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.

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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 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.

Notes on the Grippe

Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.

Day Four Hundred Ninety Eight

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

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

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

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

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

Notes on the Grippe

Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.

Day Four Hundred Ninety One

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes on the Grippe

Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.

Day Four Hundred Eighty Three

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

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

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

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

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

Notes on the Grippe

Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.

Day Four Hundred Seventy Six

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

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

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

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

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