Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday, December 7, 2020.

Sunday morning came with slices of blue sky spiked by bright sunshine. It was almost 11am by the time we got home from our long morning hike.

I noticed a neighbour peeking under parked cars. I assumed she was trying to locate a runaway cat. Instead, she asked if what she was seeing was a ferret. The small, long-bodied creature was all white with a black-tipped tail and moving very swiftly.

I suggested ermine because I got to see a few when we visited our friends in Alberta who have had ermines living in their shed for years. Plus, stoats have always been some of my youngest favourite critters.

The little white animal stopped and stood on its hind legs. It stared at us and then scampered away.  

A surprise to complement our wondrous hike during which sunshine made birds do some crazy acrobatics. There was jolly chirping and wing flapping filling the morning air, plus the occasional pinecone ‘shower’ from all the ruffling of evergreen branches.

From the top of one of the trails we saw three does on the hill across the canyon. They stopped and stared. Dog sat and watched them in silence. They resumed their grazing, and we resumed our trekking higher up the trail.

We took a narrow trail to a meadow that was drenched in sunshine. Night had festooned dry grasses and trees with frost and the morning sun made it all sparkle. Loud coyote yelping broke the silence for a few minutes and we just listened until it faded away.

The feeling of gratefulness is overpowering, so you oblige by just sitting for a bit, quiet witness to beauty and mystery.

You forget temporarily that there’s a lot of trouble in our world but then thoughts pop up yet again. The pandemic and its many ramifications to start with, the diverging opinions and actions, the uncertainty of what’s ahead.

The day before I drove by a small group protesting masks and other restrictions. What is the point of such displays?

There are so many sad stories of people whose lives have been directly unraveled by COVID-19: people who are alone in hospitals, fighting for their lives, some of them dying alone and scared; people in care homes or isolated at home who miss seeing their loved ones and the longer this drags on, the harder it is on them; people who lost someone to the disease and so many others who are trying hard to protect their loved ones.

None of these people chose their present reality and it’s essential that we pause and reflect on that. It becomes particularly humbling to think of it all while out in nature and aware of the privilege of walking freely and in a good state of health.

We have seen people working together towards the greater good on many occasions during these challenging times and then we have seen the opposite.  

Case in point, the protests. The big one that took place in Vancouver on Saturday was embarrassing to watch. Some signs read ‘We love Trump for Canada’ and ‘Masks cause brain damage, lung infections, psychological harm.’

It’s hard not to cringe.

Here’s the thing. Peaceful protests are a good way to raise awareness about social and political issues, but anti-mask demonstrations are not one of them.

Instead of marching against measures that are imposed not to take freedoms away but to help flatten the curve while protecting people from a disease that we have yet to learn more about, here are some worthwhile causes to consider:

The bottom line: there’s a lot to be frustrated about in this world and there’s also a lot to be grateful for. We need to remember both. The current pandemic is an issue that is trying us to an extent we have not yet experienced but getting vocal through protests about measures that are meant to protect the most vulnerable among us, and generally all of us, seems selfish and inconsiderate.

Let’s appeal to our common humanity and also turn to science to find ways to deal with a crisis that is affecting us all. The enemy is not masks, or people who wear them, but the virus. Framing it that way can help us see that we are in it together which means we can see better days sooner if we place ourselves on the same side of the barricade.