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 One Hundred Sixty Eight

There are magpies cackling from the trees clustered around the slough, leering down at passersby. Those are few and far between, but anytime one appears – be it coyote, antelope or human – the magpies feel compelled to pronounce their disdain.

There are two passersby just now, youth following the trail down to the spring. It is nestled in amongst the cottonwood trees and hummocks, flowing enough to fill a low slough in springtime. It is fall now and the ground is dry, except around the spring. They crouch where the water gurgles from the earth, a steady, cool flow arising from somewhere beneath them, and fill their canteens. They linger for a time in the shade of the trees, drinking the water and filling the canteens again. It has been a long day and they have far to go. The magpies chatter at them, but soon enough grow bored as they get no reaction.

As they set off the sun is already in the west, though it remains high above. They walk for the few hours of light that remain, eating the sandwiches Hazel Wheeler made for them earlier and drinking their water. The morning and the days before they had spent at the Wheeler place helping with the threshing and harvest. After lunch they’d declined the offer of another night in the loft, saying they would make their way home, though it would mean a night out on the land.

When the dusk begins to grow heavy they elect to stop, taking shelter in an old grain bin, the only trace of a farmstead that once was there. The house and all the rest were sold and moved a few years ago. Only the bin, a broken thing with no roof remains. They decide it is as good a place as any to pass the night. The floor will keep them off the ground and the walls are still solid enough to keep out the wind.

The grass is tall around the bin and they cut some of it to lay on the floorboards to make a sort of bed. They lie down, looking up at the darkening sky and watching as the milky way appears above, talking of nothing at all until they both drift off to sleep.

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 One Hundred Sixty Seven

The emptiness of the place is the first thing people notice in the Lost Quarter. The vastness with nothing to fill it. The grass, the odd tree, short and bent by the wind, and the birds darting about, low to the ground and then high, all register later. It is the sky that leaves them overwhelmed and a little frightened. More towering than any mountain and unending. Any direction they turn it goes on and on, never quite stopping.

Standing in the midst of it one can truly feel alone and tiny in the face of the universe. Utterly insignificant, in a way that you never do in a mountain range. Their grandeur is oddly comforting, inspiring thoughts of great deeds and impossible feats. A worthy adversary in every way. One can make a mark, leave a trace upon this life, equal to the mountains on this world, is the belief that comes from standing amongst them. They are a challenge to be met in some way, through conquest or contemplation.

The prairie sky is more implacable than any mountain. Nothing is obscured there and there is nowhere to hide. There is only you crouching before its vastness, understanding, as you never will anywhere else, that you are speck of insignificance in the face of the universe. All that you do will leave no mark that the wind cannot wear away.

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 One Hundred Sixty Six

There has been a distinct chill to the air these last few mornings. The heat, which only last week was unrelenting, has dissipated. The afternoons are pleasant, while evenings require a jacket. That this should come as the calendar turns over to September is undoubtedly a coincidence, but it serves to emphasize what cannot be denied.

The seasons are turning and autumn will soon be upon us. Harvest has already begun in many places. In fact, when we journeyed south some weeks ago the combines were already rolling through the golden fields. Even in the farthest reaches of the north they will be starting, hurrying to get the crop off before the first frost. My own harvest began in July and will hopefully stretch on to the end of the month, perhaps even longer, for kale and chard prefer the cool of autumn.

The other day my love and I went for a walk through our neighbourhood where, in the last number of years, murals have been painted on the sides of buildings, in back alleys and hidden corners. We walked up and down the streets, lingering in places we would never have stopped before. It felt like we were explorers on the search for secret places, unbeknownst to those who passed by these parts, myself included. The whole experience was very satisfying in a way I had not expected.

So often in our day to day we do that, passing by without giving the places we go any particular thought. The destination and the task at hand distract us, as do all manner of concerns. It is so easy to get lost in one’s head. Taking a moment to look around, to actually see what is before us, quiets all those thoughts and worries.

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 One Hundred Sixty Five

The northern edge of the Lost Quarter is marked by a wandering river. It has always been a border of sorts, going back to the time of the Iron and Blackfoot Confederacies, the great nations of Those Who Went Away. Before their cruel exile the river was contested territory between them.

Borders are always porous things and the borders of the Lost Quarter are no different. Always shifting and moving, impossible to define, though people always attempt to do so. A line drawn on a map, a fence or a wall constructed, an idea imposed. These things hold only so long as people choose to let them. The greater dominions and other realms, both near and far, exist only insofar as people choose to believe in them.

The Quarter itself is no different. It exists, as a place, in the minds of those who live there, those who have passed through and gone on, Those Who Went Away and Those Who Came. If it is forgotten it will dwindle away, absorbed by the greater dominions, and become a place like any other. Already many of the ways in and out of the Quarter are forgotten and lost, and time will tell what will happen to the place itself.

The river is a true border in one sense. It has always marked the edge of the great rolling plains that stretch through the Quarter and south, west and east. North is forested land and life has always been different there.

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 One Hundred Sixty Two

It occurs to me that it has been some time since I wrote about the dread lord and really gave consideration to his continued presence in the Lost Quarter. That is not because his depredations have ceased or that I, or anyone really, has lowered their guard against him. It is just that those measures have become matter of fact, barely noticed, like slipping on shoes before going outside.

Of course autumn nears, as the chill that greets us each morning reminds, and with it will come schools reopening and a return to the indoors. I imagine we will all become hardier sitting upon patios and park benches as temperatures drop, but even the toughest among us will have to draw the line when the snow comes and winter with it.

What will happen then, when we can no longer wander outdoors as a distraction and a relief? Perhaps we as members of this great wintry dominion will embrace the cold as never before. We will spend time outside and find that it isn’t really so bad. Though on those days when the temperature plummets near forty below, one can hardly linger.

Secluding ourselves will only last for so long, especially in those darkest months of winter. And so we will gather and mingle indoors, perhaps not in quite the numbers we did before, but still enough that the grippe reborn will find his way among us. If things go badly we will be back to where we started, trapped in our homes, waiting to see if the dread lord can slip through our defences.

It is exhausting to think about, as everything seems to be these days. And so instead we try to enjoy these last days of summer as best we can.

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 One Hundred Sixty One

Last evening, as my love and I prepared supper, the wind shifted, after what had been a bright and sunny day, and the sky was clouded with smoke. The stench of it was soon everywhere and we had to rush to close the windows. As we ate dinner we watched the clouds of smoke grow heavier and heavier, blanketing the sky with a foul miasma. Yet by the time we went to the bed the wind had shifted again and the sky was clear, the stars visible above.

The fires that produced this smoke were from two thousand kilometres away in the great empire where a raging inferno consumes the redwood forests along the Pacific coast. It is a vivid reminder, not that we need one during these strange days, that what happens far away can have tremendous impact on our lives. And what we do now will have echoes through the years, as Newton told us long ago.

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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 One Hundred Sixty

The last few days have had a peculiar sort of monotony to them. Nothing stands out in my mind, not the things I’ve done, the television I’ve watched or the songs I’ve listened to. Even the book I am reading seems to be repeating the same incidents. I can’t recall the faces of anyone I passed by on my wanderings. Nothing drew my attention in any sort of way.

I would say I am trapped in some sort of loop except there is no sense of repetition. No déjà vu. I don’t recognize anything from day to day in the monotony. It is all new in its strange flatness.

Perhaps it is just that I am not receptive to what I encounter. I am looking without seeing, hearing without listening. Nothing registers, it just passes by and I disappear into myself.

Even my own thoughts seem tedious. I try to push beyond the usual paths my mind takes, but they seem to find the rut in the road and proceed of their own accord until I just stop paying attention.

This afternoon I think I shall take the time to sit outside and try to not let any thoughts intrude. I shall watch the birds in the trees, the clouds in the sky, and listen as the world passes by.

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 One Hundred Fifty Nine

We have been enjoying the spoils of my garden these last few days as the tomatoes begin to ripen on the vine. It is undoubtedly a bumper crop, perhaps the best I have managed. The kale and chard are growing like weeds, as they do every year without fail. The herbs as well – mint, thyme, rosemary, oregano, parsley, basil and chives – all have flourished, more or less.

The same cannot be said of my peppers. It appears I shall have a harvest of one. Which is strange because it has been a warm year, perfect for peppers, as my profusion of tomatoes shows. The spinach was a disappointment as well, but I suspect that is because it was so cold at the beginning of the year so I was later planting than I would have liked. Once the heat of the summer hit, it quickly bolted.

There is something deeply satisfying about growing something, caring for it over the days and weeks of spring and summer, hoping the weather and the universe cooperate, so that you can realize its promise and eat of the fruits of your labour. Plucking a ripe tomato from a vine it is easy to understand why farmers might subject themselves to the seeming futility of their work. Despite the drought or the deluge, the hail and the wind, the frost in spring or autumn, and the rain or heat that never quite arrives when it is needed.

That is a song of complaint I have heard many times before. Yet, all that frustration is suddenly worth it when you look upon a field with full heads of grain turning golden under the sun. I understand that now as I didn’t always before. The satisfaction of a job well done earning a just reward as the universe so rarely allows.

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 One Hundred Fifty Eight

The southern reaches of the Lost Quarter seem to never really end. There is no border, no definitive point at which one leaves or enters. This is one of the reasons the ways into the Quarter are so easily forgotten. You have to know where you are to find where you’re going.

If the south of the Quarter has a border, it is a narrow, milky river that turns south into the great empire beneath us. It was not the border for Those Who Went Away, nor for the first of Those Who Came. Both moved back and forth across the river, using it as a campsite on their way to other places. The border between the great empire and the dominions was not settled, at least not in the minds of anyone who lived there, and the vast prairies stretched on in every direction for hundreds of kilometres.

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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 One Hundred Fifty Five

Memory is a strange thing. Everything we are living through now feels monumental. Our battle with the grippe reborn consumes the whole planet. It has fundamentally altered our way of being and many of us shall never return to our old patterns. Or so it seems now.

The last time the dread lord regained his powers and took form, a century ago, the world was just as consumed. It was even more ill-prepared than we were, having been engulfed in a terrible war, and millions died as a result. The same quarantine protocols were put in place, the same practices required. In the Lost Quarter whole towns were nearly wiped out, and yet there are no markers or memorials to those events. It is not remembered in the same way that wars and other momentous happenings are. It is a footnote.

Certainly those of us who live through it will always carry the memory with us. And if the battle with the dread lord stretches on for years with greater and greater consequences to our lives and institutions, then the scars will show for decades to come. Change is like a glacier, shifting imperceptibly, but moving all the same. You only notice it looking back over many years. The dread lord is of the greatest consequence now, but in the coming decades, for those of us fortunate enough to see it, will it seem momentous or just a part of greater changes we are undergoing without even realizing it?

The Roman Empire, like all empires, didn’t fall in a collapsing heap. It dissipated over the years, crumbling away, piece by piece, so gradually that many of those living within it would not have been aware. They would have lived the same lives their fathers and grandfathers did for the most part. Only their sons and grandsons looking back would have been able to see what had been lost and to know that it could not be regained. For they were the ones who had to live in the consequences.