sight on a suddenly tempestuous sea where the axis of the world was shifting and my very sense of reality was being tossed about. There was nothing to hold onto in those early days and so I reached for the first piece of driftwood that seemed solid.

So much has happened in the last year and yet nothing has changed, at least not in my day to day existence. My love and I continue to observe the current protocols, living half an existence, every day feeling more or less the same. It is like we are now shadows of what we once were, the echoes of other lives. When this began I feared the kinds of disruptions to life and society that you see in books and movies about pandemics, plagues and pestilences. The disruption that we ended up facing was in many ways no less momentous than those, but instead of drama and terror, we got boredom, fatigue and endless dread.

It is in our animal nature that we fear the moment of crisis when we are called to action, but in many ways that is what our bodies and minds are actually prepared for, millennia of evolution doing its work. What we were not in any way equipped to deal with was the steady drip of stress and unease that never overwhelmed but also never left. It is exhausting, body and soul.

 Through it all I have written, sometimes daily, sometimes weekly. Yet after a year the thought of looking over any of it again fills me with its own kind of revulsion. It is easy enough to understand why Shakespeare and all the rest who lived through plagues and quarantines wrote about them only incidentally. Who would want to relive this having gone through it? Who would want to read someone else’s impressions of it when it is finally over? There is a certain camaraderie now in sharing and reading such thoughts as we try to endure what is hopefully the last months of this terrible ordeal. But once it is over and we are well and truly past it, no one will want to revisit that boredom and dread. We will want to step back from the shadows and take up the remains of our past lives.

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 Sixty Three

There have been many remembrances in these last weeks as people recall the moment when the grippe reborn arrived and everything changed. Though the dread lord arrived in these parts in late February, perhaps even earlier, and the first reports of his presence were in early March, this was the week when it felt like everything changed. There were hastily announced quarantine strictures as governments frantically tried to stop a tide that had already washed over us all.

It was not unexpected. From the end of January the dread lord’s march had felt inevitable. My love and I had cancelled our travels, anticipating just such a march. That he would reach the Quarter was only a matter of time, yet it still seemed as though it would be a long while until he made his way to these parts. For a while that was true. The outbreaks in Japan and Korea were unsurprising given their proximity to China. Though it seems ludicrous now, I honestly believed that grippe reborn would spread slowly out from these places to nearby locales, reaching other major centres where there was significant amounts of travel.

But the dread lord was much more powerful. By the time those first outbreaks were noticed, others were already being seeded. Italy. Iran. New York. As March came the news grew worse and worse. And then came this week when it suddenly became clear to everyone that the grippe reborn was everywhere. He had crossed all borders before anyone had noticed and was present. No one would be able to escape his wrath.

That shift, from thinking we would have to plan for this inevitable, but sometime in the future, arrival to the realization that the call was coming from inside the house was completely disorienting. Even then I tried to reason my way back to some sort of stability, an utterly futile exercise. This will only be a few months, I told myself, and then things will be under control. But it quickly became painfully evident that was not to be.

The suddenness of the shift was symbolized for me by a sign advertising a St. Patrick’s Day party that a local bar had put up. The party never happened, of course, but for weeks afterwards as my love and I went past the bar on our walks the sign was still there. A reminder of a world that might have been if not for the dread lord. The sign stayed up even into the summer when other establishments opened up. The bar never did though. It remains shuttered, it’s windows darkened.

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 Fifty Six

The weather continues to be glorious, the sun warm and the snow melting away. Already the surrounding streets are nearly bare, the snow only clinging to the south side where the buildings block the sun from melting it. There seem to be more birds about in the trees, or at least they are louder in their chatter, and the ice has broken up along river, leaving it open and flowing free. If ever there was a year we needed an early spring this is it and so I can only hope it continues.

The news has been good on other fronts as well. More inoculations approved – we are up to four in these parts – and the earlier delays are past us. The inoculation programs are picking up; my parents will be able to get theirs sometime this month in all likelihood. My love and I will have to wait, but not for long it seems. In the Western Dominions they are hoping to give everyone their first dose by the end of June. The second will be delayed, which has caused some consternation, because we are not following the prescribed protocol, but I think it only makes sense. Better all of us carrying a small risk, but still having good protection, than a few having total protection and the majority defenceless.

The promise of a summer that is approaching normal, where we can gather and celebrate and return to our daily lives makes my heart sing. There has been so much bad news, and it was so relentless for so long that many still look for reasons to doubt. They speak of the new guises the grippe reborn has taken and what they portend for the loosening of the quarantine protocols and our other defences, including the inoculations. We have gotten used to our despair and no longer want to let it go. There is a comfort in hopelessness and pessimism. Your hopes cannot be dashed, your spirit defeated, if you don’t allow yourself any.

But we must find our way back to hope as spring approaches. The miracle of the inoculations – four developed in one year – has been met with questions and cautions and not the celebration it should have warranted. The defeat of the dread lord is imminent, even if he will never be entirely vanquished, but people still persist in finding reasons all our efforts might fail. Certainly there may be setbacks, just as there is certain to be more snow and cold to come this year, but while winter might linger it cannot stay. Spring will come eventually. If enough of us receive our inoculations the dread lord will have no means to reach us, no way to add followers to his forces of darkness.

That darkness has been unrelenting, but there is light now upon the horizon and day by day it is growing.

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 Forty Nine

We have returned to the beginning again, the end nowhere in sight. How many times must we come to this place before we can find our way? Somewhere in the back of our minds lurks the dread that, despite all we profess, all our optimism and all our great deeds, we shall be back here forever.

The geese are returning, as they do each year, flocking to the shores of the rivers. It seems earlier this year than most. The weather is warm and it is enough to allow oneself to believe that spring is here. The piles of snow will melt away and leaves will start to bud. This may be a false spring, there may be more snow and cold to come, as much as we all hope not. Winter may come again.

There are lights in the distance, now bright and now dim in the darkness of the night. They are there in the periphery of our vision, vanishing when we turn to look at them straight on. The nearer they seem the more they fade into the darkness, as though someone is covering a lamp to hide their presence. The lights beckon us onward, promising warmth and companionship, a taste of a better life. But we know not to go. After this past year we know yet again.