Away from the hospital’s stark pandemic décor, away from the school’s minimalist remnants of collegiate life, there is a tranquility that is unaffected by contagion. Squirrels are the busy ones here bustling cheerily through the gold of a Canadian autumn and the dark, dark green of the many evergreens that are the stalwarts of a Northern Ontario forest. Squirrels are easily panicked creatures: quickly efficient at their harvest tasks, their heads immediately pick up at the least noise, alert for danger. Watching their speed and rapid reactions, they remind me of myself over the last seven months.

For seven months, I have rushed around: efficiently, cautiously attending to tasks at hand. Tasks that others did not necessarily see or completely understand, despite all the reminders from Prime Ministers, Medical Officers, television experts and online and newspaper headlines. For health care professionals, these past seven months have been like autumn for a squirrel – without the golden loveliness.

As I watch the squirrels from a perch protected from the wind, their concerns are large. The greatest, most immediate dangers are creatures bigger than them. In this place, far from a populated world, a human can also feel safe at times from the small danger that now creeps through the world, possibly changing us forever.

In the past month, as the virus has returned to the human world, it pulled us back from “getting back to normal”. As we are reminded by increasing contagion and death of the virus’ power, we must consider: what do we want to be “normal”?

Surrounded by this green and gold atmosphere, beside a cold – very cold – clear blue Canadian lake, like a squirrel, I want to be doing fundamental work. I want to be doing what is absolutely necessary.

What is necessary?

Caring and comforting are necessary. Staying safe is necessary. Preparing the young for the world and the elders for their rest are necessary. Looking after each other is necessary.
Now that I am finally able to think about how to move forward, about what I want to be “normal”, the answer is as clear as a Northern Ontario lake. I have the question that I will use to evaluate my actions and work.

Is it necessary?

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