The Wunder-Lusters Origin Story – Part 2

Read Part 1 HERE.

… Wherein we find ourselves at the very beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic …

Apart from a few highly qualified virologists I don’t think anyone really knew what was happening, or what to do. Most of those in authority seemed to be running around like chooks with their heads cut off, and/or trying to protect their arses at the same time.

Would this be the ‘armageddon’ event that so many people feared it would be and civilisation would degenerate into warring tribes, (not that we weren’t doing that anyway) bent on claiming the remaining resources for themselves? Truth was, no-one knew how bad it would get.

Across the world people started dying in the hundreds, then the thousands, then finally, horrifically, millions. Talks, (let alone taking any sort of action) between nations, about closing international borders started far too late to stem the tide.

As the days passed it seemed the only voice of reason we could find in a sea of inertia, arse-covering, and ineptitude, was Dr John Campbell. We watched his daily updates with a growing sense of dread.

I was (still am) immune-compromised, and Mrs Widds wasn’t (and still isn’t) a spring chicken, which made both of us prime candidates for this global killer to target.

We pulled our RV out of storage, de-winterised, and provisioned it so that if one of us caught the virus we would be able to isolate from each other. We were unclear how effective that might be, but at least we had a plan.

Even before borders, both international and domestic, finally, and with the speed of a snail on valium, began to close, it was obvious, at least to us, that any sort of long-distance travelling was completely out of the question. In fact we picked up our RV only days before travel in our entire province shut down.

Growing up in the country, albeit in different hemispheres of the globe, we both understood the value of a well-stocked larder in times of crisis. (we tended to have a fairly well-stocked larder at the best of times) And if those early months of the pandemic didn’t constitute a crisis, I don’t know what did.

Face masks were suddenly as rare as hen’s teeth and what stocks were available were slated for first responders, so we sewed our own.

Only ‘essential travel’ was allowed. After the Canadian/USA border closed, and with no-one having a clue about ‘essential services’ needing to include the trucking industry that kept every aspect of modern-day living running smoothly, things started to look dire indeed.

Where previously we’d topped up Mrs Widds baked goods supplies only when we were running low, we now doubled up. Two bags of flour at a time instead of one. Two boxes of baking soda instead of one. Never emptying a shelf though.

(And we certainly didn’t contribute to that ridiculous run on toilet paper in any way. I understood the reasoning behind it, the fears people had, supply-chain disruptions, etc, and most people didn’t buy more than they immediately needed. But seriously, those bastards who bought it by the truckload and profiteered off other people’s fears, and not just toilet paper … there are no words to describe how fucked-up that was)

Fresh fruits and vegetables soon joined the ‘hen’s teeth’ brigade, so we bought canned or frozen varieties.

Thankfully Mrs Widds was working in an essential industry at the time so we still had an income, unlike so many, many, people who lost everything.

I remember very clearly, developing this little twitch, where I would constantly run my thumb across the insides of my fingers. At first it was an involuntary thing, but even when I noticed what I was doing I couldn’t seem to stop. I don’t know if it made me feel any better, but it was an action that I could take, it was something I had control over, which was a far cry from the world around me.

Human beings showed their very best side, doing things for each other, reaching out, (as best as could be done from afar with masks and gloves) and sharing the burdens of ‘lockdowns’.

We all saw the news stories, and perhaps we were some of those doing the reaching out, sharing a friendly word over the back-fence with the neighbour we’d never talked to before. All of us have stories like that, and each one I read about or watched had me weeping with the true humanity of our species.

On the other hand, humans also showed their worst side. The me-first-and-screw-everyone-else brigade hoisted their colours from the nearest flagpole and posted their deeds of complete arse-holery on their social media blogs, YouTube, Instagram, etc.

I was already aware of the growing divide between these two aspects of our humanity. The pandemic not only pulled back the drapes of civility behind which we hid our ravenous hungers but somehow was seen to be giving permission for some of us to exhibit our foulest natures.

Was this how we, homo sapiens – the current peak of evolution – had always behaved? Had society, civilisation, only coated us with a veneer of domesticity, so that all it took was a simple act of will, a choice, to crack it wide open and expose the festering wounds beneath?

I had no answers. (only opinions) None that would change anything. I stopped watching the news, barely glancing at the headlines before retreating to more sane pursuits …reading, sitting in our garden, drifting with the clouds …

… waiting, for … something …

Vaccine trials intensified and by the end of 2020 their results, in the form of mass-produced vaccines, began to trickle out into the most vulnerable communities. The conspiracy theorists put on their tin-foil hats and took to whatever social media platform that would give them their fifteen seconds of fame, (and there were so many platforms willing to do just that) to spew their idiocy to any audience they could find.

Sadly they always found an audience.

A simple internet search of those times will lay bare the hysteria exhibited by people from all walks of life, in all professions, from the very highest authorities, in quite a few lands, to the lowliest of the low.

The only thing that hadn’t irrevocably changed for any of us was the passage of Time, and eventually 2021 rolled around.

2021 – would we be able to get away this year?

Viruses, like all living organisms, including us, want to survive, to live, to thrive, and we do it with either our intellect or our biology.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus, (aka Covid-19 – finally called thusly, to avoid offending anyone’s delicate sensibilities or stupid people wanting to be racist arseholes) was no different. Not having an intellect as we humans define such things, it used biology and mutated, again and again, until in May of 2021, the Delta variant reared its brutal head above the crowd.

Too few people had been vaccinated. Too many were resisting the simple ‘masks-and-social-distancing’ concepts that were either mandated or ‘highly recommended’, (depending on where one lived) to make much of a difference.

No, we wouldn’t be travelling anywhere in 2021.

With the beauty of 20/20 hindsight, had we braved the wildfires of the years before the pandemic and headed out anyway, our story would’ve been so much different. There were times in those early months of 2021 when, again as in 2020, no-one knew what was going to happen, we fervently wished we had. (hell, if the pandemic hadn’t happened in the first place, things would’ve been so much different)

In the midst of all this, quite frankly, terrifying new paradigm, and after feeling emotionally paralised for a year, I began to write.

I’d had a vague idea for a story rattling around in my brain, and computer, for a while but not enough to hang a whole novel on. I was in no particular writerly frame of mind either. I simply sat and read through my sparse notes one day, pictured the scene in my mind, and began to describe it.

Words flowed through me like the boundaries of my body were made of nothing more than the vaguest of tissue, porous enough to let the story, from where, I knew not, flow unheeded. A thousand words a day, (on my writing days – I still had the non-writing aspects of my life to attend to) became two thousand, and after a few weeks, evened out at three thousand words each day. They were good words too. About dragons, and living forever, and how a world wracked by, and recovering from, WWI and the Spanish Flu pandemic, might respond to such wondrous things.

I wrote, edited, and published, The Last Dragon In London, in six-ish months. It was a glorious experience in the Time of The Plague. (as I called it on days when the never-ending, always-increasing, death-toll got me down)

By mid-Summer, the continuing threat to our water quality on Widder Island resulted in weekly water interruptions, as them’s wot knew wot needed to be done, purged the system of increasingly nasty bacteria. (we finally bit the bullet and bought our Berkey water filter, which paid for itself in a matter of weeks – In fact as I write this – August 2022 – it’s saving us a fortune in bottled water as the water here in our ‘home’, is too ‘hard’ to drink safely from the tap)

Mainstream politics, as reported by mainstream media, continued to fracture and polarise like nothing I’d ever seen before. Perhaps those who are a generation or two older than me could name what was happening, as could any student of history.

I discovered a brilliant series on YouTube called ‘Fall Of Civilisations’, which, apart from being highly informative and entertaining, reinforced my feeling that we humans have been stuck on this ‘rise and fall’, of civilisations since ‘civilisation’ began. And all we do is keep repeating the same cycle, over and over and over.

Yes, technology improves, and the overall quality of life takes an uptick each time around, but really, imagine all the resources, human and otherwise, that are completely and utterly wasted every, single, time. (perhaps this is why I’m fascinated by ‘alternate history’ SF – the ‘what if’, stories that start with a pivotal incident whose outcome is changed in this reality, and an alternate reality heads off in … who knows what sorts of directions)

Then it got hot, and hotter and hotter, then hottest. (so far) They called it a ‘heat dome’, and it killed over 600 people in our province alone.

The town of Lytton, only  a hundred and eighty kilometers away from us, burned to the ground.

6 Things I Learned Writing And Editing A Novel In Six Months

I’m pretty sure I’ve never done a ‘list-cicle’, so here we go my first and last … list!

Heh, the bastards are never really ‘DONE’ though, are they?

Mrs Widds and I will do a basic line edit/read-through, and then … depending on whether we find any clangers, it’s FORMAT TIME.

Here’s my list …

1 – I can write 2000+ words a day, (in a couple of hours sometimes!!!) and still have a life, and a relationship.

2 – I can write when I don’t have a clue what’s going to happen next, but trust that it will all make sense by the end. (and it did!)

3 – I can write when I have a migraine, vertigo, a migraine, sciatica, a migraine, an allergic reaction to the Covid vaccine, a migraine, emergency dental work, arthritic joints, (looking at you, knees) a migraine …

4 – I can write during a 42°C soul-crushing heatwave

5 – I can write when I’m So. Fucking. Exhausted. From #2 that I can barely focus.

6 – I am a Writing Titan!

Bonus – Always, always, keep a print copy. Always.

Always

Always

Extra Bonus – and apropos of nothing in particular, I found Lawrence of Arabia on YouTube.

22

 

(following on from 42)

That’s 22°C – which is the temperature outside our little cottage on Widder Island today.

I don’t think human bodies are designed to adapt to such drastic fluctuations. I know mine isn’t. If I had to save my life I could probably move faster than a snail on valium, but it’d be a close call.

On top of which … I had my second vaccine shot yesterday. I’m really hoping I don’t have the sort of reaction to this one that I did last time, but so far, it’s not looking good. Sore arm, hyper-sensitive skin, aching muscles, etc.

On top of which … vertigo migraines, probably also triggered by heat/temperature change.

On top of which … a little village called Lytton, just a few villages up the Fraser Canyon from us, and battling a wildfire in the mountains nearby, broke its own temperature record three days in a row, finishing with 49.6°C (121°F) the day before yesterday. Yesterday afternoon (30th June) it burned to the ground. The entire village. The residents had 15 minutes to evacuate.

I’m a bit of a cry-er. I feel happy, I cry. I feel sad, I cry. I hear bagpipes, I cry. (I know, that one’s weird) I’ve been crying off and on all day.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’d rather be teary than squish everything down, but it’s really, really, exhausting.

I need a cuppa tea.

My Bi-Annual Bloodletting, 2021-Style

Since my brush with cancer in 2013, I’ve had a blood-test every 6 months specifically to make sure my TSH hasn’t gone all squirrelly on account of not having a thyroid anymore, and the radiation therapy immediately proceeding its removal from my person.

Last year I escaped the bloodletting altogether. Our local hospital where I’d normally get such things taken care of didn’t want anything to do with me, and I certainly didn’t want anything to do with it.

I call 2020 the Year of Covid, and 2021 the Year of Consequences. Consequentially, last week I had my first blood-test since 2019, and because of this delay I was getting tested for everything I’d missed out on. Fasting was required.

(I don’t know about you but I find it a bit of a challenge to go out into the world after I’ve been crook for an extended period of time and I wasn’t completely myself after my vaccine shot)

This how it went down …

Clothes – Shoes and socks are weird.

In the car – OMG!!! Why is everyone driving so FAST?

At the hospital – Where’s my mask? Why won’t it fit properly? (trying to put the mask on over my glasses and my hearing aids) Also, I can’t breeeeeathe!

Waiting room – I’m #82. The display is stuck on #75, and I haven’t had anything to eat or drink (except water) since yester-bloody-day!

Bloodletting – Just exactly how many vials of blood are you taking? (answer – 7)

Back in the car – Mrs Widds had packed a thermos of tea, made just the way I like it. I love her.

An ‘Interesting’ Week

I had …

… an, ‘oh gawd, I feel like I’m about to keel over’ reaction to my vaccine shot.

… a migraine cluster. (of the galaxy-busting variety – I rate them as planet, then solar system, then galaxy, then universe-busting)

… and at least more three layers of physically debilitating craptitude … that I won’t go into here because …

… I am done with this week!

The only saving grace was that my brain was still fully functioning-ish, and I managed a few hours of editing in every day. (my typo’s however are hilarious due to pain meds interfering with the connection between my brain – super slow, and my fingers – used to typing super fast)

Even with these delays, I still just might be able have the final product all tied up with a polka-dot bow by the end of June.

Which would be truly awesome – to have a novel go from first word to finished product in six months.

Who’d’a thunk it!!?

3 Bits And A Piece

I had my first vaccine last week with no nasty side effects, only a sore arm for a few days and feeling a bit seedy but that was it. Mrs Widds had hers two weeks before that so we’re good to go on that front until our second shots in a couple of months.

We’re still taking all the same precautions when we go out into the world, of course. Only the willfully ignorant-by-choice believe that this pandemic is in any way shape or form, over.

-oOo-

We’ve hit a bit of a plateau with our packing stuff into storage plan. Although we’re nibbling away at it, we’ve acknowledged that we may not be able to do a permanent move this year.

It’s a fine balance between leaving everything until the last minute and having far too many ‘oh shit!’ moments, and getting everything into storage and living out of boxes and sitting on the floor. (OK, that last bit was an exaggeration, but you get the picture)

Although we can live a minimalist lifestyle for a few months, the prospect of another year without certain items, that are already in storage, isn’t attractive. So, as usual, we’ll see.

-oOo-

Editing is coming along swimmingly. I feel a bit like Data in the movie Star Trek: Generations, when I sit down to work on another chapter, of which there currently are, thirty-nine.

Speaking of Data …

Thin Ground

Blog posts are a bit thin on the ground here at Widder Island at the moment.

But I have a great reason for it …

…apart from all our conniptions and Wunder-Luster-ish plans … (currently standing at Plan Q – alphabetically speaking)

… and having a run of glorious sunny days where neither of us want to do a damn thing but wallow in it. It’s the kind of Spring sun that sits around 22-25 °C but the earth hasn’t warmed up (or dried out) yet to make it uncomfortably hot …

New leaves on the Winter Tree, and look at that glorious blue sky!

New leaves on the Winter Tree, and look at that glorious blue sky!

… and me badly spraining my ankle (it’s only now, three weeks later, stopped hurting every time I put any weight on it) the day we brought our trailer back from storage. (someone parking on the grass verge, and with never-ending months of rain turning everything underneath the grass to mud, left a bloody great trench for me to step into as I was guiding Mrs Widds as she backed the trailer into it’s spot) …

… I have been writing … lots.

105,000-ish words to be exact-ish, of a new novel. I started it in January and have been going gang-busters ever since.

Last night I finished the grand almost-at-the-end climactic scene, (I was sweating blood, I can tell you! All that choreography to get right, along with everything else, but very proud of it I am!) and only have a chapter or two of ‘aftermath-y’ tidying up left to do.

This is just the first draft, though. Once those last chapters are writ, it’s editing time … which I must confess, I enjoy, just about as much as I do writing first drafts. I’m a bit odd like that.

My goal was to write 2000 words on all my writing days, and by now I can whip them up in a couple of hours … the plan is to keep on writing thusly for the foreseeable future, now that I have a handle on it and it’s well and truly a habit by now, because of course there’s going to be a sequel.

-oOo-

In other Wunder-Lusters-y news …

We replaced out flat tonneau cover on the tray of our truck with a soft-top canopy. Sooooo much more room to load up with boxes and assorted householdery to take to the storage unit.

Yep, that’s me reflected in the front window, or at least my shoulder. Not sure what was happening with my head, probably a ‘reflection’ of how my brain feels sometimes with all that writing

Yep, that’s me reflected in the front window, or at least my shoulder. Not sure what was happening with my head, probably a ‘reflection’ of how my brain feels sometimes with all that writing

It’s not just for transporting boxes. This is another step in our plan to go adventuring. The additional storage will hold our generator, spare cans of gasoline, propane bottle, emergency survival gear, etc, some of which with the flat tonneau cover, we would’ve had to store in the trailer itself as we traveled – not a good look.

Shiny new bones

Shiny new bones

It didn’t take us that long to assemble …

And this is how she looks all buttoned up ... another step closer to the Dream

And this is how she looks all buttoned up … another step closer to the Dream

Big shout-out to Softopper in Boulder, Colorado, USA … for not only crafting a thing of beauty, but getting it to us when they promised!!!

-oOo-

NEWSFLASH!

Monday night … our Premier just announced that all non-essential travel outside of our health region will soon be restricted. (banned, in other words) They’re working on the guidelines as we speak, but it’ll be quite a few months before the regions open up again.

Not that we hadn’t discussed this possibility, and were preparing for it, in our understated yet stylish way, 🙂 and we’ll be able to get away for a bit to the campground we stayed in last year, just up the road, but realistically, any long-term, and long-distance, travelling is off the table for this year. Never say ‘never’, of course, because Herself, (or the Universe, or what/whomsoever) has the final say in such things.

But, that, as they say, is that.

A Numbers Game

On Sunday the 8th March, 2020, I started a list of dates and numbers. The first number was 106,369. Every day thereafter I recorded another number, as well as the difference between the new number and the previous day’s number.

Almost an alternate universe ago

Almost an alternate universe ago

On the 1st of June 2020, the number was 6,274,136. An increase 101,688 from the previous day’s tally.

(I never recorded a third set of numbers. That would’ve broken me long before my meltdown at Winter solstice)

Even back in March the numbers were already out of control. The everyday public didn’t know that, but those of us who were following the science realised that something was amiss.

It wasn’t until Wednesday the 19th August 2020 that I managed to rein in my impulse to record a daily number. Thereafter I only noted them every week or so.

The last time was on Thursday 7th January 2021 – 87,753,382. By that time numbers were meaningless.

This is what eight months looks like – I might’ve skipped a day here and there but this is what I did, every day

This is what eight months looks like – I might’ve skipped a day here and there but this is what I did, every day

Like most humans who are alive on the planet in this Age, I was brought up to believe, (also reinforced by every societal structure around me) that taking action, any action, was tantamount to being in control. (humans aren’t very good at being without ‘control’, being power-less – we tend to make all sorts of ill-considered decisions)

I no longer wanted to use an action, my own personal version of the numbers game, to ease my psyche through a global catastrophe (another one – as if we didn’t have enough, even before the 8th March) that I was powerless to stop anyway.

What started out as a ritual, became a habit that, at the end, I came to resent. I didn’t want to look up the numbers. I didn’t want to remind myself of how our species abysmally mutated individualism had failed, yet again, to avert another fiasco of our own making. (honestly, I’ll be pleasantly surprised if we make it to the year 2050 without the cost being reckoned not in hundreds of millions, but billions, of lives)

The numbers are still out there, expanding almost exponentially, and I am in here, making sure, as best I can, that the very uncertain near future, doesn’t blindside me …

However, you know what they say about last words being famous. I suppose we shall see what tomorrow brings.

As for those three bits of paper with numbers all over them? I feel a Funeral Pyre coming on.

Face(mask)ing Evolution

We did our first ‘lockdown’ Costco shop in early March. (we do a regular once-a-month bulk-goods shop there)

We were the only one’s in the entire place wearing masks, (and gloves – which we don’t use anymore, but use soapy cloths that are immediately washed, instead – soap breaks down the virus protein) including the staff. (there was one other bloke, however, who came in with a full gas-mask-and goggles-and-gloves combo) Those were the days when no-one knew, at least in our neck of the woods, how virulent or transmissible the virus was.

Every stare that turned our way varied between incredulous, scathing, pitying, etc. Most people studiously avoided making eye contact with the crazy plague-rumour-mongers.

To say that we felt uncomfortable was an understatement. Not only did we experience that initial ’emegherd I’m going to suffocate!!!’ sensation when wearing masks for the first time, we also were very aware of those ‘slings and arrows’ being cast our way from the other shoppers. All we knew was that we were both in the ‘at-risk’ category and weren’t going to take any chances.

Each month there were a few more mask-wearers. We’d nod politely to each other, making sure we were two meters apart at all times, while some other (unmasked) shoppers would make a point of passing by even closer than they normally would. (I mean, what kind of dipshit arsehole do you have to be to do that on purpose? – rhetorical question, I know)

‘Normal’  – there’s a word that’s never going to have the same meaning again.

Scientific evidence slowly revealed more of the nature of the beast.

The global infection rates climbed, as did the global death-toll. (over 16 million people are confirmed to have been infected world-wide as of midnight last night – PDT)

Almost every government on the planet dropped the ball, big time, and most, to their credit, eventually, picked it up again.

Last month about a third of all the shoppers in Costco were wearing masks. Everyone looked uncomfortable – the wearers of masks and the un-wearers of masks.

But, a change was in the air.

The long-term reality of this plague sinking in, I suspect.

I felt a knot of tension in my gut that reared its head every time I went into a shop or enclosed public space, unravel, just a little bit.

Yesterday’s shop was, interesting.

About half the shoppers wore masks. I didn’t spot anyone wearing it under their nose, or chin.

We mask-wearers have learned to ‘eye-read’.

We smiled at each other, a camaraderie of shared responsibility, not just for ourselves but for the unknown health-status of others.

It was a good feeling.

I looked into the eyes of those who weren’t wearing masks. As best I could anyway, because this time no-one was making eye-contact, at all. Their brows were furrowed in a sort of defiant desperation.

Peer pressure, whether internally or externally imposed, is a fearsome thing, particularly when someone’s not ready to engage with the knowledge that they’re going to have to change their sense of their Self … It’s not just the actual wearing of a mask, it’s all the reasons why they chose not to in the first place, and how loudly they touted those reasons, and who they touted them to.

Like just about everything that sets off our flight/fight/fright knee-jerk response, reality is nowhere as universe-ending as we imagine it to be. Who knows, we may all come to appreciate learning how to ‘eye-read’.

A Perfect Ten – 2016

Continuing my countdown to my blog’s 10th Anniversary on 27th September this year, I’m revisiting what I posted on or around that date each year.

In 2016 I actually posted on the 27th of September. It was the third installment in my series about our adventures at Otter Lake.

Otter Lake was the second, and unfortunately the last (so far) of our ‘big’ adventures in our travel trailer. (the first was our epic cross-country, 10,000-kilometers-in-31-days peregrination from here to Niagara Falls and back the previous year – the archive reads chronologically from the bottom of the page to top)

There’s many sad things in this world but perhaps one of the saddest is seeing great swathes of Mother Nature decimated by the meddling of humans. In this instance I’m referring to the pine-beetle infestation that is as a result of the original forests being plundered for timber and never replanted properly. The rich bio-diversity that exists in a natural forest was replaced with a cash-crop of endless rows of pine trees.

Well, add to that diversity-desert an increase in global temperatures and the pine beetle became the apex predator in no time at all. (it’s taken decades for the penny to finally drop for them’s wot’s in charge of the forests, on both sides of the 49th parallel, to contemplate changing their business practices, but the damage has been done)

Wildfires love all that dead and dying wood, and when the wildfires are done the bare earth is washed away and mountainsides collapse.

Well done, humans.

(As we drove to Otter Lake along the Crowsnest Highway we saw attempts to mitigate this carnage by the establishment of ‘protected’ areas of bio-diverse treel-ings. (tree-lets?) If they survived predation and successive wildfires those trees should be mature enough by now (4 years later) to have grown fruitful and multiplied. I hope so)

Underneath our adventures at Otter Lake rested this sadness of the trees, which reflected in my writing at that time … which brings us full circle to today, doesn’t it?

So great are the changes to the human environment we’re living through right now, the one thing that has driven men of power since the times of Gilgamesh, the acquisition of ‘more’, (whatever their definition of ‘more’ may be) is being irrevocably, and painfully, extinguished.

The corona virus surrounds us all, whether we like it or not. The knowledge that the underpinnings of almost every society are being exposed for the anathema they are, sits with us all, whether we acknowledge it or not, whether we’re even aware of it or not, and it is what drives us now … it drives some of us to be and do better, for our Selves and others, and it drives some of us to resort to violence when asked to wear a mask.

These posts are about looking into a snapshot of my past to see if they connect to my present and have any influence on going forward.

By the time I wrote the story about Kerpy, I’d found a place of peace within the sadness of the trees, there was certainly nothing I could do about it other than to witness their lives.

My task in the present is to find a place of peace within the sadness, (and madness) of humanity, because there’s certainly nothing I can do for them other than to bear witness. Like so many of us, I’m not in a position of power to change the path humanity seems so bound and determined to follow.

What I can do, is appreciate humanity’s bio-diversity, live within my beliefs, do something really hard once in a while, love a few humans, have compassion for the majority, and hold accountable those dishonourable cowards who have shown their true colours.