As Clark wrote: “O! How disagreeable is our Situation dureing this dreadful weather.”
For his part, Meriwether Lewis appears to have suffered from bouts of severe depression throughout his life. Three years after completing the expedition he died at the age of 35, of gunshot wounds — what most historians agree was likely a suicide. “I fear the weight of his mind has overcome him,” Clark wrote after hearing the news.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the number of adults exhibiting symptoms of depression has tripled, and alcohol consumption has risen. We are prisoners of our homes and our minds, Zoom-fatigued, desperate for social contact. As a nation, we are diminished and exhausted, and millions remain out of work.
Further, it has been a long fall from that crude but egalitarian vote at the mouth of the Columbia to one that is among the nadirs of democracy, when 60 percent of Republican House members joined a court effort this month to negate the sovereign right of the people to elect their leaders. Vladimir Putin acknowledged Joe Biden’s victory before Mitch McConnell did.
It’s equally troubling that Biden won the popular vote by 7 million, but came within 43,000 votes of losing the election because of the anti-democratic relic of the Electoral College.
The Corps of Discovery made it back without losing a person (one man died during the westward half of the expedition). They fared well once they emerged from their long winter. We, on the other hand, face a brutal early spring. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects that more than 500,000 Americans likely will have died from Covid-19 by the end of March.
Dr. Anthony Fauci has made similar grim assessments of what lies ahead; in November he predicted December would see “a surge superimposed upon” a surge, not unlike the waves of the Pacific, gray and unrelenting in the December dusk.
Still, we look to the spring, as did they. We rely on our ingenuity, as did they. Even as we mourn the dead, we cheer the first people to get a shot in the arm. “I feel like healing is coming,” said Sandra Lindsay, the Long Island nurse who had the distinction of becoming the first to be vaccinated on our shores, after getting her coronavirus inoculation.