Something is rotten in the state of …

From my cozy writing perch at the cottage window overlooking the deck, I look out upon the gently rolling waters of Lake Kashagawigamog, protected by its robust treeline comprised of maples, birch, pine, cedar, hemlock and spruce , and I wonder, “Wasn’t this the same as when I came here last October? The air is nippy as it was then, although the leaves are greener now. But the world was safe then.” That world isn’t safe now. Not anymore. Not like this peaceful lake is, blissfully unaware at what is causing these humans—who always came to vacation here—to run around with masks on their faces.

Recently, America broke out in violence, the pangs of hunger, the lack of social assistance, the unresolved seeds of racism, and the pandemic-induced claustrophobia finally snapping codes of civility. In Canada, provinces began barring the residents of other provinces from entering as some were statistically more contaminated with Covid-19 than others. Our little municipality shut down our beloved beaches to keep those “Others,” especially the ones from the contaminated megacity of Toronto out (imagine their megacity to come to our beaches? Fie on them!). Mask wearing is starting to creep insidiously and urgently into our daily activities, even though some suffer breathing problems from long term use of those shields. “Cover yourselves, so that then we don’t need to know who you are or what you represent,” it seems to tell me; “A hockey’s stick’s distance is no longer sufficient for my comfort level,” it seems to tell me; “Better yet, stay at home for I don’t want to see your face again,” it tells me.

I’m trying to release a book I wrote during a period of convalescence from a life altering event, one I think would expose the evils of child abuse and fake news, and exalt the power of second chances to redeem. But who the heck wants to read that stuff when we are all living through a common life-altering event at present? Have all the things we did before become nostalgia, all the projects we had on the go become irrelevant in this new abnormal? What is relevant? Do people have the time and frame of mind to focus and read a full length book, when the scattershot news-broadcasts appeal more to their shattered concentration? Should fiction writers invent far-off worlds totally removed from this one because everyone just wants to get away?

Talking of getting away, they say travel and tourism will come back in three years (providing a vaccine is found). But who the heck can wait around for three years for negative cashflow to turn positive? Current economic models don’t accommodate for that; even start-ups are expected to turnaround faster, what more a mature business that just had its founding premise – that the world was ours to explore without prohibition – pulled faster than the rug beneath your feet. What is not also talked about is that even when things open up “gradually” with effective contact tracing, physical distancing, and adequate PPE in place, there is nothing to prevent a member of your staff suddenly receiving a text message to say that they have been identified as being in contact with an “infected one” and needs to self-isolate for 14 days – and, dear boss, you are responsible for compensation and for finding a replacement to cover the absence. The next day, another staff member gets a similar message, Very soon, you are on your lonesome, wishing for a text message yourself so you could shut the place down, or burn it, and vacate for good. You thought staffing for maternity leaves, seasonal illness and vacations was a challenge? Try this new, revolving roulette wheel of HR Management for a change. This is a conundrum not only faced in the travel and tourism industry but in all those industries that were public-facing, deemed non-essential, and shut down when the pandemic went prime time.

And so I shut off the world and turn to the beloved lake scene in front of me once again. Why spoil these few hours left before I have to return to the real word and face the mayhem seething there. Live in the moment, some wise person said, and right now, this moment is precious. For as another wise person said, “it could be worse!”

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