The plague

February 27, 2023

I had planned a week-long road trip to the heart of the hardwood forests near Quebec City to gather material for my upcoming book on the history of maple syrup. But a few days before my departure I went to a conference that featured a banquet supper in a windowless basement room. I cannot prove that this is the source of my predicament. I returned home on Friday night. Started to feel poorly on Sunday. Woke up with a gravelly voice. On Sunday I went to bed in the spare room and sweat through three shirts in the night. On Monday I woke up and tested myself. I have Covid.

My wife Mimi and I talked about how to deal with this. We agreed that I would eat my meals by myself and stay in my office on the second floor. “I will still cook but I will not eat with you,” she said. This made sense; she did not want Covid and I certainly did not want to give it to her. Yet it sounded a bit like jail so I decided instead to head out to our place in Madoc with the dogs to ride out the illness.

And so we piled in the car and arrived after lunch, whereupon I read this text from a friend:

“Heard you got the plague. Sorry to hear that Pete.”

The plague indeed. One has to keep things in perspective. Lucky for me we have a cottage. I had made a lot of firewood, which is dry, so I am able to keep the place toasty warm. Winter decided to roar back in a big way. Snow abounds and I have a pair of cross-country skis: Finn Arrow brand, with the vintage three-pin bindings, which I bought with shoes and poles at the Madoc Thrift Store a bunch of years ago for the grand sum of $10. And so my diversion and exercise is thrice-daily ski trips through our bush. I tested myself again and I am still positive for Covid. The dogs keep me company. They don’t mind my diagnosis. Actually they like it because they get to spend every waking hour with me.

Even better I discovered on the shelf a book by W. Somerset Maugham: Volume Four Collected Short Stories, which features on its cover a photograph of a thoroughly nude woman lying in a rattan room, delicately posed to hide any privates, with sunlight cutting indirectly across her face, resting on her elbows with a cigarette in a long holder placed between the fingers of her left hand. Maugham spirited me away to the Far East in the dying days of the British Empire, around World War I. Sample opening sentence: “I left Bangkok on a shabby little ship of four or five hundred tons.”

So I read and skied. But even ski excursions with dogs can feel repetitive after awhile.  Luckily the neighbours have golden retriever dog named Norman who is about two years old and as bouncy and frisky and rambunctious as our black lab puppy Rook. So we’ve struck up a tradition where we ski over there a couple of times a day and pick up Norman, and then head off for a romp in the woods. Rook will launch off, gallumpfing merrily through the snowy field, and then Norm will lunge at Rook’s throat and pounce, and hang on and Norman will roll mightily onto his back and drag Rook down into the snow with him. They can play like this for hours.

So I cannot complain too loudly about the plague. That said, I am just about ready to rejoin civilization.