We will get through this ... 

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"Blow up your TV,
Throw away your paper...."

John Prine

On Sept. 11, 2001, I woke up with a stiff back, mental dislocation and an overwhelming sense of wonder. Days before, I'd taken possession of what would become Smilin' Dog Manor, a cabin in the Cariboo on the tranquil shores of Sulphuric Lake.

The morning sun was shining on the deck, eagles circled lazily, looking for their breakfast, herons commuted to the mouth of a nearby creek to try their luck and blessed coffee dripped into its pot.

I was sore from sleeping on the floor—I had virtually no furniture and no beds—and from beating back the wilderness from a home not lived in for the past 18 months. I gave passing thought to spooning in a mouthful of coffee beans and sucking them while I awaited the brewed version.

And then the phone—landline, the only connection to so-called civilization—rang.

"Turn on your TV! Turn on your TV!" the frantic voice, a friend from Montreal, screamed.

"We don't have one. We're at the cabin."

"Turn on your radio then!"

"I'd have to go up to the car... and the reception is pretty spotty. What's going on?"

"They're flying planes into the World Trade Center!!!"

"No shit? That seems weird. Why are they doing that?"

"It's terrorists."

I'll spare you the rest of the conversation. While I understood the words, I couldn't relate to the message. Whatever was happening in New York might as well have been happening in another world.

I grabbed a cup of coffee and went back to watching the eagles and wondering whether the call was some kind of weird housewarming joke. Let's-fool-the-rubes-in-B.C. kind of thing.

Later, checking briefly in with the rest of the world via veeerrrry sloooow dial-up internet—if you don't remember dial-up, ask someone older to explain it—I found out it was true. I didn't have the patience to wait the 10 minutes for the New York Times to load and went back to my battle with the slowly retreating wilderness.

It wasn't until two weeks later, when I briefly returned to Tiny Town, that I saw any images of the events that took place that day. While they still seemed to play in a continuous loop on various all-news-all-the-time cable networks, they continued to exist outside my reality.

But I noticed friends and family who'd had the misfortune of being immersed in media saturation in real time were traumatized, scarred, scared.

Thinking back to 1986 when the Challenger exploded just over a minute after takeoff, and even further back to 1963—yeah, I'm that old—when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, I remembered the sense of reality dislocation that grew from prolonged media exposure to those events.

That's when I knew John Prine was on to something.

So for the sake of your own mental health, consume news thoughtfully, as though it was the food of which you are most fearful. Stop reading pandemic stories. You pretty much know everything you need to know by now or you already live in an even smaller bubble than the rest of us. And for heaven's sake, get the f@*k off anti-social media. Or if you just can't kick the addiction, stick to cute dog and cat things.

Count yourself fortunate you don't live in one of the country's large urban centres. The probabilistic chances of catching anything in Whistler other than a serious hangover are lower than they are in most places, lower still if you heed the strictures of social distancing. Our bubble just got smaller now that all the tourists have left town and none are coming.

We have an abundance of outdoors to enjoy...safely. Now is not a good time to test your mettle. The emergency room is the last place you want to visit right now. There are more kilometres of trails in and around Whistler than you can hike in many months and many—most—of them are pretty empty. Hiking in the mountains is about as therapeutic as it gets, distancing is easy and it can be very social.

Join me in thanking Whistler Blackcomb for opening up the mountains to skinners, snowshoers, hikers and people even less prepared to trek up steep, often slippery slopes. Three hours up will get you a handful of minutes sliding back down and a great vantage point for a well-spaced lunch. Very few things calm your mind and feed your spirit like the combination of altitude and the view in every direction from almost anywhere above treeline. Take advantage of your forced hiatus from work and enjoy it.

About that, almost everyone shares your pain. There aren't a lot of people whose jobs haven't either vanished or been severely curtailed. If you've never bothered in the past, now is the time to discover the Tao of Thrift. Tenet No. 1: You don't have to make what you're not going to spend.

Thrift has been forced upon us. There is less coming in and there are fewer ways of spending it—no bars, no restaurants, no retail, no personal services. Food, shelter, light, heat, health, that's about it. With time on your hands, learn to cook...real food. You'll be surprised how inexpensive it is compared to the alternative. You can approximate that $6 loaf of bread you're craving for about 75 cents worth of ingredients, time and patience and skill you'll pick up as you practice. In some small way, it'll change your life when you learn to make your own bread.

Love, kindness and community will see us through this. This is the time to overlook those things that piss you off and draw nearer to those closest to you. Now is not the time to lose control and take it out on your partner, kids, dogs or neighbours. There is help in town—the Whistler Community Services Society continues to operate as best it can—there is generosity as evidenced by the funds raised for the food bank by The Hairfarmers' streamed concert, and there will be more help from all levels of government. Hell, even the most conservative people in the country have stopped harping about the deficit.

It'll pass. Life will be different. Your outlook on life will likely be different. Most likely, it'll be better. The things that are important will be the memories burned into your psyche. The rest is so much static.

Abide, dude.


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