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 Six Hundred Twenty Five

Yet again the Dread Lord Grippe Reborn has altered his guise to try to slip through our defences. In Africa they were the first to notice his latest reinvention. An alteration of form that scientists declared worrisome because it is unknown how effective our inoculations will be against it. Potentially it will give him even greater powers to spread and reach out to everyone across the globe, though it is early days yet. We cannot know for a few weeks how much trouble we are in. The fact that concerns are being raised so early cannot help but feel ominous.

Predictably, several nations, including these Dominions, banned travel from the nations where the new guise was discovered. Just as predictably cases were found in other places across the globe, including in these parts. The horse has already left the barn and South Africa and Botswana were just the first to realize it.

There has been seemingly endless talk about the Reinvented Dread Lord and the potential vast new powers he possesses. Yet we know nothing. It may be worse than the guise he adopted that has so devastated these parts these last months, or it may pass without incident. All we know for certain is that he will keep finding new forms for so long as we allow him. And he can do so as long as there remain so many across the globe who remain without inoculations.

That work, even here where we have more doses, is ongoing. We will have to redouble our efforts to ensure that doses are available to everyone and that everyone understands the importance of getting them. We are nearly two years into this struggle and it feels as though it has only begun. As exhausted as we are there is still so much farther to go.

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 Six Hundred Ten

Our long, glorious autumn seems to finally be drawing to a close. This week has brought the first real taste of cold for the year. A winter chill that matches the ever shortening days. There has been snow to the north, east and west, though only a few flurries here. Soon enough, no doubt. We are returning to the realm of the long, cold night.

A few weeks ago my love and I ventured out in the darkness to see if we could spot any northern lights. There was a solar storm that was making them particularly active in these parts. I cannot remember seeing any this far south before, but people were catching glimpses of them in the centre of the city itself, which I had not thought possible. My love has never seen the lights, not having grown up in this sub-arctic region, and so we found a country road and settled down to wait. After two hours we caught a hint of something behind the clouds that massed across much of the sky and declared victory, returning home. Of course, if we had only known we could have stayed home and gotten up at two in the morning and seen a fantastic display from our doorstep.

The storm that brought the winter chill here and snow all around us also wreaked havoc over the mountains to the west. Days of rain, which I remember well from my time living on the coast, led to rivers overflowing their banks and mudslides. East of the coast where the fires raged all summer there was snow and rain, which again led to flooding, landslides and washouts. As my love pointed out, with so many trees now dead from the fires, the earth on the hillsides and mountains was weakened without those roots to hold it strong and absorb the water.

At the moment all roads and rail to the western coast are closed, the damage so extensive it will take weeks to repair. Even before this the price of goods was rising because of shortages and now those shortages will grow more acute. Ships will have to be routed to more northern ports that do not have the same capacity, or the goods will have to go overland across the United States to make it to the rest of Dominions. It will take a good long while to set all that to right, to say nothing of the homes and livelihoods of those impacted. Just as the tide of the grippe reborn has crested and begun to fall back here, and we allow ourselves to imagine resuming our normal lives, another has rushed in to take its place.

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 Ninety Seven

More frailer than the flowers, these precious hours

She came to these parts not so long ago, on a journey far from her home. As with so many others, yearning and happenstance set her on her way from her island home, first to the great Arabian desert and from there to the Dominions. Ultimately she found her way to the Quarter and, as with so many others, she settled for a time, with no real intent of staying long.

The stories of Those Who Came, following the bitter conquest and exile of Those Who Went Away, are her story. Arriving in this place that is, in so many ways unwelcoming. The people are polite to a fault, but distant, closed off. Everyone keeps to themselves as a matter of course, which for a newcomer means it is hard to find ones way in this world that seems indifferent to your presence. The climate offers no comfort. It is a dry place, dry as the desert she lived in for a time, but cold and dark in the long winters as well. She cannot quite get used to it, no matter how long she remains. Her skin always feels parched and flaking, like it is drawn too tight over her flesh.

The early days in the Quarter were hard for her, harder than she had ever imagined. She felt lost and questioned why she had come, leaving so many friends behind in the desert and the islands, finding herself alone with only acquaintances to rely on. But she persisted and persevered, finding work and a place of her own, and by and by began to feel a part of this strange, indifferent land. She met someone, a man who likes pancakes and ice cream, and tentatively they began to build a life together. Like so many others who come for a time, it seemed she was here to stay.

Unlike many others who find themselves in these parts she has no nostalgia for her home, but the yearning to go elsewhere still comes now and again. A longing for friends as close as the ones she had in her youth. But it is hard to make friends as one gets older, a reticence that arrives for us all it seems as we grow set in our habits of being. She feels now that she has lost something of herself, left in the desert or the islands, a shadow of what she was. When her husband tells her she is the same person she always was, that all of the things that brought her to this place are still with her, as much a part of her as her doubts and fears, she isn’t sure whether she believes that.

There is a lightness in her that sets others at ease; quick with a smile and laughter. Joy is hard to find, especially in these long grim months under the siege of the Grippe Reborn where it seems nothing is as it was. She has a gift of discovering it in the simple things in life. A walk in the western mountains. A warm cup of hot chocolate on an autumn day. A shared meal in a restaurant. Wandering among shops just to see what is there. Bringing home yet another plant to put upon the shelves.

She has brought herself far in this world and has farther to go yet, wherever happenstance and desire leads. Like the wind in these parts, nothing is fixed, nothing stands still. Yet, no matter what changes are wrought, it remains the Quarter. She is a part of it, as much as anyone can be.  

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 Ninety

It is dark now when I rise in the morning. Still dark when I leave the house for my morning jog, though the light is stealing in, the shadows not as deep. By the time I return, half an hour later, dawn has come, that hazy sort of light that feels like you are blinking back sleep when you awake in the morning. Next week will be November and the darkness will only encroach further and further into the morning and the evening. The long night is here.

There is snow in the forecast for today. The sky is an undifferentiated grey, no glimpse of blue anywhere. When I was out earlier it was spitting rain, foreshadowing what is to come. We could not have asked for a more beautiful autumn and, despite today’s snow, it is supposed to linger. Warmer days next week. I have a friend who says that if you could guarantee a pleasant fall until November and that spring would arrive in March without fail, the climate in these parts would be perfection. This year, at least, we have the first, and we will have to see what the winter brings.

I do not feel the same dread as I did last year at winter’s approach. Then I knew matters with the Grippe Reborn could only get worse and that it would be a lonely and dark time with many hardships. This year, though things have been as bad as they have ever been these last weeks, and are still bad even now with so many still in hospital suffering, I feel a hope I did not. The Dread Lord’s forces are in decline and our inoculation numbers are steadily rising. With the inoculation protocols in force we can safely go out and do all those things we would normally do to dispel the winter cold. Gather with friends. See a movie. Hang out in a coffee shop.

My love and I did that last weekend, sitting in a cafe, reading books and watching the world pass by. It is something I haven’t really done since the Dread Lord arrived on these shores and it felt luxurious to do so now. I hope it never feels ordinary again, though someday I’m sure it will. But not for a long while.  

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.