OUTLANDER quotes to get you through the pandemic
I originally posted this on March 19, 2020, just when everything was beginning to shut down. So much has happened in the world since then -- millions worldwide infected with the coronavirus, nearly 140,000 dead in the US alone (as of July 19, 2020), not to mention the severe impact on the economy and on the daily lives of people everywhere -- that I thought it was worth reposting, with a few additions.
As I always do in times of stress, I find myself reaching for Diana Gabaldon's books, looking for comfort, or words of advice, or just reassurance that other people have lived through horrible times, all throughout human history, and found a way to survive.
I've always admired the resilience of Diana's characters. Even faced with seemingly insurmountable odds, they don't give up, ever, and I find much to admire in that. So I thought I'd offer this collection of quotes from the OUTLANDER books, by way of distraction. Hope you enjoy them!
*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***
If you haven't read all of the OUTLANDER books, you may encounter spoilers below.
1) Like many of us, Claire doesn't have access to hospital-quality surgical masks, but she does the best she can with the materials available.
Mrs. Fraser gave Dr. Hunter something that looked like a handkerchief, and raised another to her face. It was a handkerchief, Grey saw, but one with strings affixed to its corners. She tied these behind her head, so the cloth covered her nose and mouth, and Hunter obediently followed suit.
(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 88, "Rather Messy." Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
2) Claire, telling Jamie about the Great Influenza pandemic of 1918-19. (If you're interested in learning more about it, I highly recommend John Barry's THE GREAT INFLUENZA.)
“I was born at the end of a war--the Great War, they called it, because the world had never seen anything like it. I told you about it.” My voice held a slight question, and he nodded, eyes fixed on mine, listening.
“The year after I was born,” I said, “there was a great epidemic of influenza. All over the world. People died in hundreds and thousands; whole villages disappeared in the space of a week.”
“I have seen that,” he said softly, with a glance at the stoppered bottles. “Plague and ague run rampant in a city, half a regiment dead of flux.”
(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 61, "A Noisome Pestilence." Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
3) The next quote is very appropriate these days, with all our lives being disrupted, and many people having to cancel or postpone long-planned trips or events.
Pointless to spend too much time in planning, anyway, given the propensity of life to make sudden left-hand turns without warning.
(From WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 111, "A Distant Massacre." Copyright© 2014 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
4) News stories about the exhausted, overworked doctors and hospital staff in the hardest-hit areas made me think of Claire, in VOYAGER, fighting the typhoid epidemic on the Porpoise essentially alone, with little more than a few barrels of alcohol.
I ached desperately; my head throbbed, my back was stiff and my feet swollen, but none of these was of any significance, compared to the deeper ache that knotted my heart.
Any doctor hates to lose a patient. Death is the enemy, and to lose someone in your care to the clutch of the dark angel is to be vanquished yourself, to feel the rage of betrayal and impotence, beyond the common, human grief of loss and the horror of death’s finality. I had lost twenty-three men between dawn and sunset of this day. Elias was only the first.
Several had died as I sponged their bodies or held their hands; others, alone in their hammocks, had died uncomforted even by a touch, because I could not reach them in time. I thought I had resigned myself to the realities of this time, but knowing--even as I held the twitching body of an eighteen-year-old seaman as his bowels dissolved in blood and water--that penicillin would have saved most of them, and I had none, was galling as an ulcer, eating at my soul.
(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 48, "Moment of Grace." Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
5) If you think a few weeks of "self-quarantine" are hard, imagine what Jamie must have felt, spending seven years living alone in a cave.
“You didn’t really mind, did you?” [Brianna's] voice was soft, and she kept her eyes on the valley below, careful not to look at him. “Living in the cave near Broch Mhorda.”
“No,” he said. The sun was warm on his breast and face, and filled him with a sense of peace. “No, I didna mind it.”
“Only hearing about it--I thought it must have been terrible. Cold and dirty and lonely, I mean.” She did look at him then, and the morning sky lived in her eyes.
“It was,” he said, and smiled a little.
“Ian--Uncle Ian--took me there to show me.”
“Did he, then? It’s none so bleak, in the summertime, when the yellow’s on the broom.”
“No. But even when it was--” She hesitated.
“No, I didna mind it.” He closed his eyes and let the sun heat his eyelids.
At first he had thought the loneliness would kill him, but once he had learned it would not, he came to value the solitude of the mountainside.
(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 42, "Moonlight." Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
6) In times of emergency, when proper medical equipment is unavailable, sometimes you have to improvise. Thank God Bree is a) a quick thinker, b) an engineer by training, and c) imaginative enough to come up with a solution that no one else would have thought of.
“See, the thing is,” she said, sounding rather dreamy, “pit-vipers have beautiful engineering. Their jaws are disarticulated, so they can swallow prey bigger than they are--and their fangs fold back against the roof of their mouth when they aren’t using them.”
“Yes?” I said, giving her a slightly fishy look, which she ignored.
“The fangs are hollow,” she said, and touched a finger to the glass, marking the spot where the venom had soaked into the linen cloth, leaving a small yellowish stain. “They’re connected to a venom sac in the snake’s cheek, and so when they bite down, the cheek muscles squeeze venom out of the sac…and down through the fang into the prey. Just like a--”
“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ,” I said.
She nodded, finally taking her eyes off the snake in order to look at me.
“I was thinking of trying to do something with a sharpened quill, but this would work lots better--it’s already designed for the job.”
(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 93, "Choices." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
7) Here are some thoughts about hand-washing, something we're all paying a lot more attention to these days:
A surgeon scrubs before operating for the sake of cleanliness, of course, but that isn’t all there is to it. The ritual of soaping the hands, scrubbing the nails, rinsing the skin, repeated and repeated to the point of pain, is as much a mental activity as a physical one. The act of washing oneself in this obsessive way serves to focus the mind and prepare the spirit; one is washing away external preoccupation, sloughing petty distraction, just as surely as one scrubs away germs and dead skin.
(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 22, "The Fiery Cross." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
8) When you're suddenly faced with a highly contagious, potentially fatal disease, it helps to have an experienced doctor nearby. The advice Claire is giving Jamie seems awfully familiar to us now, doesn't it?
“We can’t let Willie be near him,” I said, low-voiced so as not to be overheard; Willie and Ian were by the penfold, forking hay into the horses’ manger. “Or Ian. He’s very infectious.”
“Aye. What ye said, though, about incubation—”
“Yes. Ian might have been exposed through the dead man, Willie might have been exposed to the same source as Lord John. Either one of them might have it now, but show no sign yet.” I turned to look at the two boys, both of them outwardly as healthy as the horses they were feeding.
“I think,” I said, hesitating as I formed a vague plan, “that perhaps you had better camp outside with the boys tonight--you could sleep in the herb shed, or camp in the grove. Wait a day or so; if Willie’s infected--if he got it from the same source as Lord John--he’ll likely be showing signs by then. If not, then he’s likely all right."
(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 26, "Plague and Pestilence." Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
9) At a time like this, it's tempting to succumb to panic, but we have to fight against it, to stay focused on what needs to be done.
“But—” Brianna stopped dead, her mouth too dry to speak. Don’t go! she wanted to cry. Don’t leave me alone! I can’t keep him alive, I don’t know what to do!
“They need me,” Claire said, very gently. She turned, skirts whispering, to the impatiently waiting Robin, and vanished into the twilight.
“And I don’t?” Brianna’s lips moved, but she didn’t know whether she had spoken aloud or not. It didn’t matter; Claire was gone, and she was alone.
She felt light-headed, and realized that she had been holding her breath. She breathed out, and in, deeply, slowly. The fear was a poisonous snake, writhing round her spine, slithering through her mind. Ready to sink its fangs in her heart. She took one more breath through gritted teeth, seized the snake by the head, mentally stuffed it wriggling into a basket, and slammed down the lid. So much for panic, then.
(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 71, "A Feeble Spark." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
10) This next quote seems very apt in the current crisis, when governments in many places have been slow to react. We're going to need all the sensible suggestions people can come up with in order to deal with this!
There is a saying, “In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” I promptly invented its analogy, based on experience: “When no one knows what to do, anyone with a sensible suggestion is going to be listened to.”
(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 36, "Prestonpans." Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
11) As horrible as it is to see people dying from a disease you can't cure, it's heartbreaking to see the impact on those who are left behind.
I was getting terribly tired of funerals. This was the third, in as many days. We had buried Hortense and the baby together, then the older Mrs. Ogilvie. Now it was another child, one of Mrs. MacAfee’s twins. The other twin, a boy, stood by his sister’s grave, in a shock so profound that he looked like a walking ghost himself, though the disease hadn’t touched him.
(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 62, "Amoeba." Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
12) This quote captures one of the cruelest aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic. It's very hard for me to imagine what it's like to leave a dying relative alone in the hospital, unable to visit, unable to say goodbye in person or offer words of comfort, or even to hug your loved ones and mourn together. My heartfelt sympathies to any of you who have been in this situation!
But there was a further sense of loss--and a further nagging guilt--in the fact that I could not be there when Ian died, that I had had to leave him for the last time knowing that I would not see him again, unable to offer comfort to him, or to be with Jamie or his family when the blow fell, or even simply to bear witness to his passing.------------------
(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 87, "Severance and Reunion." Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I hope you've enjoyed this collection. Wishing you all the best of luck as we get through this. Hang in there, and stay safe!