Fans of Little House on the Prairie books should get my reference – one entire book describes how the Ingalls family and neighbors endured from October 1880-May 1881. The book exaggerates a few facts, but is generally considered an accurate representation of the suffering and hardships endured by residents throughout the Great Plains.
That book from the larger series has always stayed with me as a warning about the power of Mother Nature. And the ignorance of dismissing the wisdom of Indigenous residents of the land.
I never thought I’d experience a similar natural phenomenon, but here we are in the midst of a global pandemic mismanaged by American leaders while a new wave of infectious transmissions is on the upswing.
A forecast from one of the country’s leading coronavirus modeling groups projects more than 170,000 people could die from COVID-19 between now and Feb. 1, bringing the pandemic’s overall death toll to nearly 390,000.
I know no amount of data in the world will convince everyone. So we have to assume everyone we know, even those we love, could have been exposed. But our plan is to reduce contacts as much as possible to offset the necessary contacts such as when Laura has to go to work or a repair person has to enter the house.
While we’ve been reasonably isolated since late March, these upcoming months feel unbearable. No backyard socially-distant small gatherings. Not much hanging in the backyard at all. Or anywhere. Fewer trips to pick up food. No retail. No restaurants.
It already has a name – “The Winter of the Great Divide.”
We’ve talked through our Thanksgiving plan – muffins while we watch the parade, turkey dinners from Bistro-to-Go, zooming with Laura’s mom, Miracle on 34th St if I can find it.
We’ve talked about Christmas. We cannot put up a tree because cats. I proposed we try to deck the halls as much as possible otherwise since it’s literally our only holiday activity. So I’m brainstorming how to tie down the plastic nativity scene and put up lights on the exterior windows.
If you have excess decorations, let me know!
We are very fortunate. We have a solid house, an almost new furnace, Laura’s job is not in jeopardy nor my disability, and we have Amazon, Target, and Giant Eagle to get us the supplies. We have social media, streaming services, library books, etc.
Now we no longer have a kitchen table thanks to Laura’s work, but that’s a modest tradeoff.
But I feel this deep dread about loneliness. I turned down an invitation to squeeze in one last outdoor social visit and wept. I wept! I’m weeping now as I write this. I miss my friends.
I want to feel festive, not just safe.
I want to experience magic, even if it’s grounded in loss and darkness and deprivation of human companionship. I want to find meaning in this suffering.
The winter weather prediction for our region is Wet, Wintry, and Wild per the Farmers Almanac. Above average temps and minimal snowfall might be good news if the railroad is bringing your Christmas barrel, but if you are concerned about climate change … not so much.
But while this wintry season will be one of great hardship and illness, it’s not a weather event. The worst blizzards in history kill an average of 400 people with a few horrifying outliers. That’s a far cry from 170,000 people dying from a disease that could be prevented with a face mask and social distancing.
That’s the frightening part. People ignore science, unwilling to make sacrifices, and cheer on politicians who feed their worst impulses. Joe Biden will set a different tone, but will it be soon enough?
The magic of the season will be surviving it. And peering with clear vision into who we are as a nation.
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