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November 4, 2022

Surprise, I have COVID!

On Tuesday morning, for one of the rare times in my life, I felt under the weather. Yet I had slept soundly through the night without a dream or nightmare. My eyes barely opened, I coughed and my throat throbbed. It has been so long since I have had a flu or cold that I’m not quite sure what to do. My first instinct is to wait until 9 a.m. and then go to the nearest drugstore to get a box of flu buster and two packets of extra-strength HALLS cough drops. Upon returning from this short trip, I pour myself a coffee, turn on my iPad and sit at the kitchen table to write.

As a coffee aficionado, I am shocked to find that the fresh cup is absolutely tasteless. I bite into a banana and it’s the same thing. Is there a nice big word that means I likely “caught” COVID? I do a quick Google search and the telltale symptoms are all there: sore throat, fatigue, sleepiness, numbness and aches and pains. As the day progresses, the symptoms assail my poor body without mercy. I’m overcome with sleepiness and I spend the rest of the day napping on different couches. Around 6 p.m., I draw myself a hot bath. I take this opportunity to open the closet where I keep all the beauty gift sets I’ve received at Christmas, but seldom use. I grab a large jar of “Dead Sea salt” infused with lavender and chamomile essential oils. On the back of the jar, a small hand-written card reads “Happy Christmas from Stacey.” I emerge from the tub like a red lobster from a pot of boiling water. Did my brief Dead Sea bath help me? Not really. I’m still shuffling around like a zombie, devoid of any will.

I have absolutely no idea where I could have caught this nasty virus. I’m certainly careful enough. I got my fifth COVID vaccination, and I was going to get the flu shot this week. Now that has been postponed. According to my good friends who have already dealt with the virus, it takes its time, but eventually leaves the premises.

What’s awful as far as I’m concerned is all the time wasted with the sole desire to sleep and be idle. Even reading a book seems impossible. My attention span wanes too quickly, my brain unable to concentrate.

The day after the symptoms appear, I go back to the drugstore to get a box of rapid-response tests. And the very first test confirms it: POSITIVE. ALEA IACTA EST or “let the die be cast,” as the famous Roman general Julius Caesar declared in 49 B.C. when he crossed the Rubicon River, declaring war upon Rome. I certainly don’t have any wars to win with this darned COVID at my heels, but I still have to arm myself with courage and patience. Let’s remember how lucky we are to still be on this earth since this global nightmare began to unfold in the spring of 2020. Far too many have died needlessly.

Being deprived of something is the surest way to appreciate it. Have you ever really thought about it? Like getting up at dusk, utterly happy at the prospect of a satisfying morning spent writing at a coffee shop. Then suddenly it’s taken away from you. Just for one moment, I imagine losing a finger, no longer able to type on my iPad. I imagine losing a leg, an eye.

And I did experience my share of vexations at the various stages of my life. But today, I am struck by how traumatized I am by losing my liberty, even if just for 10 or 12 days, my sense of taste, well-being and daily comforts. Can it be put down to age? Old irrelevant age losing its quickness?

This villainous virus has probably triggered countless thoughts in each one of us. So much the better! Losing even half a day makes us reflect on the brevity and fragility of life. As I sit at my kitchen table, typing this letter on my iPad with all 10 fingers, I swiftly come to appreciate each and every little thing that makes this house my home. I have lived some 34 years in this big bungalow, and I have never appreciated it more than I do today. The spaciousness of the rooms, the walls filled with bookshelves arranged by topic and the large windows that seem to invite nature to stay a while in my living room.
My table is gently lit by the fading 4 o’clock sun. The Keurig coffee machine sits on the counter, next to a big cookie jar filled with my favourite biscotti, always on standby to brew a fresh cup of coffee. In front of the sink, a large wall of windows allows the trees to keep me company as I write. I am surrounded by so much nature and greenery that I often have the feeling that I live in the middle of the woods.

Even the birds are doing their best to entertain me, pecking at my windows or fluttering around the well-stocked bird feeders, their bellies full. I have perched a few wooden crows, too old to fly south, on top of my kitchen cupboards. I add one or two each year, eliminating the spectre of dying alone. COVID or not, I am lifted to paradise on this late afternoon as I listen to the sacred songs of the Benedictine nun Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179). My fellow crows have opened their wings and gently carry me towards health.

Twelve days later…
At last! Life is finally back to normal. My cooped-up days are over and I’m in great shape this morning. I decide to go for a long drive that takes me to Oka, a pretty village along the Ottawa River. Even if the trees have lost their leaves, the scenery is still magnificent. Endless fields of crops and huge orchards seem to define the region’s DNA. I stop at an apple market and fill up on locally produced vitamins.

When I reach Oka, the Mini Cooper gets into the line to get onto the ferry towards Hudson. The ride over the water reminds me of my dear Gaspésie. You already know this: I easily become wistful for my home region. In Hudson, I take in the pretty English village, where everything is bucolic and charming. The village is so pretty, they should charge visitors an entrance fee! It did cost me a $13 ferry ride each way to get there, but it was worth every penny.

Back at home, I realize that my agreeable trip has completely ejected the virus out of my system. Life is so short and so beautiful. Go for a stroll in nature and talk to the trees. Even with their deplumed, autumnal branches, they are still the best therapists in the world.