Hitting the skids on Covid


March 19, 2021

Mike Creger

This now 3-year-old sings "Flood Waters" a lot. She goes down to bridges all the time, like the blue bridge in Duluth's Canal Park. The song's lyrics include: "Don't go down by the bridge. Stay up high on the ridge. Don't let those flood waters carry you away."

For a year I've been begging Stockholm syndrome to kick in. To get used to the Covid-19 pandemic holding us hostage. Find a groove and take it through the murky tunnel. Find that a world turned upside down isn't so bad after all. Maybe even miss it once it ends.

Fat chance.

If you are like me, and many people I've spoken to in the past few weeks, the light at the end of this tunnel - shown with more access to vaccinations and tumbling case rates - is reason for hope.

But I am tired. Drained. I've hit the wall.

I took a few days off this month and all I did was sleep, for 12 hours at a time. Then napping, then 12 more.

A normal year provides stress enough. A pandemic year just amplifies and complicates all of it. Child care. Elder care. Relationship care. Job care. It's all so taxing.

This job of newspapering, of chronicling what is happening across Carlton County, has been excruciatingly difficult amid all those personal crises.

The death stories have haunted me. Trying to keep up with hourly changes in what we can and can't and should be doing has left us simply throwing our hands up in the air some days. Staff here have had to come in contact with the public and each other more than we wanted to, especially in the peak transmission times of last spring and fall.

Many particular joys of this job have been at ebb. The big stuff of town celebrations snuffed, the little stuff gone too. All the bright things we like to sew into this Pine Knot News quilt each week have been dimmed for more than a year.

We are still journalists, of course, and we have not shied away from the duty to provide readers with vital information. If there is one thing driving us through this pandemic, it is that thrumming responsibility. It has been a chore and a pride for us.

And there has been light. I recall the story about county musicians and their friends teaming up for a video song of hope.

The video splashed onto the internet as part of the "Song From the North Country" project. My toddler heard it a few times while I was prepping to interview producer Timothy Soden-Groves and others involved. She's a quick study, and soon the 2-year-old was singing the song acapella while going about her days.

On a nice summer evening, we strolled in Canal Park and came upon one of the musicians from the video performing an outdoor show. My daughter recognized her while dancing wildly out of synch to the folk tunes. During a break, she started singing that internet song. We approached the musician and I tried to explain - wondered if she would mind playing a bit of the song so a proud dad could show off his kid's talent. There was a little expected befuddlement. Then I simply asked my daughter to sing it. She demurred, of course. Dads should know better than to put a kid on the spot like that.

I slinked away while the kid skipped along.

A wry but bright memory. The kind that are quite the salve at just the right time.

When we asked for submissions from readers that might define in even the smallest way this year of all years, I didn't expect a flood. It's a big ask with so much swirling through us. But what we did receive was nice. Those minute things that help us cope.

Still, I am so mentally sapped. So ready for the simple act of lying on one's back in the grass and watching fireworks, or just fireflies, in a public park with no worry about distancing. Join with friends and strangers in the mixer called normal life.

I know you are ready as well. I try to muster pep talks to myself. And I feel a need to offer a public one as well to you, dear readers. But I can't. We are all in the same boat, rowing with noodle arms. Wits' end.

I have appreciated some bits of advice offered in the past year by people far more versed than I on the psychology we've experienced while pandemic living. It isn't cabin fever. And it certainly isn't something we should obligate ourselves to conquer. It's going to get all of us at different times, the experts warned. The key is to not think you have to achieve something superhuman despite the seeming time on our hands created by no longer being part of a social world.

If you didn't write that great American novel, deep clean a closet, write letters like it was 1820, catch on to communicating virtually, make someone's day more often, or just stay positive the past 365 days ... it's OK.

Sometimes we just shut down under overwhelming things. Breathe.

It will take time. Think of the Great Depression's impact on a generation, or world wars, or the 1918 fire and influenza outbreak. We take a big hit emotionally and shouldn't think we can just snap back.

At least I don't feel that way.

There will be normal, I know. But that will take more time than we'd like to admit, even when the last vaccine is injected or Covid-19 case is reported.

We go forward, things always do.

To avoid overthinking, I've turned to close listening of music lyrics the past year. Finding some new places they may take me.

That song from the "North Country" group is "Flood Waters," by Kate and Bill Isles. My child's continued singing of it every now and then reminds me to hold fast.

"There's a song you used to sing, before you lost everything. Don't let the flood waters take your song away."

Mike Creger is a reporter and copy editor for the Pine Knot News.


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