Life’s Little Detour

I read about the Spanish Flu and I find it gives me little comfort even though it’s making me smarter.

I lay on my side, holding my Kindle at the perfect angle to keep it from jumping to horizontal from vertical. Hunkered under two quilts, it’s almost cozy, especially if all the lights are off. I am safe here in my bed in Wisconsin reading about a pandemic that happened a hundred years ago.

Except it seems like it’s happening on the street outside our window.

I shouldn’t be reading this book, Pale Rider, The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World by Laura Spinney. It’s too cerebral, too detailed, too paralyzing so it is lucky that I am already laying down when I read it. Quoting from a review in The Guardian: “Spinney, an admired science journalist, conjures the drama of the Spanish flu when “your best chance of survival was to be utterly selfish” and “jealously guard your hoard of food and water, and ignore all please for help.”

I am doing those things, especially the being utterly selfish part, but I worry first that it won’t be enough to keep me from getting Coronavirus and second that my life and maybe even my own self will somehow be mutated by this experience. I look at the requests for people to deliver meals to shut-ins and think ‘that’s me, I could do that’ and then I say no, I’m not that person right now. Or maybe ever again.

Downstairs on a long marble table that catches the morning sun, I take a picture of an open road atlas. The atlas has been on the table since we were planning our big road trip to celebrate my husband’s retirement and our resulting freedom. We were going to take our two dogs, pack up the car with the cooler and cook stove and wander our way around the west, staying in cheap hotels and making our meals at picnic tables that might pop up.

We’re not doing that now or soon, maybe ever. There’s no way of knowing. But a lost trip is a meager deprivation, hardly worth mentioning, when so many have lost so much. So I keep reading.

I am also reading Sue Grafton’s B is for Burglar because it is a great relief to visit the world of private detective Kinsey Millhone, go on jogs along the beach, drive to small mystery-filled towns in her VW Bug, and solve things. I found the book in a Little Free Library weeks ago but it seems now like a gift put there just for me, a little balm for my pandemic-plagued soul.

We’re traveling right now on what seems like a permanent detour. There isn’t a map and there aren’t any signs. The days pass and it looks like we’re going nowhere but we’ll end up someplace very different. We just don’t know where. In the meantime, bless the books. All of them.


#Discover Prompts 14: Book

5 Comments on “Life’s Little Detour

  1. Pale Horse, Pale Rider, Katherine Ann Porter short story. Important to our time for writers and thinkers

  2. Don’t try “Station Eleven” which was the Menomonee Falls Big Read just before all this started. I worry that I won’t be able to feed my 4 children because my husband doesn’t know how to shoot a deer.

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