This is my last deliberation on the New Year. Then I’ll move on. I think I speak for the collective when I say that we ready to put 2020 behind us! I posted a wrap-up video on my social media, just before the 31st of December. Sadly the video felt more like a trailer for an apocalyptic movie than a year in review, but I guess that’s the way it’s been for most of the planet. You can watch it here if you want to sit wide-eyed looking at what the planet/people have been through.
On my side of things, I’ve watched, quietly, from a safe and healthy home, praying and hoping that we get through it all in one piece. It’s hard being the observer and not being able to do something direct, useful, and specific.
The year started out normally enough for Canadians (although the continent of Australia was on fire). But slowly things started happening on distant shores and in March were put in a biological/viral time out. It was like Mother Nature had enough, shaking her sick and tired finger at us ill-behaved human children, putting us in our corners. No restaurants for you! No coffee shops! Libraries! Gyms! Lessons! Gatherings! Friends! Nothing! Stay there! In your corner and be quiet! And that’s what we did. It was a WORLDWIDE LOCKDOWN.
And, you all know this. Because you lived it too. But you also lived your life. And I lived mine. Here are the highlights of the 2020 I put behind me.
I decided (because it’s a choice—if you ask my cowboy friend) to have a relationship with the winter—a pleasant one. Not an abusive one. My investment in a proper winter parka made quiet night time winter walks magical and hikes feasible. I went to Echo Valley Skate The Park right after work with my skates and my boyfriend. No one was there. We whipped around that loop over and over. We were loud and silly. There were no witnesses. The place was all ours. The air was fresh. The sun set behind the thick snow-covered trees. When I wasn’t outside I was learning to play Crib. I broke in my kitchen with a big ol’ cabbage roll party, we are after all prairie dwellers. It’s a staple. I met Shannon Lee Simmons. She gave me the sound financial advice I needed to hear. The last day of the month took us to Winnipeg to cheer the Boston Bruins to victory. It was fantastic.
Take away: THIS IS GOING TO BE A GREAT YEAR!!
The month began out of town, with victory on our shoulders. Our drive back was fast and happy after exploring The Forks and stopping at Archibald’s Diner in Whitewood, Saskatchewan. Counios and Gane did a podcast for the RPL about our writing partnership. Click here to listen. I surprised my niece on her birthday. I saw Jeffery Straker perform his simple, beautiful, clean piano show. I spent several days in Jasper at the new and beautiful hostel HI Jasper where I was so clearly reminded how much I absolutely love the collective travel experience, even as a quiet on-looker. I saw my friend Amanda, and I saw a moose! The month wrapped up at a super cool wedding in a castle.
Takeaway: WHAT A GREAT YEAR SO FAR. SO EXCITED FOR THE REMAINING TEN MONTHS.
**Although I had not really noticed it, somewhere in the distance was the eerie buzz of the pandemic.
The big white van took us to Vermillion to help move somethings back to Regina. Two bald eagles honored us with a hang out on some posts en route. Lunch was at an eclectic brick coffee shop, eating sandwiches and drinking dark roast in a sunbeam before turning around and making our way south. A quick detoured took us to Cochin to see a light house. Check that off the bucket list. Things were looking good. We were talking about summer holidays to Greece and time up north, as well as concerts in the fall.
And then…Lock down.
Overnight cars stopped driving. Offices shut down. I stopped wearing pants. Joking—sort of. Social distancing, quarantining, LOCKDOWN were catchphrases that, until then, never used. From my partner’s work, we looked over the city, Saturday a.m. What was usually bustling was dead quiet. Not a soul. Not a car. Just us two standing in the office building, floor to ceiling glass windows, coffees in hand, feeling more like we were in some creepy post-apocalyptic movie than in our real lives.
Takeaway: HOLY HELL!! LIFE CHANGES WITHOUT NOTICE. MAKE SURE YOU’RE LIVING IT.
Spring came. My parka was put away for something lighter. The hills were waiting. Random road trips filled our free time. We fueled up and wandered the Blue Hills, the Dirt Hills, the Cactus Hills, (these are all real places) Ormiston, Crane Valley. We found little well-kept churches in the middle of nowhere. And I was reminded how big this place really is.
Takeaway #2: MAKE THE BEST OF IT. IT’S REALLY THE ONLY OPTION.
Teaching went online. Ooof! The world went nuts hoarding toilet paper and I went on the road, walking daily. Walking. Walking. Walking. Just to get out. I found my power for list-making gave me comfort. To do’s gave me a daily purpose when the daily norm was taken away. I was entertained by myself. All those lonely days in my life made me ready. Seriously. I was training for this! Road trips became a regular. With snacks and warm beverages in the truck and we’d be off. Earl Grey was a destination as well as the Craven Valley waterfront for a tailgate date. Best. Date. Ever.
Takeaway: YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO WHERE EVERYONE ELSE IS GOING—ESPECIALLY IF IT’S NUTS! ALSO, I LOVE SPRING.
I got brave and started a blog. Angie Counios.com. And if you’re reading this you’re on it. Spring came, full throttle. I filled my front yard with clover and committed to reading more. I also came to terms with the fact that I would not traveling overseas.
Takeaway: MY BACK YARD IS GOOD ENOUGH. Clover included.
The land warmed. Flowers bloomed and there was beauty everywhere—on the surface. We were confronted with a tragedy that left us looking at ourselves and our privilege. George Floyd, uttering the words “I can’t breathe” was murdered in the street by a police officer. I attended two necessary BLM rallies—the tiniest of gestures. I reached out to my friends of colour hoping that they were somehow managing. I will never know what a person of colour experiences daily. All I can do is try to come from a position of love—because I’m not sure what else to do. My niece graduated (so very proud). Carefully the restrictions were lifted and cautiously we tested those boundaries. I kept exploring, finding more tiny churches, and finally checking out Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area. However, turns out I didn’t have to go far to find nature as a deer made its way to my house.
Takeaway: WHITE PRIVILEGE IS A THING.
The pandemic rocked us and I adjusted. By July I completely bought in to the prairie summer by Saskatoon berry picking, hiking, going to local lakes. I spent time at Diefenbaker Lake (one of the cleanest lakes in southern Saskatchewan with the softest sand), and I discovered Madge Lake (thanks to a friend) on the eastern side of the province, doing more hiking, kayaking, sitting by the campfire, and enjoying the long days. Oh my God, how I love them! I also rekindled my friendship with Ashlee. She’s been busy building her life and even though we care about each other so much space happened. Sometimes it does. For whatever reasons the stars re-aligned and we’ve reconnected and I am so grateful for that! She’s not getting away again!
Takeaway: THERE IS ALWAYS ROOM TO NURTURE MYSELF IN NATURE AND TO NURTURE RELATIONSHIPS .
By August life was feeling pretty normal and wonderful. I was invited on a family trip to Waskesui—in a cabin!! Which for me is the high life as I have only ever stayed in a tent at Waskesui. Not only did I have the comfort of a cabin but it was hot, hot, hot every single day. The weather was perfect and the daily routine was absolutely holiday-worthy. Morning coffee. Jog. Journal. Cinnamon bun (because you have to). Late lunch. Beach until we were hungry. Back to the cabin to eat…and repeat. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better summer holiday in Canada. And as wonderful as that was the true highlight was learning to ride a bike. Yes. I learned to ride a bike at 51 years old. You can read about it here.
Takeaway: YOU’RE NEVER TOO OLD (to ride a bike or go on a killer holiday).
We were ten months into the year and seven months into the pandemic. The chaos seemed to subside. Everyone was calmer. There was talk of appreciating family and life more. I was savoring all the warm and beautiful minutes, being outside as much as possible. Resisting the call of the furnace or closing my windows. I went back to work. The new accessory became the face mask. Everything was back to normal. Sort of. Anti-maskers, anti-vaxers, and conspiracy theorists were making noise—like the quiet buzz of pandemic beginnings.
Takeaway: NORMAL IS SOMETIMES NOT NORMAL OR MAYBE IT’S “A NEW NORMAL.” Oh damn this year!!
Mother Nature showed her love for us. October was gorgeous. A postcard autumn. I took a road trip to Saskatoon eating at new restaurants, hiking at new places, checking out urban locations somewhere else. My gypsy soul was satisfied. My immediate world felt okay. I was grateful for that.
Takeaway: SIMPLE THINGS ARE SATISFYING.
I turned 52. I continued to hike. The murmurs of the pandemic got a bit louder and restrictions were slowly creeping up on us again. Numbers of people with Covid-19 were going up. I worked on finding balance between being at work and doing the things I fell in love with during the lockdown and through the summer. I was invited to an Indigenous Sweat Lodge. It was such a special experience. I didn’t take a second of it for granted. As I stood there, traditionally and culturally Greek Orthodox, on the prairie, listening to the prayers I felt strongly that we are more alike than different. Praying and hoping. Healing. Caring. Directing our love to something bigger than us.
Takeaway: WE ARE MORE ALIKE THAN WE ARE DIFFERENT.
Winter entered gently. Thankfully. I mostly walked to work and, like a little kid looked forward to the Christmas season. Putting up my tree was a pleasure. Baking cookies a pleasure. Shopping (with support—thank you Ashlee)—also a pleasure. I went on two twinkle tours—travel mugs full of warm beverages enjoying the Christmas lights on homes. We drove out to McLean, Saskatchewan, to see the most beautiful display of lights put on by a private citizen. I snowshoed, skated, went ice fishing and got my fishing license. There was more hiking—this is much harder in the snow.
And, well, somewhere in the middle of that lovely seasonal glow we went back into social distancing restrictions as the numbers of infected people began to climb. Students went home. We taught from our webcams. Gatherings were limited. But, we made it through—again. Because that’s what we do. The year is over. Depending on the audience it’s been peaceful, calm, sad, challenging, lonely, noisy, restructured.
The world didn’t end but the year did. It didn’t end the way it started. People and policies changed and if I may snag a word from T S Eliot “it did not end with a bang but a whimper.” I had a good year. I’m lucky but, still, I’m ready to leave 2020 behind.
Takeaway: IT’S TIME TO MOVE ALONG.
I try, every day to keep the glass half full. Good bye 2020, and greetings to the hope of a new year.