Tis my season to do nesting things. When the nights get longer and the days turn cold, I develop a specific kind of energy & focus. I move furniture, change light bulbs, finish assorted small repair projects I’ve ignored for months, get my flu shot & yearly physical, order clothes, do all the seasonal cleaning other people call “spring” cleaning, and basically Get Ready To Do Nothing At Home For Months.
My social batteries drain to zero between November and March. I do leave the house–for work, for emotional health, for fun–but it’s hard. It’s a physical strain. Knowing I am equipped to hide in the house if I just can’t cope with people– it keeps the stress below redline. Mostly.
Squirrel shopping is a major component of the prep. I pick up a little extra here and one more than I need there all autumn long, until my cabinets & closets are full.
(do not speak to me of “but restaurants deliver.” Ordering food is stressful. Drive-throughs are stressful. MENUS are stressful. A pantry stash requires zero interaction & minimizes decision paralysis.)
Stocking up always felt silly because it’s not like I can avoid shopping all winter like a hermit or a sleeping squirrel just by having extra boxed rice dinners or frozen green beans on hand. It’s not like I’m out in the wilderness where I might get snowed in for a month. FFS, there are six grocery stores minutes away from my home.
But the squirrel stashing feeds that emotional need for refuge-building, so I learned to indulge it. Coping mechanisms. They’re real.
Still, every year I wondered if it was an unhealthy emotional crutch and/or if I was allowing fears inspired by my post-apocalyptic fiction writing to affect my real life.
Until this spring.
I never worked down the pantry overstock the way I usually do in late winter. Pandemic news had me on edge by mid-January, and allowing the quirky desire to be Ready For Any Disaster free rein gave me a little relief from stress meltdowns.
By mid-March and the “stay home stay safe” phase of this dumpster fire year, my pantry was at peak November levels and more, since I’d impulsively grabbed extra cleaning supplies & personal care items on my February shopping expedition.
“Weird personal quirk” has turned into “reliable source of tiny indulgences that make involuntary isolation and fearful uncertainty more bearable.”
It stayed winter all summer long, as far as my nerves are concerned. I now catalog and inventory before shopping. (it IS possible to have too much boxed rice when the store keeps putting them on sale at 10 for $10.)
And now we’re heading into another winter, with who knows what kind of stresses and disasters await us all. My burrow is as ready as it can be, though, and that’s something.
A few things I learned this summer.
Milk gallons freeze just fine as long as you make sure the bottle has enough headspace; celery & carrots keep well and satisfy my greens cravings; commercial bread loaves and English muffins also freeze well; a watermelon keeps for a week on the counter if you don’t cut it open– and keeps for another week in the fridge if you rind & quarter it. Apples only freeze well if you peel & core them first & plan to use them for sauce or baking.
A things I hate but can’t help thinking about
We got a lucky break with COVID-19. Yes, I am aware how horrible and gross and coldhearted it is to say “lucky” when millions are dead and millions more are suffering and we aren’t anywhere close to being done with it. It’s AWFUL. I’m awful for typing it. I’m a sick monster.
What’s more awful is that it’s true.
SARS-CoV-2, the new-to-humans virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic, is deadly, but some viruses are 20 or 30 times more lethal. We’re lucky they don’t spread easily. Others spread more easily than SARS-CoV-2 but aren’t nearly as lethal and/or we can vaccinate against them. (There are also some truly terrifying viruses that haven’t jumped from animals to humans yet. Looking at you, hantavirus)
We would be thoroughly FUCKED right now if the first novel virus we faced had been like measles, and everyone who got it infected 8-10 others instead of 2-ish. Or if it was like hantavirus and killed 30% of its victims, not 1% like SARS-CoV-2. What if it was like measles and hantavirus at the same time?
Infectious disease scientists don’t have to imagine that. They can model it. As the global population grows, the arrival and global spread of unique new diseases is an inevitable development. One of them is bound to be a monster.
And in February 2020, none of those experts could be sure SARS-CoV-2 WASN’T a Big One. They were pretty sure they had a handle on the basics of it–and they knew it was BAD–but it was still too new and the data was still too raw to be sure it wasn’t even WORSE.
Cautious, careful governments locked down to prevent its spread (real lockdowns, not our nation’s sorta-kinda-half-assed-half-hearted version of a lockdown, but real shutdowns) because quarantining is the one tried & true way to shut down viral spread, no matter what it is.
We now know SARS-CoV-2 wasn’t the Big One. It’s horrific, it’s historic, it’s phenomenally deadly and permanently damaging…but it’s treatable and its spread can be defeated by simple, low-tech, public health measures.
We caught the lucky break. The first modern global pandemic is a disease that is ONLY 10 times more deadly than influenza, and one that ONLY spreads at a moderate rate.
The world is a cage fight tournament, humanity vs viruses ( sponsored by Climate Change!) and we drew a pussycat opponent in the first round. This was a lucky chance to fine-tune our fight strategies, build up public health muscle and improve our scientific skills, because as sure as rain falls, we’re going to catch a lion in one of our next match-ups.
Too bad we blew it big time here in the USA. We are fucking up our gimmee game beyond all recognition. I wish I thought that we’d learned our lesson, that we’ll do better when the curtain inevitably goes up on the Big One.
But I don’t think that.
I see to many people spouting bullshit like “There’s no point in making kids wear masks–the labels say they aren’t medical, so they’re useless!” Which is so staggeringly wrong it’s hard to know where to start. And an empathy-fail trophy goes to those who insist that the virus isn’ dangerous because no one they know has died of it. Runners-up in the ignorance sweepstakes are “It’s all a government hoax,” and “If we didn’t test so much, it wouldn’t be as bad.”
Oof. When the big one does come (or when we fail to contain this pussycat and it goes rabid) when there aren’t enough healthy people left to keep the lights on or the water running, no one to make or transport supplies, or to staff hospitals and stores and laboratories…well.
Hi. I write post-apocalyptic fiction for so very many reasons.
And a few bright personal threads
I am fully 2/3 of the way through Sharp Edge revisions and ready to send off the next section to my alpha readers for feedback. That’s very exciting.
I have a Bookshop.org presence now, where you can buy my paperback books AND ALSO support your local independent bookseller:
Thanks to the completed exterior house renovations, my office now has modern windows, so the blinds don’t sway whenever the wind kicks up. This makes me unreasonably happy.
I have put my ebooks up on Ingram for distribution, so brick & mortar store that sell ebooks should be able to order you mine now. I admit I haven’t figured out how that part works, exactly, but the channel is open.
AND! AND! I’m working up my courage to approach a professional narrator and get more of my books on audio. If you read audios and have a favorite narrator you would like to nominate, please, PLEASE share the name.
You have reached the end of this post!
That’s all the all I have until later. Thanks for reading.
Have a nice picture of autumn beverages to go on with.