Keeping despair at bay (part 18)

There is no doubt that, while some winter-like weather almost certainly lies ahead, spring is in the air: Queen’s students are roaming Kingston’s streets in shorts, tank tops and flip flops; my partner has taken off his long johns (but has not yet put them away for the season) and, as I discovered on my morning walk yesterday, snowdrops in protected spots have begun to push their way through the soil. The sight of these tiny white flowers overcame my gloom at the grey/brown March monochrome of our landscape, which lost its appeal almost as soon as it surfaced from the dirty piles of melting snow.

Kids and lambs

Last Saturday, I headed to my son’s farm for one of our regular walks. Our start was delayed because he had been up for much of the night hand feeding two tiny kids, born late the afternoon before. He brought both into his house when they would not feed properly from their mother, where they spent the night in a playpen when he was not bottle feeding them. By morning, one of them had died, but the other had survived and was starting to figure out how to stand up.

After our walk, which took us through the adjacent conservation area, we visited the barn to see a few other newly born animals: more goat kids as well as lambs, one of which had decided the best — and warmest — lookout spot was on his mother’s back.

A walk in the woods

My partner and I were determined to enjoy as much of the spectacular weather last weekend as we could, so on Sunday we headed to a friend’s place just north of Kingston. We wandered through the woods, stopping to check on the small maple syrup operation run by a friend of his. We arrived at the sugar shack in time to see sap boiling energetically, giving off an intoxicating aroma of the soon-to-be-finished product.

My time in the woods coupled with my time sitting in the sun, allowed me to return to the city full of vitamin D and with my energy revitalized for the week of long work days that lay ahead.

Not all sunny ways

My weekend may have been close to idyllic, but pandemic pall is never far from mind. I had enjoyed Kingston’s return to green status a few weeks ago; even though it didn’t change much about our daily lives, it made us hopeful that we were moving out of the worst of the past year. Because indoor gatherings of up to 10 people were permitted, my partner and I began planning a family get-together over the Easter long weekend. Egg dyeing, perhaps an outdoor candy hunt for the younger grandsons, a chance to set the table for more than two – it was all pretty appealing.

But the boom lowered as the number of new cases began to rise once again. Our heroic medical officer of health, Kieran Moore, fatigue and disappointment written all over his face, extended until April 30th the section 22 order he had put in place to limit opportunities for the usual student revelries associated with St. Patrick’s Day. A few days later, a section of Kingston’s waterfront was closed to the public because, contrary to the order, large numbers of students continued to gather there.

With indoor gathering limits reduced to 5, thoughts of a family dinner vanished.

Needles in arms

Kingston’s pharmacy vaccine injection pilot project opened up to anyone 60 and over (it had previously been limited to people between 60 and 64) on Monday, which made both my partner and me eligible. It was a painless experience all around: a quick phone call to the pharmacy we use regularly got us appointments on Tuesday afternoon. The mood in the store was festive. We had a short wait, then a quick prick of the needle, followed by a mandatory 15-minute waiting period to ensure we did not have a bad reaction, and that was that. Some people have experienced short-term side effects ranging from mild to severe, but neither of us had so much as a sore arm. We get our second shots in early June, and then almost anything seems possible.

Were we participating in privatized health care by opting to receive the vaccine in a pharmacy rather than in one of the public health vaccination sites? Maybe; but the overarching thinking seems to be that anyone who has a chance to get a vaccine should get one. The sooner more of us have had needles in arms, the sooner we may be able to return to a semblance of our pre-pandemic lives.

While no syrup was on offer the day we visited the sugar shack, we decided to celebrate our vaccinations with a bourbon maple cocktail, using some of the very tasty syrup made and given to us by other friends last year. Here’s how we made our Needle in Arm Cocktail:

For two cocktails, combine 4 ounces bourbon with 4 ounces ginger lemonade concentrate, 3 ounces lime juice and 1 ounce maple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add plenty of ice cubes and shake until well mixed and cold. Pour cocktail over fresh ice in two glasses and garnish with a slice of lime and some crystallized ginger. A few sips and any residual vaccination pain will disappear.

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