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Bearable Barely

Peter Heller’s novel The Dog Stars is narrated by a man named Hig bunkered up at Colorado airport nine years after a pandemic has killed ninety-nine percent of humanity, including his wife. His only companions are a bloodthirsty survivalist he shares the airport with and his aging dog.

So maybe not the absolute best reading choice for the times. On the other hand, maybe exactly what I needed was a meditation on continuing to live through collapse. I’d read it once before years ago, and picked it up again last night on a whim. I knew what I was in for.

Hig grows a garden, hunts deer, flies his Cessna on patrol. He hangs on, despite guilt and grief.

It caught me sometimes: that this was okay. Just this. That simple beauty was bearable barely, and that if I live moment to moment, garden to stove to the simple act of flying, I could have peace.

The phrase “bearable barely” caught me, that caught in grief and guilt Hig cannot allow himself to find beauty and peaceful moments, but that they can nonetheless sneak in sidelong.