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 Five Hundred Eighty Three

The creek beds are dry now, spring runoff a distant memory. The grass long ago turned brown in the summer heat. He can see his breath in the air as he sets out in the morning. It is still dark out, only a hint of light on the eastern horizon. How did that happen, he wonders, it seems like only last week the sun was visible in the sky by the time he set out in the morning.

Habits. The things that make up a day. Up in the morning at dawn, or thereabouts, coffee and porridge for breakfast, and then about his day. The cattle are gone now, sold early in August with the drought eating up the pastures, so he has his days to himself. He walks in the morning up into the hills west of home, cutting across the dry creeks, climbing to the highest point where he can see the prairies spread out before him. His strides are long and purposeful always, forever hurrying on to his next task, though now there is no particular need to hurry.

After his walk is done he busies himself with this and that. Projects are a pleasure now, where before they were always something that had to be fit in between more urgent work. He builds fences and tends to the trees he’s planted to create a wind break around the yard. These parts there is always wind. It is never still. If there is nothing to do or the weather is poor he will sit inside and read a book. Before there were always things to be done, an urgency to every task, but now a lazy day can be allowed. Time is a luxury he can indulge.

Evenings he will sit with his wife, both of them reading or maybe playing a hand or two of cards. Crib usually. A long winter awaits. There will be no calving of cows, no going out at the dead of night in the brutal cold to check. He will walk in the hills until the snow is too deep to allow it. The days will be his own.

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 Five Hundred Sixty Two

Everyday now in these parts comes word of people dying from the Dread Lord Grippe Reborn. That has been true for nearly six hundred days now, but never have we seen the numbers that we have this last month. It stands in stark contrast to the rest of the Greater Dominions and the inoculated world where deaths have declined with inoculation campaigns. Though only a minority here haven’t taken the doses – somewhere in the range of 20-25% – they are all concentrated together in rural communities, where as many as 50% aren’t inoculated. The Dread Lord barely touched them before, but he is ravaging them now that they have no defences against him.

It is an odd thing to hear of all this death, all this sickness, to see desperate doctors and nurses at their breaking point because the hospitals are near collapsing, and yet by and large everyone goes about their days as before. To an extent that has always been the case, but at the beginning of the pandemic, and even last winter and spring, when the harshest quarantine protocols were enacted, we felt the gravity of the situation. It was reflected in the curtailments to our day to day lives, even if relatively few of us were directly struck down by the Grippe Reborn. But now our lives continue unchanged as our hospitals are drowning and it is hard to reconcile.

My grandfather came of age during the second great war in the last century, but he did not fight. His own father was failing by then and so my grandfather was exempted from the conscription. It was deemed essential that the farm he was managing in the Lost Quarter keep producing food for the war effort. And so my grandfather stayed and farmed and had to face the parents of all his friends who were dying in Europe. All the rest of his life he regretted that he had been stuck there while the great events of his time played out an ocean away. He was restless after the war, forever planning to abandon the farm and head off on some new venture, starting anew with his family. My grandmother was continually talking him out of it. By the time I knew him, he spoke with pride about the farm he had built and given to his children, but there was always a tinge of regret when he spoke of the war he had not participated in. He was forever fascinated with it, in a way that my relatives who had fought in its battles were not.

It feels now like we are all so distant from the front lines of this battle with the Dread Lord, left to go about our days while matters of great consequence play out elsewhere. That is often the feeling of life in the Quarter, where nothing of consequence to the rest of the world has ever taken place it seems. The difference is that rarely do things of consequence affect us either, certainly not to the degree that the battle with the Dread Lord does now. Would we feel differently if we could see into the ICUs and hospitals, see how the fight is taken to the enemy? There are pictures, but pictures do not convey the weight of what is in those rooms. Nothing does.

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 Five Hundred Sixty Two

Truly a  glorious autumn in these parts, the most perfect I can recall. An autumn by which all others should be measured. The weather has been pleasant, with little rain or wind, and as a result we have been given the pleasure of watching the leaves turn from green to golden. So often here the transition from summer to fall is abrupt, signalled by a storm, sometimes even by snow, which transforms the leaves in a matter of days from green to yellow to the ground. This year the leaves are lingering even after they have turned, giving all the trees golden crowns.

This past weekend my love and I took advantage of the marvellous weather and took to the high bluffs above the northern river of the city. From that vantage point we could see the long curve of the river through the city as it makes its way east. Flanking it on either side were a profusion of golden trees, even a few red. The day was perfect, warm with hardly a breeze stirring. From the bluffs we made our way down to the river, stopping for a dinner and beer on the way. There we sat and watched people wandering by, everyone out for the night enjoying the weather and the autumn leaves. Hearing the laughter and the chatter of passersby, while watching the river flow was as perfect a night as I can imagine.

The next day we ventured out again, this time to the smaller, southern river that passes nearby our home. There is a park and pathways adjacent to it and we walked among the trees there. My love delights in the crackle and crunch of the leaves beneath her feet. We stood there for a time, letting the leaves fall upon us as the breeze stirred, as wonderful a shower as a spring rain. We returned home, the words of the old poem echoing through my mind: nothing gold can stay.

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 Five Hundred Fifty Four

A momentous week in the Greater Dominions of Canada, yet as with everything in this time of the Dread Lord, it feels as though nothing has changed. We are living through the same days over and over again. Our government called a national election, hoping to capitalize on their popularity for their management of the Grippe Reborn. Instead, people were angry they had called it all. None of the other parties offered much in the way of a competing vision of the country. Nor, frankly, did the government. In the end we returned a minority government, much the same as the one that was already in place.

One cannot help but feel that our leaders, at every level, have failed miserably to rise to the occasion the Grippe Reborn has put us in. There have been modest victories here and there, competent management in some cases, but seemingly little else. It is as though the Dread Lord has set us adrift and we are floating through fog hoping we don’t run aground or strike any icebergs. There are signs everywhere that the world is undergoing dramatic shifts – climate change, the unravelling of the world order – but these are slow events, decades in the making. Just as the Grippe Reborn now seems to be something we shall be dealing with for a good long while. It seems fundamental then that we have leaders of vision, who are forward looking, yet the moment has revealed them all to be shallow wisps, interested only in power, with small ideas of little consequence.

Here in these parts the leader of the provincial government hid himself away for much of the campaign, worried that his appearance would impact the national Conservative party who was running against the governing Liberals. He left the province adrift for weeks as the Dread Lord rampaged throughout the territories. Only when the hospitals were about to be overwhelmed did he finally emerge to announce some restrictions and an inoculation protocol. It was what was needed a month ago, but at least it is here. The restrictions, as they always are with this government, are arcane, endless rules and exemptions, all arbitrary. You must stop selling alcohol by ten unless you dispense brandy, this sort of thing. The inoculation protocol is somehow even more shambolic, an easily editable document that anyone with moderate computer skills could fake.

The day before the election there was a protest near our home of those against the inoculation protocol and the restrictions. More than a thousand gathered in the park where my love and I were married to decry these new rules. They marched down the street crying for freedom. It was a depressing, infuriating sight. In the midst of the ruin of our health system, the cancellation of all non-emergency surgeries and procedures, there are people complaining that all this goes too far. How do you even reason with them?

Meanwhile, our provincial government seems more interested in political gain than in keeping us alive. What an absolute disaster, one that should never have happened. The election should have been for them, because they no longer deserve to hold office, let alone show their faces in these parts again.

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 Five Hundred Forty

In these parts we see patterns repeat in our battle with the Grippe Reborn. Just as his powers wax and wane in predictable waves whose peaks we battle to keep below the dikes we have constructed, so the responses of our leaders have become predictable. They have learned nothing it seems, least of all any kind of humility in the face of this scourge.

At every moment when the wave begins to fall, the Dread Lord retreating and our defences holding, they declare victory and an end to all of this. We can take down the ramparts, they say. The city gates can be flung open and all can return to the way it was. Yet the Dread Lord still lurks out in the far hills, marshalling his resources and it is inevitable that he will return in force and when he does we will be ill-prepared.

In June our leaders in the Western Dominions declared the Dread Lord defeated. With the inoculations they said we need no longer fear his powers and they announced an end to all quarantine protocols. There was hope that this time they were correct, that the inoculations would turn aside the Grippe Reborn whenever he returned, in whatever shape and form. And it has largely been true for those of us who took the doses. The Dread Lord is back in a new guise, able to move even more insidiously among us, but those of us with the doses are able to thwart his foul desires.

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 Five Hundred Thirty Three

Harvest is in full swing in the Quarter. With the sweltering June and July and no rain to be seen, the crops are ready early, what little there is. Driving through the countryside one can see the swathed fields and busy combines threshing the grain. I remember those long days. A hot lunch would be brought to the field, eaten on lawn chairs set up in the stubble, so that there was no need to drive back and forth to the house. Dinner would be sandwiches and cucumber and tomatoes from the garden stuffed into an ice cream pail, picked up by whoever was driving the truck hauling the grain to the bins. It would be eaten while working and the work would go until it was dark and dew started forming on the swathes.

As a child those days always felt momentous. Everyone on the farm was focused on the task at hand and every moment was given to it. I remember the agony of equipment breakdowns that stalled the harvest in good weather. Having to race into town to get this part or that, hoping it didn’t have to be ordered. Or the despair when it rained, stalling out the harvest while waiting for the crops to dry so that they could be cut and combined. Every day of delay was another where there might be frost at night and the quality of what was being harvested would be ruined.

My love and I have had our own harvest this past week as we journeyed to a farmers market where the Hutterite brethren sell their wares. We bought peaches and nectarines from across the mountains, and beans, corn, cauliflower and more from the local brethren, all of which we then spent days cutting and blanching and freezing. Laying in supplies for winter. In my own garden the tomatoes are beginning to turn, though it is a small crop this year despite all the heat. The smoke seems to have affected the germination. We have plenty of herbs though and chard and kale. Soon enough I will be drying the herbs and picking all the tomatoes before the frost sets in, leaving them to ripen indoors.

Autumn remains one of my favourite times of year. Many dislike it because they see it only as harbinger of winter, a sign that warm days at an end. But for me it will always be a time where the fruits of our labours are realized.

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 Five Hundred Twenty Six

A week of rain showers and cool. The mornings crisp and autumnal, announcing the coming season. It feels abrupt after the endless weeks of heat. I wandered by the river this morning and the water was higher after the rains than it has been since June. The sky is still blue, the smoke still absent for the time being, only thin clouds sketched across the horizon.

An odd time, not quite fall, but not feeling like summer any longer. We have been stranded in some nether region for much of the summer after the exultation of spring when the inoculations against the dread lord arrived and his powers began to decline. The smoke came first and then he returned, diminished to be sure, but still present, still stalking those who have declined the doses. The number of those affected and in hospital has steadily risen, while those taking their doses has dwindled. For a moment in the spring it truly felt like we would thwart the dread lord’s desires, but now it is unclear what awaits us in the fall and the winter. Will we be overwhelmed again or will the doses tell the tale? Everyone awaits the answer with dread.

I myself am confident in the inoculations, both for myself and my love and us all. They will carry the day in the end. But with so many still without, both here and around the world, it will be some time before that is the case. So we are left in this strange state where we will not face the quarantine measures of the last year, but we are still not free of the grippe reborn. How does one live in that world? We learned to live in the quarantine zone, exhausting as that was, and though we wanted to return to the world of before, that was never possible. Instead we shall have to learn to find our way in this one.

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 Five Hundred Nineteen

After the drought, the deluge. It has been a month and half since we had any rain, but last evening the skies finally erupted. It is still raining now as I write these words, a steady, soaking downpour. The smoke from the fires across the mountains, which had been as bad as it has been this summer these last days, has been beaten from the sky by the rain. The air smells glorious. Damp earth and thankful vegetation. The sense of relief, after so much dust, smoke and despair, is palpable.

I can recall the moment when the two towers fell. It felt then like the end of an era and start of a new, uncertain one. The ending of things is often ugly, bloody, and the end of the era I came of age in is no different. It was announced some time ago that western forces were leaving Afghanistan, but now that the day is actually here chaos has been unleashed. As always, those who said they were building the state, its infrastructure and armies, were simply lining their pockets, leaving a hollow shell that quickly crumbled under the advance of the Taliban. Twenty years and what was accomplished both there and in Iraq, those twin responses to the twin towers? Nothing but blood and ruin.

The last twenty years have seen the decline of the American project. It’s institutions are sclerotic, it’s focus inward, its democracy teetering. In Afghanistan, those who we claimed to thwarting have been restored. In Iraq and Syria it is hard to say what will come next, only that the peoples of those places will have little say in the matter. Tragedy upon tragedy. Twenty years worth and no end in sight.

With our inglorious exit from Afghanistan (and I say our because the Dominions have been involved in that project from the beginning and many have died for it) we seem to be embarking upon a new era again. One of American decline and retrenchment. One of dislocation from climate change, that will undoubtedly spill over into wars and migrations that will destabilize the current order of things. To say nothing of what another year, and more, of the grippe reborn may result in. All of us will be struggling and uncertain as we try to go about our living in the face of all these crises that seem to be compounding on each other.

It is difficult to watch the scenes of desperate, despairing people crowded into the Kabul airport, climbing onto planes, clinging to them even as they take off. They know this may be their only chance to get out before the lives they had are gone. Some will manage to get out surely, but so many others won’t. They will be left to whatever fate awaits them, however grim. We will read stories about it in a few years time, of how terrible all that followed was for them, and we will think again of how awful it is and wonder what we could have done differently. And we will hope that someday we are not the ones crowding an airport desperate for any way out.

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 Five Hundred Ten

It rained yesterday, the first time since the deluge that brought an end to the terrible heat wave in June. There has been day after day of hot weather since then, but we have yet to see another thunderstorm.The smoke, from the fires started by the heat wave, has persisted, stopping any thunderheads from forming as they typically would. It has even delayed my garden. Tomatoes have been late flowering and other plants have been slow to grow.

The rain was a piddling amount, barely enough to get the ground wet. But it was enough to clear the skies of smoke. For the first time in a month the sky is visible. Even on those days when the smoke wasn’t noticeable in the air there was still a haze above, a blanket over the sky. Now I can see clouds, actual clouds, for the first time in weeks, and behind them the glorious blue sky. I had forgotten how much joy there is in watching clouds drift by, their changing shapes, of seeing birds circle and dive and dart, of being able to see for miles and miles. It is a weight off my heart in a way I had not entirely expected. A normal day in these increasingly abnormal times.

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 Five Hundred Five

Five hundred days living with the dread lord, five hundred and the rest of our lives. We are at a strange moment in the pandemic here in these parts. The inoculation campaigns have been largely successful, though there remains much work to do on that front. The grippe reborn was in full retreat as a result, until all quarantine restrictions were relaxed at the beginning of last month. The result has been rising numbers of afflicted, as the dread lord seeks out those who have neglected to get their doses.

The government has responded by declaring the dread lord’s plague at an end. We will have to live with it now, they say, as if that isn’t what we’ve all been doing for the last five hundred days. How we will live with it is the question.

Here people are divided and uncertain. There are those who say the inoculations are enough, they are available to all who want them and it is up to everyone to determine whether they wish that protection or not. Others say we need a return to some restrictions to control the grippe reborn’s spread, particularly because children are unable to be inoculated. The first group reply that children are little affected by the dread lord, so it is a risk worth taking, while others reply that it is monstrous to even consider.

This is the next few years of all our lives it seems to me, or at least until we can manage to get inoculations across the world to all those who need it. The dread lord will always manage to find those he can do harm to. He will find his way around the defences we have erected with the inoculations. It will be nothing like the first five hundred days where we all lived in fear of what might come. But there will continue to be doubts about just how safe we are, questions about whether we are doing enough, and what enough would even be. There will be anger at further rules: anger at their necessity, anger at those who refuse to comply, and anger at those who have refused to do what is necessary for their communities and get inoculated.

All of this anger will result from the undeniable fact that we do not know how the next years will proceed, beyond the fact that the dread lord will shadow our lives. That not knowing sits in all of us. All of our doubt, fear and anger stems from that. It will stay with us the rest of our days, even if we somehow manage to vanquish the dread lord entirely, that destabilizing sense that we do not know what awaits us from day to day will remain.