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.

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 Sixty Three

My love and I went for a walk to the great hill that looms over the north of the city, a vast parkway. With travel still circumscribed by the quarantine protocols here and elsewhere we have decided to make a project this summer of visiting various parks throughout the city, ones that we do not usually frequent. From its summit you can see the whole of the city and beyond sprawling out. Even on a cloudy, gloomy morning, as it was when we ventured there, we could see the mountains to the west and the prairie stretching in every other direction. To the east, beyond where our eyes could see, lay the Quarter, the roads there obscured by the clouds on the horizon.

The hill is so large it has its own hills and valleys that one discovers while wandering. The landscape changes as you go, one moment wide open grassland and then next descending into a forested valley. It is the place where the prairie meets the foothills, a battleground that neither ceded and both retain. To me though, the smell is of the Quarter. There is wolf willow and wild sage, buckbrush and wild roses, all combining to create that distinct smell that is the prairies for me.

We passed through a glen, a place where it looked like water might once have flowed long ago. Trees flourished on either side of the pathway, though the grass did not. It was dry with none of the profusion of brush and flowers we had earlier gone by. Two crows stood in trees on either side of the pathway calling out to each other, low and croaking.

We came from there to a small basin where the runoff from the winter gathered in a pond. It is dry now, though the ground is still soft. There were dead limbs of trees and other branches cast about like detritus from some retreating sea. One of the crows followed us, watchful from a tree, its eerie call silencing all the other birds. I looked up at where it perched in the tree, making eye contact with it briefly, before it took off, heading east toward the Quarter.

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 Fifty Five

We are truly in summer now, the days warm and the evenings pleasant. It has been as hot a June as I can recall with several days in the thirties. With the lifting of some of the quarantine restrictions, restaurants with their patios are now fully open and people are flocking to them. It is wonderful to see people gathering, smiling faces and laughter.

The retreat of the grippe reborn continues in these parts. Each day brings dwindling numbers, even with the relaxation of the protocols. It is proof, as if we needed more having seen what has happened elsewhere, that the inoculations work. I am due to receive my second before the end of the month. Hopefully my love will be able to as well. It seems most everyone who wants them should be able to have their doses by the end of July.

But therein lies the problem. Those seeking out their first doses have dwindled as well. We are stalled just below the seventy percent mark that the government has set for ending restrictions. They have grown desperate to encourage more people to take up the doses, launching a lottery and trying to reach out to those communities where the uptake has been slow. With the shrinking footprints of the dread lord many must feel that there is no rush, that the risk without is minimal. And for now that may be true, but in the fall as flu season returns the dread lord will as well, perhaps armed with new and seductive powers.

There is no convincing some people though. No matter how many millions receive their doses, with few showing any ill effects, no matter how much the dread lord is thwarted by those who have received it, there will still be those who claim the inoculations don’t work. They talk of it as being an experimental treatment, as if every treatment we receive from doctors, every drug from every pharmacy wasn’t based on experiments and trials. They dismiss the dread lord’s power and say there is no need to protect themselves against him, forgetting all those who do not have any defences.

It would be one thing if they simply declined to have their doses, but they feel the need to always loudly insist upon the righteousness of their refusal and to verbally assault those of us who make another choice. They demand a choice for themselves, which they have, but that isn’t enough for them. They loudly scream against anyone who feels differently and it is evident if they had their way none of us would receive an inoculation. They are the same loud, vain, fools who have spent the last year crying out against the quarantine protocols, preferring to pretend that the dread lord isn’t real. Life would be much easier if the things we can’t control were all illusions. What will happen when they are ended, I wonder, where will their anger take them?

As I write this my parents send word they at the inoculation site awaiting their second dose. Day by day there will be more. It really does feel as though we are approaching the end this time, though, of course, the war against the dread lord will never be won entirely.

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 Fifty

The rivers are swollen, lapping up on the banks, threatening to overflow as the current races by. My love and I were in the mountains several weeks ago and the higher reaches were still heavy with snow, the peaks gleaming white in the sun. The water was trickling down from everywhere, the long, slow release of winter’s grip. Our last night it rained for hours, what seemed a passing storm getting caught among the summits and settling in to empty its cargo. Overnight the rain turned to snow and we awoke to a white world. That is life in the mountains. Pack for four seasons when you go, as you will experience all of them, and certainly we did. 

My love and I went for a walk along one of the city’s rivers last weekend, a return to our habits of the previous year when we were still acclimatizing ourselves to life with the grippe reborn. All those new practices have become routine now. It is hard to recall a time when we didn’t have masks at the ready or to ask each other whether we felt comfortable sitting on this patio or entering this place that before we would have wandered into without a thought. An anxious existence, though that anxiety has faded to a dull ebb that exists mostly in the background, cropping up only every now and again to paralyze us.

There are two rivers that wander through the city, each distinct in character. One is narrow and winding with a lazy current, the other broader, but still shallow, always moving at a quick pace. This time of year, with the spring melt, they are transformed, unrecognizable, much of their banks underwater and their currents a loud torrent. If there is to be flooding now is the time when it will happen, June bringing both rain and melting snow in the western mountains, the source of both waterways.

The last year feels like we have spent all our days with a swollen current, eroding the banks we had established to keep it at bay. Before a little upsurge from dark and stormy days would hardly be noticed, but now, even the smallest shower can send the waters spilling over the banks, wearing them away. There was a great flood in this city nearly a decade ago now, the two rivers overflowing their banks everywhere, swallowing up whole streets and neighbourhoods, leaving devastation in its wake. We have spent the years since restoring all that was ruined and building new banks and berms to help stop that from happening again. It is a long, slow process. We will all have to do something of the same kind of work ourselves as our lives begin to return to what they were before the dread lord stalked these lands.

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 Forty Two

What a change two weeks has brought us. The tide that threatened to overwhelm us has at last begun to recede as the grippe reborn slowly loses his hold on these parts. The speed of the drop in those afflicted has been as startling as the rise and must surely be the result of the inoculation campaign which has picked up pace in the last weeks. It is heartening to see the effectiveness of the inoculations play out in real time.

Restrictions are now being lifted. Across the Dominions the story is the same. Numbers are falling precipitously and plans for a return to normalcy are being announced. In these parts the plans are aggressive, with an end to all quarantine restrictions called for by the end of June. We are, again, out of step with the rest of the Dominions, who are much more conservative in their proposed plans. It looks even more odd when one considers we were the last to see the tide of the dread lord begin to retreat.

Of course, given the events of the past month it is no surprise. The government is being torn apart by the debate over the necessity of the restrictions and the premier desperately needs some kind of win to save his leadership. A cautious approach would probably be better. Far better to be able to move up relaxation of the quarantine protocols than to move too quickly and be forced into retreat yet again. But that seems to be this government’s preferred mode of operation.

Despite all that, it feels as though a weight has begun to be lifted from our lives with the falling cases. I will still be cautious, regardless of whether the restrictions remain in place, at least until I have my second dose. How can one not remain cautious after all that has happened the last year? It is hard to allow myself to hope after all the times I have done so and it has been thwarted. Instead I shall wait and see what comes, giving in to neither hope nor despair.

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 Twenty Eight

I have been largely forgiving of our politicians during the struggle with the grippe reborn. They have been thrust into a situation they had not anticipated, and while one could blame them for that failure of imagination, it is abundantly clear that it is a failure shared across the world. We have known forever that the dread lord might rise again, have instituted plans and policies for just such an eventuality, and yet so many government’s, ours included, seemed to be utterly paralyzed at his appearance.

The various mistakes made in those early days, some from ignorance of the nature of the dread lord’s power, some from a bizarre inaction and almost an unwillingness to believe that this was happening, allowed him entrée into these parts and so many others. And here he has stayed, embedding himself deep in the fabric of things. All these early failures have meant that we have been unable to stamp out the dread lord’s forces in any meaningful way, which has meant our governments have found themselves vacillating between strict quarantine protocols and trying to allow some semblance of normal life.

Every government in the Dominions has made the same mistake at one point or another in the past year, thinking they had things under control, but in fact allowing the dread lord to march unopposed through the populace. Our leaders in these parts have the distinction of having twice allowed things to get so out of control that they nearly ran out of hospital beds and medical supplies. Once I suppose is explicable, but to allow the exact same thing to happen again a few months later, despite having seen the earlier consequences is unconscionable.

Yet it is not surprising, especially given the events of the past week. There is a significant minority, perhaps even a majority, of the governing party who claim there is no need for any quarantine protocols, who declare that the dread lord is of little concern. Many are representatives of rural ridings in these parts and they claim the dread lord is a scourge of cities only and that the rules are too onerous and unfair. It explains the great reluctance of the leadership of the party to enact stricter measures sooner when they might have saved more lives.

The tensions within the government caucus, which have been repeatedly publically stoked by recalcitrant representatives, exploded last week with one representative writing a letter demanding the resignation of the premier for his various failures. That such disputes should be taking place, while we all endure another round of restrictions and fear at the growing power of the dread lord, explains everything about the government’s response to the pandemic over these last months. For many, it is not their main focus. They have other priorities than defeating the dread lord, and we are living in the results of that. I can only hope that no one forgets by the time we come to vote again, for our leaders have amply demonstrated they are ill-suited to governing in any kind of emergency.

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 Twenty Two

My love has received her inoculation, truly a momentous day. In some ways I was happier for this moment than I was to receive my own. This to me signals the beginning of the end of this long battle with the grippe reborn. I know it will linger on into the coming years, but it will soon be a different sort of struggle and for that I am thankful. All of this took much longer than I had hoped for, and there is still so much work to be done, not only in these parts but across the world, yet I feel a weight has been lifted from me. A burden that we had to carry will soon be gone.

In the evening we went out and sat in park with a couple of friends, having drinks and enjoying the sunshine. It was the first time we have done something like that in a month or two and it felt like a new beginning.

I look forward in the weeks to come, as the tide that the dread lord has brought forth is slowly rolled back, to going out again and seeing more of friends, having a beer on a patio, and all the rest of those things we have been denying ourselves. Maybe later this year we can travel and see something of the greater Dominions. At the very least we can allow ourselves some measure of hope again.