Other people’s words about … panic
Rumours washed over the city. The fever had ended. The fever [had] started again. A shipload of sick people was coming upriver. A cure had been found. No cure was available. An earthquake in the countryside left people saying the end of the world was at hand. The wells had been poisoned. The British were coming. I would have despaired of the hopelessness and confusion. Eliza dismissed the wild tales with a shake of her head.
‘They may be true,’ she said, ‘but we have work to do. Come now, Mattie.’
From ‘Fever 1793’
by Laurie Halse Anderson
I first read Laurie Halse Anderson’s wonderful novel for young adults about the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia in 1793 many years ago; and a copy of the book has sat on my shelves ever since. I pulled that copy out the other day and, in re-reading it, was reminded of the remarkable way history seems endlessly to repeat itself.
In some ways, as the coronavirus pandemic rages around the world, we are all, very suddenly, living in a strange new world. But in other ways, as Anderson’s novel reminded me, we are not. Sickness is nothing new; epidemics are nothing new; fear is nothing new. These crises occur over and over. Some of us survive them, and some of us don’t: these are the humdrum facts of human life.
We will all have different ways of coping and responding to the current COVID-19 pandemic, depending partly on our health, partly on our situation, and partly on our own individual coping mechanisms. In Fever 1793, Anderson’s character Eliza responds to the epidemic she herself is living through in a way that I find particularly practical and matter-of-fact.
But we have work to do, she says. And indeed we do.
Grass tree standing tall, solitary and true
Lately I’ve been reading about …
- … one writer’s experience of the coronavirus quarantine in Italy
- … another writer’s experience of the coronavirus quarantine in Seattle, in the US
- … a New York resident’s visual documentation of the coronavirus, as she photographs the world around her on her daily walk through the empty city streets
- … and, last but not least, one cookbook author’s recommendations for how to stock your pantry for a period of self-isolation or quarantine without succumbing to panic buying or hoarding.