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 Four Hundred Ninety Eight

The smoke persists, day and night, ebbing and flowing in the sky above. Hour by hour it changes. As I write this the sky is hazy and grey, the sun a foreign red, but the air feels sweet and cool on the ground. A few days ago the sky was much the same but the air below was much heavier with particles that made it hard to breath. Other days you can see the smoke lingering in the air, wisps of it floating amongst the buildings of the city, casting everything in a shadowed, apocalyptic light. A perfect accompaniment for these apocalyptic times.

The fires burn over the mountains to the west, and to the north and east as well. We are surrounded and the days are hot, with no rain to come, so there is nothing to quell the flames. Many of those fires will still be burning until the snow comes. Some may even manage to smoulder through the winter and start up again in the spring if there isn’t enough snow. And so, we will be living in a smoke filled world for the rest of the summer at least. Even a day like today, when the smell of smoke isn’t evident and the air is fresh, the haze in the sky persists. I cannot remember the last day where we had a truly blue sky of the sort the Quarter always offers. Those endless, breathtaking vistas have been stolen from us and we are left with a smaller world to inhabit.

This is one of the hottest summers I can remember, just day after day of heat. One benefit of the constant haze is that it prevents it from getting too warm, so instead of low to mid thirties, we’ve simply had high twenties. With no rain and so much heat the crops have burnt up everywhere. There is hardly enough grown to bother cutting for feed for the cattle. And everywhere the pastures are being exhausted, while the hay fields won’t produce enough to feed the cattle over the winter. It all spells disaster. My parents, although they claim to be retired, still run cattle in pastures in the Quarter. They will have to sell them early because there isn’t enough feed to keep them for the rest of the summer and fall, let alone through the winter.

With the dry, hot weather, swarms of grasshoppers have arrived to eat what little of the crops there is. I remember those hordes of grasshoppers from the dry years of my youth. You would walk through a field, each step sending up dozens of the creatures, the hum of their wings portending a kind of doom. Pestilence, drought, locusts and fire. We can only hope we manage to avoid famine.

Movies and books about pandemics and other disasters give the sense of a sudden shift, the ground giving way and then everything collapsing with society broken into a thousand pieces that can never be put together. That feels foolish now, impossible to believe any longer. Instead we have these slow moving apocalypses, where we can see things going wrong but the change is slow enough that we can find a way to get used to it. The disaster ebbs and flows. Some days the air is sweet, even if the sky is hazy, others the smoke swallows everything.

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 Four Hundred Ninety One

While the grippe reborn lingers, beaten back by the inoculations but still possessing its deadly powers and waiting only for an opening to return in force, we are faced with new crises. Or the return of old, forgotten ones in greater force. Whatever hope we had of a quiet summer without worry seems to have vanished, as we are reminded every day of all that is wrong with our current world. It is hard not to see it as a broken place.

The heat of several weeks ago sparked innumerable fires across the mountains to the west and smoke now blankets the western dominions. The air coats my mouth and my lungs every time I step outside. I get headaches and my eyes itch. There is no end in sight to the fires, with hot dry weather forecast for weeks to come. The smoke will remain, a constant reminder of the changing climate and its consequences. This summer seems scripted to remind us of all that awaits us. Ruined crops, choking skies and terrible heat that forces us indoors. It is hard not to feel some urgency to do something, yet as soon as the smoke drifts away we will forget about this and return to our more petty squabbles.

It is already happening with the other crisis that has confronted us in these last weeks. A crisis of forgetting, of not seeing, of looking away. Those Who Went Away have always been here, despite our attempts to banish them, to make their culture and very being vanish. They have remained, but it was for us as though they went away, for we chose not see them. We stole their children, took them to schools whose goal was to remake them into us. We succeeded only in unmaking them.

This is the legacy of the Dominions, broken people who we have barely acknowledged, because we knew who was responsible for that breaking and it was too terrible to contemplate. In the last weeks the graves of the children who perished at those schools from neglect have been discovered. Discovered in the same sense that Europeans discovered the Americas. It has always been known there were graves in these place, but the full extent has never been clear. Now we are beginning to get a sense of the scope of that tragedy and the numbers are unimaginable. Two thousand already and hundreds of sites still left to be investigated.

There was an outpouring of grief and consternation when the news of the first graves came out. That continued with the second school and the third. A fourth discovery was just made and the response has been much more muted, hardly a ripple of concern. As always, we have begun to look away, to forget and to not see, because it is too difficult to contemplate what has been done and what needs to be done now to help set things right, though nothing could ever do that. Every nation is built upon a lie, a story we tell ourselves until we believe it to be true. Ours is no different, though we like to pretend that isn’t so.

It is all too easy to despair in the face of these intractable problems, to give up. Yet that is the worst thing we can do. We must face these things and try to do some good, however futile it may seem. That is the only way forward. Where do you begin? With what you can do to make a difference, however small.

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 Four Hundred Eighty Three

It is now two weeks past my love and my second inoculations, a date I have marked upon my calendar to celebrate, for now we are fully protected from the depredations of the grippe reborn. As protected as one can be, for the dread lord is forever changing, forever seeking out the weak points in our defences. Still, in these parts the tide is retreating; he holds sway over only a few poor souls, and we can allow ourselves to imagine that the worst is truly over. It remains to be seen if that is the case, but for now we can let ourselves exhale and venture out into the world much as we used to.

That is easier said than done, for in the last year I have become used to the defences we have erected, the scaffolding of the quarantine protocols, and it is challenging to venture out without paying them any heed. All protocols were suspended on Dominion Day, though we have mostly continued to adhere to them out of recognition that we were not fully protected by the inoculation. Now that we are, will we head into indoor spaces unmasked? Will we sit inside restaurants close to others? Will we go to the movies? I’m sure we will, though it will take some getting used to in the meantime. It will be nice to allow ourselves the pleasure of those things.

There was much debate about the ending of all restrictions on Dominion Day, which the government clearly hoped to be a celebration, an end to their year of failure. It was not, though largely for other reasons. Those who have chafed against the protocols angrily decry anyone who expresses any doubt about their removal, while for others the only time it would be safe to remove the restrictions is if the risk to everyone was zero. They point to other jurisdictions where cases have begun to rise again and say that could be us.

It may be, but I note that most of those falling to the dread lord in those places have not received their inoculations. Now that the doses are available here to anyone who wants them, it feels unfair that those of us who have done the right thing, followed the protocols and gotten our doses should be made to follow the protocols to protect those who refuse to get doses. It is the height of selfishness, to decline to help their family and friends and community while billions the world over are desperate for the chance they spit upon. If the dread lord should strike them, it is hard to summon up much sympathy. Things are rarely so simple though, for young children as yet cannot get the inoculations and that is why it is so important that those of us who can do so.

The dread lord remains. We shall be forced to pick our way through the minefields he has left until everyone in the world has the opportunity my love and I were blessed with. To take our doses and go out without fear.

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 Four Hundred Seventy Six

A momentous week off as both my love and I have now received our second inoculations. By mid-July we will fully protected, as protected as one can be, against the grippe reborn. I felt little of the excitement I had for the first dose, the whole experience now mundane. The inoculation site remained a marvel of efficiency, smiling volunteers and nurses guiding hundreds of people through lines to receive their doses. I suffered again from side effects, but even they were more muted, leaving me with a day of mild misery.

The week was momentous for another reason, as a heat wave reached these parts, lasting the better part of eight days. At its peak the temperatures reached 36 for multiple days, as hot as it ever gets here. Worse, because it was day after day of unrelenting heat, the nights offered no relief. Being so close to the mountains the temperatures usually drop down to 10-15 on even the hottest nights, but on this week we saw lows of 20. The air was stifling and didn’t seem to move.

The oddest part was the sky. Here I am used to cloudless days, the sun bright, the sky vast and blue, but this was something else entirely. There was not a cloud to be seen for days. The blue of the sky was different, a subdued blue, tinged by all the pollution from the city and its environs that had nowhere to go. It simply lingered in the air, building and building, just like heat. It was like the world had gone still, the weather, the sky, everything the same day after day. The wind, when it did blow, was warm and unpleasant, a desert wind, leeching any moisture from the air, offering no relief.

We are not used to this kind of heat in these parts, certainly not for that length of time. Usually we have a day or two, at most, before a thunderstorm intrudes and brings cool air in its wake. I found the whole experience miserable, the nights restless as I struggled to sleep. Being outside, for any length of time was a chore and we sought out air conditioned places as much as possible, venturing to a mall for the first time since the grippe reborn arrived in these parts. The birds, which normally populate the trees out front of our home were absent most of the week, heading to the river where there is water.

The heat broke with a tremendous storm. There was thunder and lightning, torrential rains and even hail. The thunderhead stood over the centre of the city, vast and swirling, looking as though it might transform itself into a funnel cloud and perhaps even a tornado. It did not, but it still left a path of destruction in its wake. Streets were flooded and underground parkades on those streets as well. In our building the roof leaked and I spent the night trying to reduce the pools of water to limit the damage. It was cool in the darkness as we frantically filled a wet vac again and again, emptying its contents down a drain. The night air smelled glorious, of wet earth and damp greenery.