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 Eighty Five

These past weeks walking about on the streets there has been a jarring sense of normality to many of the scenes. Restaurants and bars have been crowded and people have been gathering despite the quarantine protocols remaining in place. There has been a sense, nearly everywhere you look, that people are just done with the restrictions, with our shadowed, rule bound, existence, despite the fact that the grippe reborn remains as dangerous as ever.

With the rise in truancy from the rules there has been a rise in cases, with the result that we have returned to the place we were back in November. Our hospitals are not yet overwhelmed, but the numbers are rising. The only solace is that with the inoculations tricking out we have protected those most vulnerable to the dread lords depredations and so this wave of destruction has not resulted in as much death as the previous ones. But with so many falling to the dread lord’s touch there shall inevitably be more death.

In the fall, during the previous rising tide, there was a growing sense of dread and a knowledge that something would have to be done. When stricter protocols were put in place most people followed them. The moment seemed to demand them. Now is different though. Our salvation is at hand, but it is not here. The inoculations are coming, but at what seems a trickling pace. Elsewhere we hear stories of incredible numbers being dosed and we look at our meagre few and wonder why we have been left behind. It was fine to be patient and wait when numbers were dwindling, to imagine the summer to come, but when numbers are rising there is a renewed urgency.

People are desperate. They are tired of just hanging on, of all the rules and restrictions, necessary as they may be. Everyone is so tired of everything. We are all reduced to squalling children unable to articulate why we are angry. We are only looking for a target to direct that anger, be it the government, those who support the greater protocols, those who ignore them, those who have been inoculated and those who will refuse to be.

Today word came that the government is restoring some of the restrictions. There will be those who say it is not enough and those who say it is too much. They will shout at each other while the rest of us settle down to waiting some more. 385 days and counting with the grippe reborn. It seems impossible that it has been that long and yet it also seems as if it must have been so much longer.

Even as I write this, I receive word that my parents have their first doses. A glimmer of sunshine on a gloomy day. Two weeks and they will be able to go about their lives with some measure of security. I long for that day and I will choose to hope it will be soon.

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.

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 Two

A sunny, warm day yesterday, as nice a day as you could ask for in February in these parts. It ended oddly, the evening filled with snow squalls, thunder and hail. A rarity to be sure the commingling of thunder and snow. I can remember only one other occasion when I was awoken on a March morning to thunder, sleet and calamity.

It was eventful at least, in a time without events. The days drag in February generally, the length of the winter becoming something of a burden in the mind. There is the fear that we are only half way through, with the hope, usually in vain, that maybe only a few weeks remain until spring. This year is more of a slog than any other. The days don’t change from one to the other, we have only the weather and the growing hours of daylight to mark the passage of time.

Everything feels tedious at this moment. The grippe reborn still stalks us while we await our inoculations. His pursuit is steady, yet mostly unseen, a spectre to haunt our dreams. The inoculations are trickling in, though a flood is promised soon. Nothing has changed, in other words, in over a month. It feels as though we have been trapped in the same day for weeks now.

I remember in the first days following the dread lord’s arrival in these parts when I couldn’t stop reading about his march, his terrible powers and what needed to be done. There was endless debates about our quarantine measures – they were too strict, not strict enough, this protocol was ineffective and this one should be adopted, etc., etc. – and I wanted to know every detail of every arcane debate. I couldn’t read enough. Now, though, it feels like we have been talking about the same damn things for a year and I never want to hear any of this ever again. And yet, nearly a year on, the articles and debates and talking on it still continues unabated.

All of it continues unabated and, as much as I am optimistic about what the inoculations will achieve in thwarting the dread lord, I am exhausted with this current unending moment. It feels so petty given everything else going on, and the suffering of so many, but I cannot stop myself. This is lingering like the last weeks of winter when all you can think about is spring and green things growing. Or like the last hour of your drive home on a long trip.

For years, when my parents still lived in the central parts of the Quarter, my journey home to them was long, many hours along lonely roads that few others passed by, for the ways to that part of the world are slowly being forgotten. This time now feels like the end of those trips. When I’d almost reached my destination an unaccountable restlessness would always take hold of me. The roads then were so familiar – I had driven them countless times in my youth – and that familiarity, the same landmarks, the same curves and hills, just made me so impatient to be done with the trip and home, even though the time that was left was so much shorter than all I had come through. That is where we are now, restless and impatient, counting the days until we can be somewhere new.

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 Thirty Seven

From the beginning, the Lost Quarter has been host to many who are just passing through. Those Who Went Away, before their bitter and final banishment, travelled through these parts often. Remnants of their passing can be found everywhere. Arrowheads, knives and other tools. Tipi rings and other detritus of a camp site. Their territories stretched far beyond the borders of the Quarter and they knew the ways in and out and its various peculiarities as well as anyone ever has.

Many of Those Who Came after the exile of Those Who Went Away were just passing through as well, trying their hand at settling the land before moving on to other places. They left little that can be seen now. A few homes and farmyards that others have since occupied. The ruins of a foundation where someone once had a home. But for the most part all traces of their being here have vanished, and will be totally gone once those who can still remember them are gone as well. Even now people come and go, though fewer and fewer, as the ways into the Quarter are lost. I am one of them.

During the second of the great wars that consumed the first half of the last century a new group of Those Who Came arrived in the Quarter. They did not come willingly, arriving from other parts of the Greater Dominions, mostly the western shores, having originally come to the Dominions from Japan. The Dominions were at war with Imperial Japan and they viewed these newcomers with suspicion, though some had been there for generations. As a result they were interned in camps and made to dig coal for the war effort. After the war the camps were disbanded, the people free to go where they wished, and none chose to remain in the Quarter.

There are records of the camps, but little else. They were a ghostly presence even when they were in existence, near the communities but not a part of them. Those who lived there would see the interned in town on occasion, the authorities knowing there was no chance of them being able to flee the Quarter, but no words were exchanged. No acknowledgement given of what was occurring.

It was an age of internment, of prison camps and gulags and worse. Every nation engaged in the war, on whatever side, seemed to have some version of them in existence. They were seen as necessary, though now we see them as abominations. We say we do anyway. Right now in China there are camps – re-education if one is to use the government’s nomenclature – that rank among the worst of those terrible places ever constructed, as the stories of those who have escaped make amply clear. They have one purpose, the elimination of a people, the Uighurs, and the methods they use are barbaric. Forced work, rape and torture, sterilization and indoctrination, the erasure of a culture and a language.

It seems clear what is being done and yet people and governments across the world refuse to name it. Genocide. They find ways and reasons to look away, to not see what is there. For if they did so, then they would be obligated to do something about it. Just as those who lived in the Quarter in those dark years found reasons not to see the internment camps for what they were. Now is the time to speak, for later our words will be empty, all that will be left are apologies that can never undo what has been done.

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 Thirty Five

The cold snap has finally ended after two weeks of bone chilling weather. I was out for a walk this morning, and though it was still a brisk -16 the wind had none of its earlier bite. By this weekend it will supposedly be above freezing again, a welcome reprieve from the frigid weather that has kept us trapped at home more than we would like with the grippe reborn still haunting us.

On Valentine’s Day my love and I did venture out, despite the cold, for what was not a particularly romantic day, but at least a break from the usual. We went to a Korean fast food place for lunch, which we ate huddled in our car. After that we went to a Filipino ice cream parlour and ate cones, again sitting in the car, which I would turn on for a few minutes when it got too cold. Restaurants are open to customers again in these parts, but the dread lord has amply demonstrated that small places filled with unmasked people are his favourite stalking grounds, so we will stay away, even if it means we are trapped in our vehicles.

The days are growing longer, which does much to make the cold bearable. A sure sign that we shall not have to endure it forever. When I start my walks in the morning it is dark, but by the time I return the sun has risen and the light stays in the day until six at least now. Each week the change is noticeable, the glare hitting my eyes at a different time in the afternoon. We all hope for the spring warmth, for inoculations, for some end to this glaciation of our lives. The end feels almost in sight some days, even if it is far away.